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Why Gossiping Sometimes Can be Healthy

Update Date: Dec 07, 2012 03:52 AM EST

While for some people, their day cannot pass smoothly unless they've had some gossip about a colleague or a friend, there are a few others who frown upon gossiping in the workplace.

Not just women, even men are known to indulge in gossiping, be it about a neighbor or a colleague. But for those who think of gossiping as a waste of time, a new research says that gossiping should indeed be encouraged because it helps isolate shirkers and turns the work place into a more efficient one.

A report in Mail Online says that according to scientists, nine out of 10 everyday conversations are gossip.

The research by Dutch psychologists claims that gossiping is not bad after all. Apparently, gossiping has some positive effects too, like it works as a warning for people in the organization who are not pulling their weight. The risk of gossip can also push underperformers to contribute, the study suggests.

"Gossip is often seen as exclusively self-serving behavior aimed at manipulating others and influencing them in some malicious way" lead author Dr. Bianca Beersma, of Amsterdam University which carried out the research, was quoted as saying by Mail Online.

"The results of our studies show that gossip may not always be as negative as one might believe at first. Gossip allows people to gather and validate information, to enjoy themselves with others, and to protect their group."

The study further reveals that the development of "gossiping" as a habit and part of human nature was by powerful evolutionary forces that worked for over thousands of years.

Historically, being socially agreeable was the key to being safe and also presented humans with opportunities to share resources such as food.

"A single person cannot ward off a bear or catch a mammoth but a group can," the researcher explained.

While the benefits of fitting into a group was clear, there was also a possibly of "free riders" not pulling their weight.

For this study, the researchers asked 220 plus students to describe the last time they gossiped about someone and were then asked to fill in a questionnaire about their motive behind doing so.

It was found that gathering or checking information was the most primary motive.

In a second study, the same participants were asked if they would gossip about a person in their workplace who wasn't doing their share of work to a colleague or friend who they bumped into.

Most of the people appeared to say that they would rather talk about a person like that to a colleague than a friend who did not belong to the work circle. Also, these people were also more likely to report that the motive behind gossiping about such a person would be to protect their group.

In the third study, 123 participants were asked how they would feel about a fellow student from their course or an old friend gossiping to them about someone else. It was found that gossip about a shirker was viewed more as a social act and less immoral than in other situations, the report said.

The findings are published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

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