London: Gossiping in office brings employees closer and makes them more co-operative, a study has claimed. However, the study by Dutch researcher Lea Ellwardt has also warned that people who engage in excessive gossip have fewer friends in the workplace, suggesting that individuals should be careful not to be labelled "the office gossip".

Ellwardt studied the role of gossip in cementing friendships between employees in a Dutch healthcare centre. "I was especially interested in relationships of trust between employees and the quality of their social and formal relationships, particularly because you usually can't choose whom you work with," she was quoted by the Times as saying.

Over a year, Ellwardt, of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, questioned staff at the centre about the amount and content of their gossip, and their workplace friendships.

She defined gossip as "talking about someone who's not present at that moment. This can mean talking negatively about someone, but it can also mean talking about positive things."
The study, published in the journal Social Networks, found that people who trusted one another were more likely to share negative gossip.

"Spreading negative gossip about someone does entail an element of risk," Ellwardt said. "It's important that the gossip can trust the person receiving the information to handle the information discreetly and not to spread it further," she added.

Employees were less selective about sharing positive gossip, presumably because it was seen as less sensitive. It was not the case that popular colleagues were positively gossiped about more often. "That did surprise me," Ellwardt said.     "People who are the subject of negative conversations are mentioned more often, however," she added.

Ellwardt found that employees who gossiped together often became friends over time. However, people who engaged in excessive gossip did not become more popular. Employees who gossiped with lots of different people tended to be rated as untrustworthy, and went on to become less popular.

While bosses who are not trusted are mainly talked about negatively, the opposite is not true; those who are trusted are not positively discussed more often, the study found.


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