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Study: Gossip Makes Up 90 Percent Of Workplace Conversations

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Two female colleagues having a conversation by a water cooler.  (credit: Tony Hopewell/Getty Images)

Two female colleagues having a conversation by a water cooler. (credit: Tony Hopewell/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (CBS Cleveland) – A team of researchers in the Netherlands found that 90 percent of conversations are gossip. But not all gossip is malicious.

The team of psychologists at the University of Amsterdam says that gossip in the workplace can be to warn co-workers about others who are not pulling their weight, or try to get lazy workers to contribute more.

Bianca Beersma and Prof. Gerben Van Kleef, co-authors of the study, told the Daily Telegraph that organizations can “minimize the negative and optimize the positive consequences (of gossip).”

“Speech makes it possible for group members to warn each other against those who do not behave in accordance with the group’s norms,” they wrote in the study.

The study asked 121 university’s undergrads for their motive in gossiping. Although answers varied, some said they chose to gossip to protect a group from harmful behavior among members.

“Moral codes derived from Christian and Jewish religions condemn gossip and incorporate a number of severe punishments designed to discourage it,” the authors wrote. “Even in societies in which religion no longer plays a central role, gossip is often frowned upon and is seen as reproachable. But is gossiping really that negative? By gossiping, one can warn group members against others who violate group norms, and it is possible that this explicit motive is a reason to instigate gossip.”

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

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