Rumour and Gossip in the Workplace - Literature Review

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Literature Review
Organization Behaviour
Assignment 3
Hanna Darwish
Rumour and gossip in the workplace

People understand gossip and rumour whether experiencing it first hand or being the provider of information to create the gossip or rumour. The large proportion of gossip is devoted to a person who is not present in the discussion (Wielers, 1998 & sitzman, 2006). Rumour’s general definition refers to misinformation of stories being communicated on a public scope. Gossip and rumour is one of the oldest forms of communicating, people use this process to share facts and personal opinions, however Gossip and rumour has a reputation for not being accurate with modifications of initial subject matter. Gossip and Rumour in the workplace is on the whole characterized as positive or negative communication within organizations. Some view rumour and gossip as a positive effect, giving individuals the ability to form social bonds within the larger organization. However, some researchers would disagree, that gossip and rumour causes negative effect “misbehaviour” (Richards, 2008) on organizations productivity, moral and impacts the bottom line (Smith, 2011 & Tebbut,1997). In pursuit of accomplishing an understanding of the nature of gossip and rumour in the workplace, I set out to look at existing literature. I will assume rumour as a counterpart of gossip as they are commonly linked, referred to as informal communication or as a “weapon in organizational politics” (Mills, 2010). I will be focusing on literature related to an organization behaviour perspective. We will look at the literature in an attempt to understand the reasons why individuals gossip and spread rumour’s in the workplace, secondly I will to focus on the characteristics and the personality’s of the gossiper and the recipients, to gain an understanding of behaviour within the organizations. Thirdly we will look at how the information is presented by the gossiper. I will additionally establish from the literature the importance of gossip in the workplace and how it is perceived to develop relationships within the workplace. Within in all literature researches provided the positive and negative effects of gossiping.

Defining Gossip & Rumour

According to researchers ( Pelled 2000 & Smith 2011) gossip and rumour is the process of informal communication commonly defined as “Grapevine” chitchat communicated written or spoken in regards to ones beliefs, opinions, emotions and attitudes “improper” information based on inner experiences rather than fact, perceptual bias. (Michelson, 2008) some however have betrayed informal chitchat as “evaluative” talk of someone who is not present (Pelled, 2000). The process of the gossip will be passed on with selective perception to the subject in question. The giver will manipulate information so that it will be seen more satisfactorily by the receiver. The gossiper collects information through a process of “eavesdropping” of confidential or private information, and then communicates it amongst co-workers; gossipers communicate information to their allies with confidentiality towards their enemies. Authors similar discuss the positive and negative effects of rumours and gossip. It is clear the aggressiveness of gossip and rumour can spread through an organization at the speed of a forest fire, with little control by the organizations management (Nicoll, 1994)


The communication of rumour and gossip has been suggested to dramatically increase throughout times of organizational confusion and change. It has been recorded in literature to provide revenue of information in times of stress (Tebbut, 1997 & Mills 2010). The transmission of gossip and rumour can be circulated through an organization within a “matter of seconds” (data protection act, 1998) it has been noted that gossip and rumour’s occur during times of job insecurity, gaps...
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