64. Who spilled the tea? The paradox of workplace gossiping.
Don’t act like you haven’t done it too. You’re talking to a colleague and you start spilling the tea, even though you know it might not be the most upstanding thing to do.
Why do we do that? Interestingly, from a sociological perspective, gossiping can beneficial.
For one, gossiping with someone is a way to build social capital. People want to be “in the know,” and showing that you have novel information is a way to build up what’s called information power.
Second, gossiping can help keep the social system in check. If someone were to do something inappropriate, but it goes undiscussed, the system at large suffers. Gossiping, therefore, becomes a way to ensure that no one strays dangerously far from group norms.
The paradox, however, is that when you gossip, it signals to the other party that you might not be a trustworthy person. The gossip recipient might wonder, “If they gossip about them, won’t they gossip about me too?
The key here is to ensure that if you are going to gossip, you actually know what you are talking about and you present the information in a way that’s fair.