What do Kurland and Pelled tell us about office contexts in relation to gossip?
The prevalence of gossiping in everyday life is a common phenomenon previously examined by psychologists and anthropologists. The study conducted by Kurland & Pelled (2000) is a valuable contribution to analyzing definition, theoretical, and conceptual models of workplace gossip, as well as its impact on the employees. Based on prior research, the general concept of communication is classified into work-related and non-work-related communication. As such, the same approach is adopted to the conceptual framework of gossiping. With that said, gossip is considered as the one focused on a subject’s professional life in terms of work-relatedness, including work performance, career development, relationships with work colleagues, and general behavior in the office environment.
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Furthermore, the work-relatedness of the gossip might play a mediating role concerning the employee’s position at the workplace. The professional initiative and bonuses, such as rewards and promotions, as well as punishments in the company, are highly dependent on the work-related attitude of the worker. Despite the fact that it is illogical to consider personal circumstances within assigning such rewards and penalties, some managers keep relying on personal factors when providing resources and responsibilities. Such an occurrence in the office environment indicates that being involved in work-related gossip provides the increased capacity to influence rewards and punishments in the workplace. According to Kurland & Pelled (2000), work-related gossip has the potential to “shape the expert power” (p. 433). Therefore, the employee, who spreads gossips containing work-related information about other colleagues, can be used as an information source and regarded as an expert in the workplace. The office contexts in relation to gossip suggest that it can mitigate any negative connection between gossip and referent power. The high level of work-relatedness of the gossip implies its stronger ability to reinforce coercive, reward, and expert power.
About credible office gossip?
Concerning the disparity of gossips and other types of informal communication, there are three dimensions, which assist in making a distinction between different kinds of gossip. They include “sign, credibility, and work-relatedness” (Kurland & Pelled, 2000, p. 430). Credibility is defined as the degree to which the gossip is trustworthy and accurate, and, thus, credible. Message credibility was a complex area of research in the course of communication, marketing, and social psychology. Therefore, credibility is perceived as the communication feature that plays a significant role in the context of gossiping. Kurland & Pelled (2000) designed the proposed model of gossip and power, including two aspects of credibility and work-relatedness as the determining factors of positive or negative gossips. It is believed that message credibility has a major impact on judgments of source credibility.
To be more specific, the insufficient credibility of the gossip suggests that the gossiper is seen as a non-credible source of information received. In addition, the recipient might assume that the gossiper lacks credibility with others and is less likely to gain trust when providing negative or positive gossips. As such, the low credibility of the gossip makes the recipients question the gossiper’s role as “someone with coercive or reward power” (Kurland & Pelled, 2000, p. 433). The feature of credibility also has a damaging impact on the relationship between the gossiper and the expert authority. As a result, the gossiper undermines its work position and the trust in future information one transmits. It is estimated that employees that provide more accurate information concerning the informal network attain higher reputational strength. With that said, the effects of gossip on the four power types can be coordinated by its level of credibility.
Kurland, N., & Pelled, L. (2000). Passing the word: Toward a model of gossip and power in the workplace. The Academy of Management Review, 25(2), 428–438.