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Rumours and Gossips in Organizations Essay

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Updated: Sep 9th, 2021

Introduction

Gossiping is one of the major persistent activities in organizations but it rarely gets enough attention from the organization’s behavior analysts. It is very common to find people gossiping with their friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues during their leisure time keeping in mind that the media also has had a lot of influence on this.1

In most workplaces, gossip seems to be merely part of the communication network that is categorically known as informal. Gossip is a very important phenomenon requiring serious attention and study, therefore, analyzing its most important aspects in the social circles of a work environment in an organization.

Professional standards are to be maintained especially when it comes to communication within an organization. All organizations have an existing informal organization in addition to the already known and existing formal system. Grapevine being a medium of transmission through which members of an organization communicate informally is a prime channel through which gossips and rumors are spread. In most instances, the grapevine spreads rumors and gossips and this affects the functionality of an organization. 2

Rumors and gossips are part of the interaction that takes place amongst people and they have the potential to cause a lot of damage and also benefit the organization. On the other hand rumors and gossips are means through which human beings communicate and they are prevalent in most organizational sets ups and they come as no surprise. An unknown author classified rumors into four categories which included; fear rumors, wish rumors, anticipatory rumors, and aggressive rumors.3

There are also two approaches researched previously that have been identified in handling the issue of gossip and they include a group level and an individual level approach. The common understanding of gossip is it involves idle talk, scandals, and malicious tales which are informally communicated concerning individuals in a social setup.

Reasons why people gossip

First and foremost people involve themselves with gossiping so that they can fit into certain self-defined social classes by giving certain information one is seen as the more knowledgeable on all the daily occurrences. Others also gossip for their entertainment as this gives them personal satisfaction and bringing a lot of amusement as they probe for news and also confirm the news that they probably have heard. Mostly such people do it for their pleasure and leisure rather than focusing on the market position.4

People also gossip so that they can perpetuate and maintain themselves as a group as this promotes oneness in the maintenance of the group’s values and morals. Through this unity, there is the facilitation of the regulation and control of individuals aspiring to join the group and the other competing cliques. People need to belong and thus they gossip to seek membership in these reference groups thereby having values and standards for comparison with other people.5

The maintenance of the group values prevents situations whereby if they are violated in any way there will be an opportunity for the spread of judgmental information concerning the perpetrators. On the other hand, gossip acts as a very important channel for an invariable reaffirmation of the common values about behavior and it strengthens any existing unity.

Most importantly psychological factors influence rumor-mongering, especially where there is uncertainty and anxiety. A rumor also emerges when the working conditions are stressful for the employees causing anxiety amongst the employees.

Disadvantages of rumors and gossips in organizations

Rumors can also harm an organization if they are not well monitored. They have the potential to cause damage in the workplace to individuals and the organization itself thus it requires recognition and corporate action needs to be taken. If not properly handled they can cause instability in an organization affecting its operations. 6

Causes mistrust within an organization

Similarly, if the rumors are negative they could lead to mistrust in the company between the employees and the managers causing work disagreements. In an organization, if trust is nurtured the rumors will be fewer and the recovery time when the rumors and miscommunications are identified will be faster.

Organizations need to verify and determine the accuracy of their feedback system to avoid any destructive rumors thereof. This on the other hand enhances the creation and maintenance of reliable information cutting short the potentiality of the transmission of toxic news.7

Affects relationship between workers

In various organizations, it is important not to circulate unverified information as this affects the quality of relationships existing among groups of capable and highly talented individuals. The values that strengthen these relations may destabilize the workplace hindering healthy communication and loss of confidence among the group members.8

Wastes time and productivity

Most organization’s managerial teams have been spending a considerable amount of time trying to verify and suppress rumors and any consequential destructive information. This not only costs the organization time but also huge amounts of money are spent on this. In some instances, rumors destroy personal lives and to some, it even destroys the careers that they have built for themselves ultimately reducing confidence in the organization.9

Gossip exchanges are time wasters, especially where false and negative rumors regarding work are maliciously spread especially where morality is concerned. Gossip has been compared with a deadly disease spreading uncontrollably and eventually destroying everything it comes across on its path. 10

Gossips at the working places cost organizations a humongous amount of money in the employee’s unused work hours. When one, therefore, participates in gossip they take the time that was initially intended for assignments during work and it diverts their attention from focusing on the given work assignments thus inhibiting their work productivity and creativity.11

Toxic working environments

If not well-monitored gossip can develop into a cycle into which the employees spend a lot of time dealing with gossiped issues rather than working on what they were hired to do especially with the increased use of e-mail. This intoxicates the working environment creating uneasiness and heightening anxiety and fear amongst those in the organization.12

Employees in various organizations are not aware that the spread of malicious and false information in any written form is illegal and it can eventually lead to legal action being taken against the employee or the organization. An organization’s management must control the use of the internet to stem the circulation of information that is false.13

Hurts feeling and reprisals possibilities

Most of the malicious gossips spread around at the workplaces hurts a lot of people who are being talked about. When one finds out that they are subject to gossip, they tend to withdraw if at all there is no forum for self-defense. This affects one’s productivity especially when they are the subject of discussion amongst their peers and it also lowers self-esteem and it could destroy one’s personality thus affecting their career.

Destroys personalities and careers

The damage already done by gossiping cannot be easily undone. Others may even opt to leave their jobs and look for others in new places because the environment can easily be a constant reminder of the gossip that goes around. Being involved in gossip at the workplace may exclude one from either receiving a promotion or even getting another job in a similar field since employers are very careful not to a known gossip.

Advantages of rumors and gossips in organizations

Circulation of crucial information

Even though gossip has long been dismissed as self-serving and causing more harm than good, it has its benefits, especially in an organization. People, on the other hand, find gossip irresistible and for a good part of the reason, it helps in clarifying and enforcing rules that keep individuals who work together in unison. It also helps in the circulation of very urgent and important information that since news spread at a very fast rate without 14 any delays. Individuals that have bad behavior are forced to be at their best at all times so that they can maintain a good image amongst their peers in their workplaces.15

Encourages unity and cohesion

Gossip in almost every social group helps in keeping people together and promotes unity so that nobody in the group would stray away too far from the group’s values and rules.

Provides hidden information

Rumors can also be very useful in providing a way to resolve various questions or issues that other people have very little knowledge concerning them. In some instances where a formal organization is not willing to provide the information needed by a group, logical outcomes are gossip and rumor.16

Reduces tension

Socially a rumor has a positive effect, especially where there is a lot of tension build up it causes relief thus providing a method of adapting to any changes. A feminist analyst concluded that gossip serves as an art that is transformational to the female gender especially for nursing working mothers allowing them to share their feelings and ideas.17

Improves communication

It also gives the women a communication network that is informal through which they transmit the female values and also their concerns. Similarly, gossips help individuals in absorbing and evaluate the intimations of other people’s lives. Gossip being simply more than idle talk, it could also be a legitimate style of communicating performing distinct functions socially

References

  1. Heller, S (1987): Organisational grapevines. Progress in communication sciences Norwood, NJ. Pg 213-230). Norwood, NJ.
  2. Heath, C (1996): Do people prefer to pass along good or bad news? Valence and relevance of news as predictors of transmission propensity. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes. Pg 79-94.
  3. Hari, J. (2002): Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? Australian Financial Review, pg. 42.
  4. Harcourt, J (1991): A national study of middle managers’ Assessment of organization communication quality. Journal of Business Communication, pg 348-365.
  5. Greenhalgh, L (1984): Job insecurity: Toward conceptual clarity. Academy Of Management Review, pg 438-448.
  6. Garnett, J (1992): Coping with rumors and grapevines: Tactics for public personnel Management. Review of Public Personnel Administration, pg 42-49.
  7. Gallant, D (1990): Responding to rumors. Institutional Investor, p. 58.
  8. Garnett, J (1992): Coping with rumors and grapevines: Tactics for public personnel Management. Review of Public Personnel Administration, pg 42-49.
  9. Foehrenbach, J (1983): How are we doing? Journal of Communication Management, pg 3-11.
  10. Moore, W (1962): The conduct of the corporation. New York: Random House, pg 23-45.
  11. Heller, S (1987): Organisational grapevines. Progress in communication sciences Norwood, NJ. Pg 213-230). Norwood, NJ.
  12. Miller, D (1963): Industrial sociology; the sociology of work organizations. New York: H pg 55-79.
  13. Paine, R (1967): What is gossip about? An alternative hypothesis. Man publications. pg 276-289.
  14. Meyer, S (1985): Gossip. Chicago, University of Chicago Press pg 45-60.
  15. March, J (1988): Gossip, information and decision-making’ in Decisions and organizations. Oxford: Blackwell pg 429-422.
  16. John, J (1961): Kinship and crisis in south Wales’. British Journal of Sociology, pg 333-350.
  17. Kelley, H (1952): Two functions of reference groups’ in Readings in social psychology, New York, pg 410-414.
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IvyPanda. 2021. "Rumours and Gossips in Organizations." September 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/rumours-and-gossips-in-organizations/.

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