Workplace gossip is never a good recipe for success, but it’s about as essential to the workday as is a morning coffee from Starbucks. Despite any policing mechanisms instilled in the workplace, gossiping is bound to happen. People naturally gossip about everything; it’s like we’ve never left high school.
Office gossip can be harmful when it’s directed at other employees and it can create cliques, which can pose a problem when everyone is supposed to be working for the same team. If you’re dealing with too much coworker gossiping, it may be time to take action by looking into gratitude journals, according to a new study.
The average American works spends about 40 minutes per week gossiping, according to a recent survey. Fifty-five percent of men were guilty of the act, spending an average of an hour a week gossiping. For women, 79% said they gossip at work but spend much less time (about 30 minutes per week) compared to men. Don’t worry, one-third of bosses also like to gossip about office culture and other coworkers, which you’re probably well aware of if you’ve worked in any office in the US.
Researchers from the University of Central Florida said that employees who write in a gratitude journal show less harmful behavior and mistreatment to other coworkers at work.
If you’re doing a double take, consider this: gratitude journals can be effective. Past research has shown that writing in a gratitude journal as little as three time every week can have a greater impact on happiness than journaling daily. If you have a gossip problem at work, what better way than controlling it by having employees focus on the positive things?
“Gratitude interventions are exercises designed to increase your focus on the positive things in your life. One intervention involves writing down a list of things you are thankful for each day,” Shannon Taylor, management professor at Central Florida, said in a statement. “That simple action can change your outlook, your approach to work, and the way your co-workers see you.”
Office gossip is often the sign of the toil workplace, which not only costs companies money in production, but could eventually lead to legal ramifications if things don’t improve, which makes something like a gratitude journal seem like a home run.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, had participants spend just a few minutes each day writing down thoughts for two weeks. Participants were asked to focus on events or people they are grateful for, which then revealed that through this exercise, employees showed less detrimental behaviors that were categorized as rude, gossiping, or ostracizing.
“While organizations spend quite a bit of time and money to improve employee behavior, there are not a lot of known tools available to actually make the needed changes,” said Lauren Locklear, the lead researcher and a doctoral student. “We found the gratitude journal is a simple, inexpensive intervention that can have a significant impact on changing employee behavior for the better.”
So, how exactly do you keep a gratitude journal? The Greater Good Magazine spoke to Robert Emmons, a psychologist and professor at UC Davis, who offered tips on getting the most from the exercise. Emmns said focusing on depth, getting person, and even unexpected or surprising events during the day can make for big psychological rewards from the journal.
“Writing helps to organize thoughts, facilitate integration, and helps you accept your own experiences and put them in context,” Emmons told the outlet. “In essence, it allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life.”