Like it or not, office gossip will always be a fundamental aspect of any office culture. When humans are confined to a space and routine, they will invariably divulge unpleasant commentary about and to the peers that co-inhabit them. What began as a social development mechanism for our smaller brained ancestors millions of years ago, has since (d)evolved into just another way for us advanced mammals to fill empty hours. Co-workers supply this need quite well because in addition to compressing a lunch break, gossip enables us to form bonds with colleagues and survey how much we can trust them.
According to a new Office Pulse study conducted by Captivate, the average American worker spends 40 minutes a week gossiping. Of the 55% of men that confessed to sharing dish, the median amount of time they spent doing so was an hour a week. Comparatively, for 79% of women that confessed to the very same, the average amount of time spent gossiping was closer to about 30 minutes a week. One-third of the bosses queried and even rely on trusted employees to retrieve gossip and fill them in on the inner workings of their company.
Water crueler conversations
For whatever reason, Millennials and Gen Xers gossiped the most of all the generations surveyed, (81% and 70% respectively). For these, the majority of tea time is spent discussing disputes between other coworkers, ineffective management and clients.
Seventy-one percent of the employees surveyed in Office Pulse’s report gossiped about “that one coworker,” 34% poked fun at their bosses, 31% discussed annoying clients and 20% smack talked their HR department. In all fairness, a separate majority reviewed in the same study said that their water cooler chats relieve general stress, not specific to other employees or the job itself. Forty-two percent of Millennial employees in particular occasion gossiping as a method that enables them to become closer to their fellow workers. Below are some of the best quotes from the 529 workers observed in the study:
“A guy said our manager was breaking in his apartment drinking his wine and eating [his] cheese. No lie!” – an unnamed female professional.
“Someone borrowed money from another co-worker to pay a loan shark,” an anonymous male worker said.
“That they stole products and sold them at a local store and kept the money,” another male worker said.
Overall 72% of the surveyees described their office as cliquey, and an additional 12% said that their place of work was Mean Girls-esque. Strangely 30% of the participants said that their bosses specifically requested gossip from them in order to get a gauge on general workplace issues, even if one in five employees end up leaving their company as a result of it.
“Despite the above nefarious consequences, gossip is not without its merits. Over a quarter (29%) of professionals said that the gossip going around their office is their “main source of information about what is going on in their company.” That statement was particularly true for Millennials, with 41% saying gossip informed them about workplace news,” remarked Nicholas Vitukevich who is the study’s author.