The best RTO benefit that no one is talking about? office gossip


Ever since people started working from home during Covid, bosses have been trying to figure out how to get people back into offices. Companies have also put in place great incentives to build excitement: free food, corporate giveaways, welcome concerts and redesigned offices.

For Amir Henley, there’s another big upside to being back in person: the return of office gossip.

“I’m the CEO of office gossip,” jokes the 23-year-old marketer. Henley even went viral on TikTok for his satire of pointing out just to talk about the latest workplace drama.

(For the record, the office gossip he participates in is “all out of fun and love and a way to pass the time,” he says.)

Henley is far from alone in seeing that the greatest benefit of office work is the ability to hang out with real-life colleagues.

While remote work has been a boon for flexibility, it hasn’t been the easiest for our social relationships. Since the start of the pandemic, people say the biggest challenges of working remotely are feeling less connected to their organization’s culture, reduced teamwork and hurting working relationships with co-workers, according to a Gallup study.

Meanwhile, when given the opportunity to work on-site in a hybrid arrangement, 59% say meeting colleagues is their priority. By comparison, 39% say their biggest goal for office time is to spend time with their boss.

All that in-person time seeing some of the workplace’s unspoken rules in action, and plenty of opportunities to exchange knowing glances with colleagues IRL, make the office a breeding ground for gossip.

To be clear, gossip that amounts to bullying or harassment is categorically bad, notes Elena Martinescu, a gossip researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. But in many ways, gossip can really benefit workers. It can help people bond, grow at work, learn to navigate office politics, and even, perhaps, save company culture.

How Gossip Can Speed ​​Up Professional Friendships

First, some context: Gossip is an umbrella term that implies a conversation where you and another person are talking about a third party who isn’t present, Martinescu says.

It can be positive or negative, task-related or completely random, but plays into the realm of exclusivity and is “something about a person that we find interesting and potentially relevant”.

Whatever form it takes, gossip is an important fundamental human behavior and important for social connection, says Martinescu.

For example, if you share an opinion on the missing part and the other person agrees or has another point of view to add, you automatically have something in common to discuss. Gossip works best when you and your partner have a common mindset about your goal, such as having fun (as opposed to, say, digging up dirt to drag someone down in the mud).

All that to say, office gossip can accelerate work friendships, which have eroded for many people during the pandemic, says Ben Wigert, senior workplace analyst at Gallup.

“We’re seeing a significant drop in the number of people saying they have strong relationships at work, and at the same time, relationships have become more important than ever,” he says. People without strong relationships at work are more likely to be disengaged, be less productive, feel disconnected from their company culture, and ultimately quit their job.

Having friends at work just might be the key to happiness in life, according to data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.

This is because work is seen as the second most miserable of all activities (right after being stuck sick in bed). But not everyone can just stop working, he said in an interview with Voxso his reading of the data is that “the number one factor that increases your happiness while you work is liking the people you work with. It blows everything up.”

It may even be good for your career

Besides helping people find common ground, gossiping in the workplace can be super functional, says Martinescu: It can help you make sure you’re on the same page as your colleagues. on a common goal, and to understand how to work with people with different (perhaps even conflicting) personality types.

Gossip can tell you who to work with and who to avoid, or who to trust and who to keep at a distance.

We are seeing a significant drop in the number of people claiming to have strong relationships at work, and at the same time, relationships have become more important than ever.

Ben Wigert

Senior Workplace Analyst at Gallup

Another important function, Martinescu adds, is sharing information that helps you understand your social environment. What are the standards? What are the penalties if you break the standards? In other words, what are all the unwritten workplace rules you need to know to get ahead?

Henley likes to see the potential of gossip as a force for good. You can use gossip to share positive things about a colleague (“Did you know that today is Sam’s third birthday?”), or to change his negative perception of another (“I know that you both struggled to work on quarterly reports, but Blake had great things to say about your commitment and ability to work under pressure.”).

Gossiping about work-related challenges could lead to good problem-solving, Henley adds. And if anything, a venting session might be just what you need to blow off some steam, joke about quitting smoking, and remember that you have at least your work buddy to keep you sane. mind if you decide to stay.

Gossip can level out power dynamics

In some ways, face-to-face interactions help decipher, even level, some power dynamics in the workplace.

“I think there’s an advantage to interacting with management in person so you can see what they don’t want you to see, like how you treat people around you or how you talk about your woman,” says Kelsey McKinney, host of Defector Media’s “Normal Gossip” podcast. “Things like that are hard to capture in a work Slack. There are definitely tell-tale features that happen in casual conversations that immediately become office gossip.”

This can be especially beneficial for those who don’t traditionally occupy positions of power in a workplace: women, people of color, lower-level employees.

“Normal Gossip” producer Alex Sujong Laughlin remembers a group of older women who supported her early in her audio career. “They told me who to avoid, who not to be alone in a room with, a lot of these open secrets that ended up coming out around #MeToo that were helpful for me learning how to navigate the industry” , she says.

Then there’s the Corporate Actions Whisper Network it can spark a labor movement, Laughlin says — conversations about people’s pay or the company’s latest plans to lay off employees.

“Gossip is ultimately a tool of people outside of management,” McKinney says. “People who aren’t responsible can talk to each other to form alliances, be in a union or just split your salary between them, is a very powerful form of gossip that can get you things you deserve and get information that allows you to better negotiate these things.”

A gossip back to the office

So how should bosses really think about what workers want most from the office?

If they’re not ready to see gossip as a potentially good by-product of the workplace (or at least an inevitable product), they should at least understand employees’ desire for social connection as part of the job itself. same, says Martinescu.

It might look like introducing social events for the sole purpose of not talking about work, and they should be part of the workday rather than something nailed down outside of office hours.

People who aren’t in charge of being able to talk to each other to form alliances, whether they’re union members or just splitting your salary, is a very powerful form of gossip that can get you things you deserve.

Kelsey McKinney

Host of “Normal Gossip”

“If you work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then have a social event with your co-workers until 6 or 7 p.m., people will probably be reluctant to attend,” says Martinescu. “But if you do this during work hours and pay for it with company time and money, people might be more inclined to participate.”

This continues to be critical for remote and hybrid workers, so managers should also find ways to keep intentional pockets of purposeless social time through digital means, Wigert says.

One final thing Martinescu notes is that, based on his research, working from home overall reduced people’s exposure to both positive and negative gossip.

“What I take from that is that being exposed to a lot of negative information in your work environment is really detrimental, and maybe working from home can alleviate that,” she says. “The reverse is true for positive gossip. Being broken from the positive loops that characterize healthy social relationships is detrimental to performance and well-being at work.”


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