Advertisement

Gossip in Organizations

  • Rafael Wittek
  • Rudi Wielers
Article

Abstract

Three hypotheses about the effects of different informal social network structures on gossip behavior are developed and tested. Gossip is defined as a conversation about a third person who is not participating in the conversation. Having analyzed the costs and benefits of gossip, we prefer the coalition hypothesis.~It states that gossip will flourish in social networks that have a relatively large number of coalition triads, that is ego and alter having a good relationship amongst themselves and both having a bad relationship with tertius, the object of gossip. Two rivalling hypotheses are developed. The constraint hypothesis predicts that the inclination towards gossip is greater, the larger the number of structural holes in the personal network of the gossipmonger.~The closure hypothesis predicts that more gossip will be found in networks with a large number of closed triads, that is where both gossipmonger and listener have a good relationship with the absent third person. The hypotheses are tested using a newly developed instrument to measure gossip behavior and network data from six work organizations and six school classes. The data support the coalition hypothesis and do not support the two rivalling hypotheses.

informal networks third party gossip social control social capital social networks 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Arno, A. (1980), “Fijan Gossip as Adjudication: A Communication Model of Informal Social Control,” Journal of Anthropological Research, 36(3), 343-360.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, J. and M. Jones (1996), “The Poison Grapevine: How Destructive are Gossip and Rumor in the Workplace?,” Human Resource Development Quarterly, 7(1), 75-86.Google Scholar
  3. Bergmann, J. (1987), Discreet Indiscretions: The Social Organization of Gossip. New York: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  4. Burt, R. (1992), Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition.Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Burt, R. and M. Knez (1996), “Trust and Third-Party Gossip,” in R. Kramer and T. Tyler (Eds.) Trust in Organizations: Frontiers of Theory and Research, Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp. 68-89.Google Scholar
  6. Caplow, T. (1946), “Rumors in War,” Social Forces, 25, 298-302.Google Scholar
  7. Davis, K. (1953), “Management Communication and the Grapevine,” Harvard Business Review, 31, 43-49.Google Scholar
  8. Dunbar, R. (1997), Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language.New York: Faber.Google Scholar
  9. Eder, D. and J.L. Enke (1991), “The Structure of Gossip: Opportunities and Constraints on Collective Expression Among Adolescents,” American Sociological Review, 56, 494-508.Google Scholar
  10. Elias, N. and L. Scotson (1985), The Established and the Outsiders.London: Cass, 1965.Google Scholar
  11. Fine, G. and R. Rosnow (1978), “Gossip, Gossipers, Gossiping,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 4(1), 161-168.Google Scholar
  12. Friedkin, N. (1983), “Horizons of Observability and Limits of Informal Social Control in Organizations,” Social Forces, 62(1), 54-77.Google Scholar
  13. Gambetta, D. (1994), “Godfather's Gossip,” Archives Europeennes de Sociologie, 35(2), 199-223.Google Scholar
  14. Gilmore, D. (1978), “Varieties of Gossip in a Spanish Rural Community,” Ethnology, 17(1), 89-99.Google Scholar
  15. Gluckman, M. (1963), “Gossip and Scandal,” Current Anthropology, 4, 307-314.Google Scholar
  16. Gluckman, M. (1968), “Psychological, Sociological and Anthropological Explanations of Witchcraft and Gossip: A Clarification,” Man, 3, 20-34.Google Scholar
  17. Goldhaber, G. (1993), Organizational Communication. Madison: WCB Brown.Google Scholar
  18. Handelman, D. (1973), “Gossip in Encounters: The Transmission of Information in a Bounded Social Setting,” Man, 8(2), 210-227.Google Scholar
  19. Hellweg, S. (1987), “Organizational Grapevines,” in B. Dervin and M. Voigt (Eds.) Progress in Communication Sciences 8, Norwood: Ablex, pp. 213-230.Google Scholar
  20. Hodson, R. (1993), “Group Standards and the Organization of Work: The Effort Bargain Reconsidered,” Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 11, 55-80.Google Scholar
  21. Lazega, E. (1993), “Power Among Peers: Partners' Strategic Culture in a Northeastern U.S. Law Firm,” Manuscript.Google Scholar
  22. Lazega, E. (1995), “Protecting the Common Good Among Equals: A Lateral Control Regime of Partners in a Law Firm,” Manuscript.Google Scholar
  23. Lazega, E. and S. Vari (1992), “Acteurs, Cibles et Leviers: Analyse Factorielle des Relations de Controle Indirect Dans une Firme Americaine d'avocats d'affairs,” Bulletin de Methodologie Sociologique, 37, 41-51.Google Scholar
  24. Lazega, E. and M.-O. Lebeaux (1995), “Capital Social et Contrainte Latérale,” Revue Francaise de Sociologie, 36, 759-777.Google Scholar
  25. Leaper, C. and H. Holliday (1995), “Gossip in Same-Gender and Cross-Gender Friends Conversations,” Personal Relationships, 2(3), 237-246.Google Scholar
  26. Levin, J. and A. Arluke (1985), “An Explanatory Analysis of Sex Differences in Gossip,” Sex Roles, 12(3/4), 281-286.Google Scholar
  27. March, J. and G. Sevón (1988), “Gossip, Information, and Decision-Making,” in J. March (Ed.) Decisions and Organizations, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 429-442.Google Scholar
  28. Merry, S. (1984), “Rethinking Gossip and Scandal,” in D. Black (Ed.) Toward a General Theory of Social Control. Vol 1: Fundamentals, Orlando: Academic Press, pp. 271-302.Google Scholar
  29. Morrill, C. (1995), The Executive Way: Conflict Management in Corporations.Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Nevo, O., B. Nevo and A. Derch-Zehavi (1993), “The Development of the Tendency to Gossip Questionnaire: Construct and Current Validation for a Sample of Israeli College Students,” Educational and Psychological Measurement, 53, 973-981.Google Scholar
  31. Noon, M. and R. Delbridge (1993), “News from Behind My Hand: Gossip in Organizations,” Organization Studies, 14(1), 23-36.Google Scholar
  32. Paine, R. (1967), “What is Gossip About? An Alternative Hypothesis,” Man, 2, 278-285.Google Scholar
  33. Paine, R. (1968), “Gossip and Transaction,” Man, 3, 305-308.Google Scholar
  34. Paine, R. (1970), “Informal Communication and Information Management,” Canadian Revue of Sociology and Social Anthropology, 7, 172-188.Google Scholar
  35. Rasmussen, S. (1991), “Modes of Persuasion: Gossip, Song, and Divination in Tuareg Conflict Resolution,” Anthropological Quarterly, 64(1), 30-46.Google Scholar
  36. Roethlisberger, F. and W.J. Dickson (1939, 1992), Management and the Worker.Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Rosenthal, R. (1984), Meta-Analytic Procedures for Social Research.Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  38. Schrader, S. (1995), “Gaining Advantage by “Leaking” Information: Informal Information Trading,” European Management Journal, 13(2), 156-163.Google Scholar
  39. Snijders, T. (1997), “De populaties van de meta-analyse,” Tijdschrift voor Onderwijsresearch, 22(1), 3-15.Google Scholar
  40. Soeters, J. (1994), “Roddel in Organisaties,” Sociologische Gids, 41(5), 329-345.Google Scholar
  41. Sutton, H. and L. Porter (1968), “A Study of the Grapevine in a Governmental Organization,” Personell Psychology, 21, 223-230.Google Scholar
  42. Von Hippel, E. and S. Schrader (1996), “‘Managed’ Informal Information Trading: The Oil Scout System in Oil Exploration Firms,” International Journal of Technology Management, 11(1/2), 207-218.Google Scholar
  43. Zaremba, A. (1988), “Working with the Organizational Grapevine,” Personell Journal, July, 38-43.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafael Wittek
    • 1
  • Rudi Wielers
    • 2
  1. 1.ICS/Department of SociologyUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Business AdministrationErasmus University RotterdamRotterdam

Personalised recommendations