Gossip in Organizations

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.

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Wittek, R., Wielers, R. Gossip in Organizations. Computational & Mathematical Organization Theory 4, 189–204 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1009636325582

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  • informal networks
  • third party gossip
  • social control
  • social capital
  • social networks