HR Strange But True!
August 30, 2007

Shssh. Keep this between you and me, OK? Workplace gossip could be a good thing for your company, says Chris Congdon of office furniture manufacturer Steelcase. Congdon says that employers can make workplace gossip work to their advantage by identifying the "hub" and "gatekeepers" of company news and designing the layout of the workplace accordingly.

"The way news travels at work--both formally and informally--is fascinating to watch," says Chris Congdon of Steelcase.  "Every workplace has the person or persons who know the scoop, at Steelcase we call those people hubs, and others that have the ability to grant access to people or information in the office; these are gatekeepers.  Knowing who these people are and how information flows within an organization grants great insight for management and can be leveraged for increased productivity through space planning."

Steelcase recently conducted a survey among 700 office workers in the United States to see how company news flows through an organization.

Eighty percent of respondents said they believe their company uses a consistent method of communicating news or announcements.  Most of these respondents (59 percent) said e-mail is the method their company uses to communicate news and announcements.  Twelve percent said their employer holds a staff meeting for this purpose. 

Among workers who said their company has no consistent method of communicating news, 31 percent said that an "off the record" conversation with a supervisor is their first source of news, with office gossip a close second at 28 percent.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said that people in their company gossip about company news all, most, or some of the time.  And seventy-six percent report that office gossip is accurate always, usually, or some of the time. 

The survey also found that the water cooler is one of the least likely places for workers to gossip. The conversations are more likely to take place:

  • In the office kitchen or break room (36 percent);
  • At a co-worker's desk, workstation or office (33 percent);
  • Or through e-mail or instant messenger (10 percent). 

The survey also found that younger workers are more likely to spread gossip, and as the older a person is, the more prone he or she is to keep the news under wraps.

Source: Steelcase

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