Back to Guides

Tips for positive use of work gossip

How much time do you reckon you spend gossiping at work? 

Most of us devote an astonishing 65% of our conversations to gossip. It’s the same for men and women, at any age.*

Gossip has a bad name: it implies idle chatter or malicious intent. But gossip contains important information about your social network. 

For example, how much network information is in this little exchange: 

“All I said was I assumed he knew the process. But he went on a rant and CC’d Finance in!”

“What a jerk”

“Right. I mean, what does that make us look like?”

So, if gossip dominates our conversations, what does that mean for Business Storytellers? Should professional communicators be gossipy? Here are two tips for positive use of gossip at work:

1. Listen for gossip alarm bells

Gossip escalates as a situation gets worse. It goes like this:

  • Alert others to rule breakers: “You’ll never guess what…”
  • Sense-check for disapproval: “Is it just me, or…” 
  • Sound others out for action: “Someone ought to…”

If your workplace is full of “someone ought to’s” you may be in trouble. This is the stage where people start to push back, put their heads down or leave.

2. Use the power of gossip 

Gossip is the original viral content. Use the DNA of gossip to make your stories stronger and more shareable with these Storyteller Tactics:


Storyteller Tactics used in this blog post: 

Data Detectives: zoom out to show the big picture, then zoom in on an example of a gossipy conversation. *By the way, the stats in this post are taken from a highly readable academic paper: Gossip in Evolutionary Perspective, by Robin Dunbar.

Story Hooks: ask a question, then answer it. Use a relatable topic. Find an irony: should professional communicators be gossipy? Offer knowledge “two tips”. All of these make the blog post (hopefully) more readable.

Leave a Comment

Let us know what thoughts or questions you have about this guide so we can improve it.

If you leave us your email, we'll let you know if we update this guide based on your feedback.