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  • 1. * Acad&my of ManagemeTit Review200D. Vol. 25, No. 2. 428-438. NOTE PASSING THE WORD: TOWARD A MODEL OF GOSSIP AND POWER IN THE WORKPLACE NANCY B. KURLAND LISA HOPE PELLED University of Southern California Although gossip is widespread, seldom has it been a topic of management research. Here we build a conceptual model oi workplace gossip and its eifects on the power oi employees who initiate it. After defining and distinguishing among different kinds o( workplace gossip, we develop propositions about Ihe effect of that gossip on gosslp- ers expert, referent, reward, and coercive power. We then suggest how moderators may shape those effects and discuss implications of the model. As early as the Hawthorne Studies (Roethlis- its definltion^despite Noon and Delbridgesberger & Dickson, 1943), management scholars (1993) call for research on the topic. Thus, it isrecognized the existence of the informal organi- important to begin redressing this gap. In thiszation. Unlike the formal organization, which article we draw on writings from multiple disci-appears in organization charts and reflects pre- plines to offer a definition and theoretical modelscribed patterns for officially sanctioned mes- of workplace gossip and its consequences.sages, the informal organization consists of Models of general communication typicallyspontaneous, emergent patterns that result from have been of two kinds. The first, most commonindividuals discretionary choices (Stohl, 1995: kind is the linear model (e.g., Berlo, 1960;65). This informal network, also called the Osgood, Suci, & Tannenbaum, 1957; Shannon &grapevine (e.g., Baird, 1977; Daniels, Spiker, & Weaver, 1949), in which the researcher treatsPapa, 1997), has received considerable attention communication as a "left-to-right, one-way" pro-in the years since its discovery (e.g., Davis, 1953; cess (Rogers & Kincaid, 1981: 33). Key compo-Katz & Kahn, 1978; Krackhardt & Hanson, 1993; nents of linear models are the source (personPodolny & Baron, 1997). Still, there is a need for who initiates communication), message (contentcloser examination of its specific components— of the communication), channel (transmissionfor example, rumor, "catching up," and gossip medium), and receiver (person receiving the(Goldsmith & Baxter, 1996). Accordingly, in this message; Ruch, 1989). Communication is viewedarticle we explore one such component: work- as a process by which a message is transferredplace gossip. from an active source, through a channel, to a Although psychologists (e.g.. Fine & Rosnow, passive receiver.1978), sociologists (e.g., Eder & Enke, 1991), and The second kind of general communicationanthropologists (e.g., Dunbar, 1996) have exam- model is the convergence model (Rogers & Kin-ined the nature and role of gossip in larger so- caid, 1981). In convergence models (e.g., Kincaid,ciety, scholars have yet to develop a conceptual 1979; Pearce, Figgins, & Golen, 1984) researchersmodel of workplace gossip—or even agree on treat communication as a two-way process. Sug- gesting that participants in the communication process are simultaneously sending and receiv- We are grateful for comments Chris Earley and three ing messages, researchers developing theseanonymous reviewers provided. We also thank Tom Cum- models make less distinction between sendermings, Janet Fulk, Bill Gartner, Mike Kamins, Peter Kim, and receiver. Instead, they delve into the rela-Peter Monge, Nandini Rajagopalan, Kathleen Reardon, andPatti Riley for their helpful comments and suggestions. tionships among communication participants, Both authors contributed equally; our names appear in the larger social networks in which those rela-alphabetical order. tionships exist, and the dynamic nature of com- 42S
  • 2. 2000 Kurland and Felled 429munication (e.g., how communication changes eration and impact of gossip (Burt & Knez, 1996;its participants). Jaeger, Skelder, & Rosnow, 1998). Indeed, re- To ensure practical value in communication searchers (Martin, Feldman, Hatch, & Sitkin,models, researchers may need to balance the 1983; Martin & Siehl, 1983) have observed thatsimplicity of linear models with the complexity even an ostensibly minor story about one em-of convergence models. As Smeltzer and Leo- ployee can ultimately transform a corporate cul-nard have suggested, a communication model ture, if that story is shared by many organiza-should "contain enough elements so that users tional members.can relate their personal experiences and train- A complete network analysis of gossip is be-ing to the model. But it must not become so yond the scope of our model, for as Burt andcomplex that practitioners find it impossible to Knez note, even "a minimal assumption of activeunderstand" (1994: 32). Thus, our model lies be- third parties creates enormous complexity fortween the linear and convergence categories. theoretical analysis" (1996: 72). Nevertheless, atLike linear models, its primary emphasis is on several points in this article, we touch on howthe flow of a message (gossip) from source (gos- such networks play a role in gossip-power link-siper) to receiver (gossip recipient). However, ages.with our model we improve on traditional linearmodels by paying greater attention to the com-munication context—specifically, the culture in KEY CONCEPTS IN THE PROPOSED MODELwhich gossip occurs. Also, the receiver in ourmodel has a more active role than in strict linear Definition and Types of Gossipmodels: we consider the interplay between As prior researchers have noted (Jaeger et al.,source and receiver—that is, how the relation- 1998; Schein, 1994), gossip traditionally has beenship between gossiper and recipient moderates defined as idle chatter, chitchat, or the eviJthe effects we propose. Additionally, we incor- tongue. These negative connotations largelyporate the receivers reaction to the message in arose from religious writings (e.g., Exod. 23 : 1;our models dependent variable: the sources Lev. 19 :16; Prov. 25 :18). Many authors (e.g., Bok,power over the receiver. The receivers interpre- 1984) continue to treat gossip as improper andtation of the gossip largely determines how overly subjective. Some, however, recently havemuch power the source gains. offered neutral definitions, such as "evaluative Power is the dependent variable in our model talk about a person who is not present" (Eder 8Efor several reasons. First, social scientists (e.g., Enke, 1991: 494) and "the process of informallyBerger, 1994; Giddens, 1984; Mumby, 1988) have communicating value-laden information aboutsuggested that communication in general tends members of a social setting" (Noon & Delbridge,to shape power structures in organizations as 1993: 25). Unlike their negative counterparts,well as society. Second, in extant writings on these more even-handed definitions allow forgossip, scholars have hinted at linkages to gossips functional as well as dysfunctional sidepower (e.g., Emler, 1994). Third, power is a mul- (e.g., Dunbar, 1996; Tebbutt, 1995). Here, we drawtidimensional construct (French & Raven, 1959; upon and adapt these neutral conceptualiza-Hinkin & Schriescheim, 1989); as such, it has tions, defining workplace gossip as iniormalsufficient breadth to capture a variety of work- and evaJuative talk in an organization, usuallyplace gossip effects. Finally, power is often a among no more than a few individuals, aJboufcritical asset to employees (Pfeffer, 1992). another member of that organization who is not Although the focus of our model is the gossiper- present.recipient dyad, it is important to keep in mind Although laypersons and academics (e.g.,that such dyads are embedded in social net- Ayim, 1994) occasionally may suggest that gos-works. Mutual friends and acquaintances of the sip encompasses informal communicationgossiper and recipient can influence the prolif- about objects or events—not just people—our treatment focuses on talk about other persons. We delimit our definition in this manner for two reasons. First, in scholarly writings on gossip in The source may be either a supervisor, subordinate, orpeer of the recipient. That is, the direction of gossip may larger society (e.g., Eder & Enke, 1991; Harris,either be upward, doivnwfaid, or lateral. 1993; Rosnow & Fine, 1976), researchers predom-
  • 3. 430 Academy oi Management Review Aprilinantly treat the concept as communication tential ability to influence behavior, to changeabout people. Second, the American Manage- the course of events, to overcome resistance,ment Association (AMA) recently asserted that and to get people to do things that they wouldthe grapevine may include a wide range of in- otherwise not do" (1992: 30). Finkelstein has re-formal communication, whereas gossip focuses ferred to power as "the capacity of individualsolely on information about people (Smith, 1996). actors to exert their will" (1992: 507). Based on lust as there are distinctions between gossip these writings and the writings of others (Frenchand other forms of informal communication, & Raven, 1969; House, 1988; Shackleton, 1995), wethere are important distinctions among different define power here as the ability to exert oneskinds of gossip. A review of relevant literature will, influencing others to do things that theypoints to three dimensions useful for making would not otherwise do. In the model we specif-these distinctions: sign, credibility, and work- ically focus on the gossipers power over gossiprelatedness. Following writings on feedback recipients.(e.g., Ilgen, Fisher, & Taylor, 1979), we define The multidimensionality of power is well rec-sign as the positivity or negativity of the infor- ognized. French and Raven (1959) advanced amation being related. When gossip consists of typology of power that remains popular (e.g.,favorable news about others—for example, stat-ing that "Mary received a raise"—its sign is Atwater, 1995; Davis & Schoorman, 1997; Hinkinpositive. When gossip consists of unfavorable & Schriesheim, 1994), distinguishing among fivenews about others, its sign is negative.^ kinds of power that one individual (whom we call Person A) can have over another individual Credibility is the extent to which the gossip isbelievable—that is, it is seemingly accurate and (whom we call Person B): coercive power, rewardtruthful. Message credibility has been the sub- power, legitimate power, expert power, and ref-ject of considerable research in the fields of erent power.^ Although organizational scholarscommunication, marketing, and social psychol- have offered other power typologies (e.g.,ogy (e.g., Boehm, 1994; McCroskey, 1969; Slattery Finkelstein, 1992; Yukl & Falbe, 1991), French 8f Tiedge, 1992). A recent review attests to its and Ravens original classification is the most importance as a communication feature (Self, widely accepted and adopted. Their typology is 1996). particularly useful for describing individual- Consistent with prior literature (e.g.. Morrow, level power, which is the focus of our model. 1981; Tushman, 1979) in which authors have dis- Hence, our propositions pertain to four of these tinguished between work-related and non-work- power types (coercive, reward, expert, and refer- related communication, we distinguish among ent) that we expect gossip to influence. (We do work-related (professional) and non-work- not consider legitimate power as an outcome related (social) gossip. We define worfc-reJated- because it is largely based on ones position— ness as the degree to which gossip is focused on that is, hierarchical rank—rather than on social a subjects work life, such as job performance, processes.) Our predictions refer to the French career progress, relationships with other organ- and Raven dimensions, but we draw from a izational members, and general behavior in the range of power and influence writings to de- workplace. velop those predictions.Definition and Types of Power Also essential to our model is the concept of ^ Coercive power is the power that emerges from Personpower. Pfeffer has described power as "the po- Bs belief that Person A has the ability to punish him or her. flewaid power is the power that emerges from Person Bs belief that Person A can provide him or her with desired ^ Within the categories of positive gossip and negative outcomes. Legitimate power is the power that emerges fromgossip, it is possible to make additional distinctions. For Person Bs perception that Person A has a legitimate right,example, gossip can be negative if it describes an unfortu- based on position in the organization, to influence him ornate event that befell someone (e.g., a broken leg), but it can her. Expert power is the power that emerges from Person Bsalso be negative if it describes unethical behavior. Here, we belief that Person A has special knowledge or expertise thatinterpret gossip as negative when it constitutes a "smear" Person B needs. Finally, referent power is the power thatthat could detract from a subjects reputation. Positive gos- emerges from Person Bs attraction for and desire to besip, however, tends to enhance a subjects reputation. associated with Person A.
  • 4. 2000 Kuiland and Pelled 431 THEORETICAL BACKGROUND AND relates negative news about a third party, recip- HYPOTHESES ients may infer that the gossiper also could Figure 1 presents our model. In the following spread negative information about them (Yerk-sections we develop propositions about the il- ovich, 1977). Because such information can dam-lustrated linkages. age reputations and/or careers (Emler, 1994; Fine, 1977; Glazer & Ras, 1994; Tebbutt, 1995), negative gossip may constitute an implicitLinkages Between Gossip and Power threat by the gossiper. French and Raven (1959) One main effect of negative gossip may be proposed that when Person B perceives that Per-enhanced coercive power. When the gossiper son A can administer punishments. Person A has coercive power over Person B. Along the nGURE 1 same lines, other researchers (e.g.. Hunt & Proposed Model of Gossip and Power Nevin, 1974; Tedeschi, 1972) have advanced the notion that implicit and explicit threats can en- hance power and influence.* Those who feel Gossip features: threatened may comply in order to avoid retri- - credibility - work-relatedness bution (Kipnis, Schmidt, & Wilkinson, 1980). Thus, negative gossip may give the gossiper coercive power over recipients. Reward Proposifion i; 7n a wort seffing, nega- power tive gossip will enhance the gossipers coercive power over gossip recipients. Positive gossip, in contrast, is likely to affect reward power. When a gossiper shares positive news about another worker, recipients may infer that the gossiper also could spread positive in- Coercive formation about them. Because such information power can strengthen reputations and/or careers, pos- itive gossip shows the ability to distribute (al- Positive beit indirectly) desired outcomes. French and gossip Raven (1959) suggested that when Person B per- ceives that Person A has control over valued outcomes. Person A has reward power over Per- son B. Along the same lines, Etzioni (1961) pro- posed that control of material and symbolic re- Expert wards are a basis for power. Additionally, Negatives power gossip Emerson asserted that power "resides in control There may be limits to the effectiveness ol implicit threats (e.g., the threat of spreading negative information) in attempts to gain power. First, if the gossiper has few con- nections to others, recipients may be less concerned about Referent the gossipers ability to spread dark secrets. Second, some power news—for example, information that is hard to remember— may be especially difficult to spread (Zimbardo & Leippe, t 1991), Third, as our Proposition 7 suggests, recipients may be less afraid of the gossiper when they have a good relation- ship with him or her. Moreover, those vrho do feel threatened may strive to decrease their dependence on the person mak- Context factors: ing the threat (Bacharach & Lawler, 1980; Tjosvold, 1995). As - relationsh ip quality Bacharach and Lawler have noted, coercion "should be most - organizati onal culture effective when the target is highly dependent on the user" {1980: 177).
  • 5. 432 Academy of Management Review Aprilover the things [another person] values In those who condemn gossip from an ethicalshort, power resides implicitly in the others de- standpoint will be especially hard pressed topendency" (1962: 32). Resource dependence the- find anything redeeming about negative gossip.orists (e.g., Salancik & Pfeffer, 1977), too, haveadvanced the notion that power comes from the Proposition 4a: In a work setting, gos-control of relevant resources—resources that are sip will reduce the gossipers referentimportant to others. Hence, by revealing the gos- power over recipients. This effect willsipers ability to control an important resource be stronger for negative gossip than(reputation), positive gossip may give the gos- for positive gossip.siper reward power over recipients. The competing argument is that gossip en- Proposition 2: In a work setting, posi- hances referent power. As gossipers share tive gossip will enhance the gossipers news, they draw recipients into their social cir- reward power over gossip recipients. cles (e.g., Dunbar, 1996; Eder & Enke, 1991). These recipients, in turn, may appreciate being in- Gossip in general, whether positive or nega- cluded. Moreover, through gossip, recipientstive, is apt to influence expert power, for it can might realize that the gossiper is on the inside offacilitate an exchange of data and help build a a social network. This realization is apt to makeknowledge base (e.g.. Code, 1994; Dunbar, 1996). recipients more interested in knowing and be-When a gossiper shares information about oth- ing liked by the gossiper. Consistent with thisers, the recipient may learn more about the or- notion, impression management scholars haveganizations values. As Heath (1994) has ob- found that people can enhance their image byserved, stories shared by coworkers can help managing information about others with whomemployees understand principles by which their they are associated (Gardner & Martinko, 1988).organization operates. Additionally, gossip can If gossip enhances referent power, this effectreveal that the gossiper has relevant knowledge is apt to taper off at very high levels—that is, asabout persons in the work environment. As the the frequency of the gossip and the pool of re-gossiper demonstrates such knowledge (an abil- cipients increase. As Levin and Arluke have ob-ity that depends, in part, on the gossipers net- served, a person who gossips too much "maywork centrality), the recipient may come to view become defined as a big mouth or a yenta whothe gossiper as a source of useful information, will talk to anyone about anything, as a personand the gossiper may thereby gain expert who cannot be trusted to keep a secret or to bepower. discreet with privileged information" (1987; 16). Proposifion 3: In a work setting, gossip Moreover, when gossipers talk incessantly will enhance the gossipers expert about others, they may become resented for us- power over gossip recipients. ing so much of recipients time. Thus, we offer the following. In the case of referent power, we expect gossipto have competing effects. One possibility is Proposition 4b: In a work setting, gos-that gossip reduces referent power, for gossip sip will have a curvilinear effect onmay be seen as a small or petty activity. As the gossipers referent power over re-mentioned earlier, in religious writings and cipients; it will enhance referentother sources of guidance and education, gossip power until it reaches a very highis often denounced as idle, immoral, or improper level, at which point it will detract(Levin & Arluke, 1987). Socialized by such teach- from referent power.ings, many persons perceive gossip as repre-hensible, and they look down on those who en-gage in the behavior. Gossip, therefore, may Moderators of Linkages Between Gossip anddetract from the referent power of the gossiper. Power This effect is likely to be particularly pro- The strength of the above linkages may benounced when gossip is negative. As described influenced by characteristics of the gossip andearlier, positive gossip can enhance the reputa- by contextual factors, including organizationaltion of its subjects, whereas negative gossip culture and the relationship between gossipertends to destroy subjects reputations. Hence, and recipient.
  • 6. 2000 Kmland and Pelled 433 Features of the gossip. As described earlier, perceive that the gossiper is attempting to mis-one particularly relevant characteristic of gos- lead them. As Zucker (1986) has suggested, indi-sip is its credibility. Upon reviewing a variety of viduals perceived as providing accurate infor-empirical findings and conducting their own mation are more trusted than those who sharestudy. Slater and Rouner (1998) concluded that inaccurate knowledge.message credibility has considerable influenceon judgments of source credibility.^ Thus, gossip Proposifion 5; The effects of gossip onthat lacks credibility can lead a recipient to coercive, reward, expert, and referentview the gossiper as a noncredible source. Even power will be moderated by gossipif the recipients view of the gossiper is not credibility. Any tendency for gossip fowidely held, he or she may assume that others enhance the four power types will beshare this view, for a common cognitive bias is stronger when credibility is high thanthe faJse consensus effect: the tendency to over- when it is low. Any tendency for gos-estimate the prevalence of ones own opinions sip to reduce referent power will beor experiences (Kelley, 1967; Whitley, 1998). Ac- weaker when credibility is high thancording to Fiske and Taylor, "Researchers con- when it is low.sistently find that consensus information (i.e., Like credibility, the work-relatedness of gos-the opinions or experience of others) is rela- sip may play a moderating role. Rewards (e.g.,tively underutilized in the judgment process" high performance ratings and promotions) and(1991: 93). They explain that those "who agree punishments in the organization (e.g., demo-with us are more likely to come to mind when we tions and firings) are based largely on an em-attempt to infer what others will believe" (1991: ployees work-related behavior. It is, in fact, il-75). Recipients, therefore, may infer that the gos- legal to take many personal events (topics ofsiper also lacks credibility with others and will social gossip), such as marriage, a major illness,not be believed when sharing negative or posi- or a change of housing, into account when de-tive gossip. Hence, when gossip credibility is termining such rewards and punishments (Holl-low, recipients are less likely to view the gos- witz, Goodman, & Bolte, 1995; Madison & Knud-siper as someone with coercive or reward son-Fields, 1987). Although some managers stillpower. consider those personal factors when allocating In addition, credibility may affect the relation- resources, legislation (and the possibility ofship between gossip and expert power. If recip- costly lawsuits) constrains their ability to do so.ients believe that a gossipers information is Thus, the employee who engages in work-inaccurate, they may begin to question or doubt related gossip has a greater ability to influenceany future information the gossiper relays. As a rewards and punishments in the workplace thanresult, that gossip will contribute less to, and does an employee who engages in gossip aboutmay detract from, the gossipers expert power. In other topics.line with this reasoning, Krackhardt (1990) has Work-related gossip is also particularly likelyfound that employees with more accurate infor- to shape expert power. Fiske and Taylor (1991)mation about the informal network have higher have pointed out that a given context can en-reputational power than those whose informa- courage us to attend to some information moretion is less accurate. than other information. Being in the workplace Lack of credibility also may diminish any pos- makes employees particularly attuned to work-itive link, and enhance any negative link, be- related information. When the recipient is in atween gossip and referent power. Recipients work context, "professional" topics such as amay resent the gossiper who seems to relate persons salary, promotion, and recognition gen-far-fetched or incorrect information, for they may erally have more relevance than do divorce, plastic surgery, or other "social" topics. Thus, a gossiper who provides work-related information ^ Although message and source credibility are conceptu- about others is especially likely to be used as anally distinct, they are often closely related. Indeed, credibil- information source and seen as an expert in theity is a complex feature, and that complexity may make it workplace.more challenging to measure, compared to other features ofgossip. Those who test the proposed model should keep this In addition, the work-relatedness of gossipcaveat in mind. may diminish any negative link between gossip
  • 7. 434 Academy ol Management fleview Apriland referent power. Recipients are less likely to moderated by gossiper-recipient rela-perceive the gossiper as wasting their time at tionship quality. Any tendency torthe office when the gossip is relevant to that negative gossip to enhance coercivesetting. Hence, they will be less resentful of the power will be weaker when relation-gossiper when the work-relatedness of gossip is ship quality is high. Any tendency forhigh. positive gossip to enhance reward power will be stronger when relation- Proposition 6: The effects of gossip on ship quality is high. coercive, reward, expert, and referent power will be moderated by the work- Relationship quality also may shape gossip relatedness of the gossip. Any ten- effects on referent power. Gossip is more likely dency for gossip to enhance coercive, to enhance referent pow^er when the quality of a reward, and expert power will be relationship is high. If the gossiper and recipi- stronger when work-relatedness is ent have a close and trusting relationship, the high. Any tendency for gossip to re- recipient is apt to view such gossip as appropri- duce referent power will be weaker ate, for informal communication is characteris- when work-relatedness is high. tic of high-quality relationships (Fairhurst, 1993; Lee & Jablin, 1995). Consistent with this logic is Gossiper-recipient relationship quality. Like "halo effect" research (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977),the nature of the gossip, the context of that gos- which has revealed "a tendency to evaluate allsip—specifically, the quality of the relationship components of a target person in the same waybetween gossiper and recipient—may act as a once a general evaluation, positive or negative,moderator. Relationship quality is the degree to is formed" (Fiske & Taylor, 1991: 256). Thus, in thewhich a relationship is characterized by mutual context of a strong relationship, any positivesupport, informal influence, trust, and frequent link between gossip and referent power will beinformation exchange (Lee, 1998). Employees stronger. Also, when relationship quality iswho have a habit of gossiping with each other, high, recipients who frown upon gossip in gen-for example, can be characterized as having a eral may be more forgiving of the gossiper.high relationship quality. Much of the literature Hence, any negative link between gossip andon relationship quality pertains to supervisor- referent power will be weaker.subordinate dyads or leader-member exchangetheory (Dansereau, Graen, & Haga, 1975), but Proposition 8: The effect of gossip onone can also characterize peer relationships in referent power will be moderated byterms of relationship quality (Kram & Isabella, gossiper-recipient relationship qual-1985). ity. Any tendency for gossip to en- Negative gossip is less likely to enhance co- hance such power will be strongerercive power when relationship quality is high. when relationship quality is high. AnyIf a recipient trusts a gossiper, that recipient tendency for gossip to reduce suchmay believe the gossiper will avoid harming power will be weaJcer when reiafion-him or her. Even if the gossiper is spreading ship quality is high.negative news about others, the recipient maybe confident that his or her own dark secrets will Organizational culture. Another moderatingnot be revealed by that gossiper. contextual factor may be organizational cuJfure: Positive gossip, however, is more likely to en- the "system of shared values (that define what ishance reward power when relationship quality important) and norms that define appropriateis high. A recipient who is a close friend of a attitudes and behaviors for organizationalgossiper may believe that gossiper will try to members (how to feel and behave)" (OReilly &help him or her when possible. Thus, if that Chatman, 1996: 160). In some organizations thegossiper is spreading positive news about oth- culture advocates considerable formal commu-ers, the recipient is especially likely to think the nication, while discouraging informal communi-gossiper will do the same for him or her. cation (Smeltzer & Leonard, 1994). If there is a cultural injunction against informal communi- Proposition 7: The effect of gossip on cation, then employees will be constrained in coercive and reward power will be their use of gossip to spread news about others.
  • 8. 2000 Kurland and Pelled 435Gossip recipients may recognize these con- refined conceptualization and specific predic-straints and conclude that gossipers have few tions about the phenomenon. On the practitioneropportunities to help or harm reputations. The side, the proposed framework illustrates that,effect of gossip on reward and coercive power, contrary to the adage "small people talk abouttherefore, will be weaker. other people," gossip can make a person quite Also, when culture encourages formal commu- "large" in an organization. At the same time, thenication and discourages informal communica- model shows conditions under which gossiption, organizational members may not look to may backfire. An understanding of such dynam-gossip as a source of information. Evidence has ics of gossip is likely to help organizations andshown that individuals refrain from an informa- their members capitalize on this widespreadtion-seeking strategy if they expect the strategy genre of informal have high social costs (Miller & Jablin, 1991).In an antigossip culture, seeking informationfrom a gossiper may have such costs. Conse-quently, it may be difficult for the gossiper to REFERENCESgain expert power via gossip. Atwater, L. 1995. The relationship between supervisory The link between gossip and referent power, power and organizational characteristics. Group andtoo, may be shaped by culture. An antigossip Organization Management, 20: 460-485.culture may reinforce a recipients belief that Ayim, M. 1994. Knowledge through the grapevine: Gossip asgossip is wrong or immoral. Thus, any tendency inquiry. In R. F. Goodman 8t A. Ben-Zeev (Eds.), Good gossip: 85-99. Lawrence: University oi Kansas Press.for gossip to reduce referent power will be stron-ger when the culture discourages such informal Bacharach, S, B., & Lawler, E. J. 1980, Power and politics in orgranizafions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.communication.^ Baird, I. E. 1977. The dynamics o/ organizafionai communi- Proposition 9: The effects of gossip on cation. New York: Harper & Row. coercive, reward, expert, and referent Berger, C. R. 1994. Power, dominance, and social interaction. power will be moderated by organiza- In M. L. Knapp & G. R, Miller (Eds.), Handbook of inter- tional culture. Any tendency for gossip personal comniunication: 450-507. Thousand Oaks, CA: to enhance coercive, reward, and ex- Sage. pert power will be weaker when the Berlo, D. K. 1960. lilie process of communication: An introduc- culture discourages informal commu- tion to theory and practice. New York: Holt, Rinehart, St Winston. nication. Any tendency for gossip to reduce referent power will be stronger Boehm, L. E. 1994. The validity effect: A search for mediating variables. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, when the culture discourages infor- 20: 285-293. mal communication. Bok, S. 1934. Secrets: On tJie ethics of concealment and rev- elation. New York: Vintage. CONCLUDING REMARKS Burt, R. S., & Knez, M. 1996. Trust and third-party gossip, In R. M. Kramer & T. R. Tyler (Eds.), Trust in organizations: The proposed model contributes to both man- 68-89. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.agement research and practice. On the aca- Code, L. 1934. Gossip, or in praise oi chaos, ln R. F. Goodmandemic side, it is—to the authors knowledge— & A. Ben-Zeev (Eds.), Good gossip: 100-106. Lawrence:the first theoretical model of workplace gossip University of Kansas Press.and its consequences. Noon and Delbridge (1993) Daniels, T., Spiker, B., & Papa, M. 1997. Perspectives on or-took a significant step with their thought- ganizational communicaiion (3rd ed.). Madison, WI:provoking discussion of gossip in organizations Brown and Benchmark.and their call for research on the topic. Our Dansereau, F., Graen, G., & Haga, W. J. 1975. A vertical dyadmodel takes their work a step further, offering a approach to leadership within formal organizations. OrgranizafionaJ Beliavior and Human Performance, 13: 46-78. Davis, J. H., & Schoorman, F. D. 1997. Toward a stewardship ^ It is possible that some employees will reject the values theory of management. Academy of Management Re-of the dominant culture and appreciate the individual who view, 22: 20-47.goes against it (e.g., by gossiping in an antigossip culture).These employees may respect that gossiper ior taking such Davis, K. 1953. A method of studying communication patternsa risk. in organizations. Personnel PsychoJogy, 6: 301-312.
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Kurland is an assistant professor oi management and organization in the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, where she teaches courses in organizational behavior, business ethics, and leadership. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. She researches gossip, telecommuting, gender issues, the social impact of technology, and ethics and incentives.
  • 11. Academy of Management Review AprilLisa Hope Pelled is an assistant professor of management and organization in theMarshall School of Business, University of Southern California, where she teachescourses in organizational behavior, managing interpersonal relations, and multicul-tural management. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University. Her researchareas include organizational demography, workplace emotions, communication, andconflict.