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Here’s to seeing the value in gossip

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Gossip gets a bad rap, but it actually helps set norms and lets your people feel as though they belong. In the process, they’ll also sort out who’s trustworthy, talented and reliable, and who’s not.

Gossip helps people map out networks so they’ll know whom to turn to for help with their problems or for shiny new projects.

Example: Tech reps at Xerox developed a reputation for gathering at breakfast, lunch or after work to gossip, eat, play games and talk shop. Their blend of social and work chat subtly improved their knowledge and awareness of each other.

A lot of gossip’s value lies in its apparent aimlessness. Instead of being laser-focused, the conversation wanders, sometimes working around to touchy or important issues and sometimes yielding useful insights.

So, recognize the power of social ties to sustain your people during crunch times. Here’s what you can do:
  • Don’t drive, drive, drive the schedule. Give folks time to catch their breath and chat.

  • Encourage face-to-face conversation by doing it yourself.

  • Ease up on the definition of “useful” talk to include chat.
—Adapted from In Good Company, Don Cohen, Laurence Prusak, Harvard Business School Press.

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