MANAGERS who talk positively about team members who aren’t present foster a culture of team commitment and empowerment.
That is the key finding of research being presented by Professor Kirk Chang of Salford Business School .
Working in conjunction with Chien-Chih Kuo from National Chenchi University, Taiwan, Professor Chang sought views from 130 managers and 231 of their subordinates (chosen at random) across seven industries in Taiwan.
Data was collected using surveys given at two time points, the first measuring managers’ gossip and subordinates’ commitment towards the managers, and the second, sent out six weeks later, measuring the subordinates’ perception of their psychological wellbeing, team empowerment and likelihood of staying in the role.
Analysis of the results suggested that managers’ positive gossip facilitates their staff’s commitment, providing a sense of social support to the subordinates who reciprocate this support by showing commitment towards their managers in return.
Following the influence of commitment, subordinates perceive more psychological well-being, team empowerment and job embeddedness at work. Namely, managers’ positive gossip makes subordinates feel better.
Kirk Chang said: “Gossip is a term that carries some negative connotations, but our research suggests that managers who gossip in positive terms with the team members are likely to maintain a more committed workforce.”
The impact of negative gossiping by a manager was also investigated by the researchers, with no impact on commitment and team empowerment found.
Similar results were found when looking at the gossiping of subordinates, with positive gossip increasing team empowerment and negative gossip having the opposite effect.
Professor Chang added: “Our research shows that gossiping in the workplace can be a good thing, but only if the comments made about those who are not present are positive in nature and it does not become rumour.
“Traditional wisdom suggests that managers should keep their distance and not gossip about their team members, but as long as comments are kept positive it may actually allow them to maintain a more committed and empowered team.
“Having a good relationship with a manager is associated with both psychological wellbeing and job satisfaction, so this research could have implications for how managers interact with their staff.”