Chatting up job satisfaction

Jun 21 2006 by Janet Howd Print This Article

What is it with Big Brother? However dysfunctional or unpleasant its participants are, audiences keep watching it.

But little of ongoing visual interest occurs in that limited space, so maybe it's not watching that has the audience hooked but listening; or rather listening-in to that most fascinating form of human communication: gossip.

As I read an article here on 19th June [Leaders don't listen, don't manage and don't have a clear vision] suggesting that the most de motivating factor in the workplace is having to contend with leaders who are poor communicators, poor listeners and who have no idea how to give feedback, it occurred to me that business leaders might be more successful if they took a leaf out of the Big Brother book and started spreading information by gossip.

When we listen-in we take-in and absorb information because we feel that we have gleaned it for ourselves. This leads to feelings of ownership and encourages a desire to share our new found information.

As long as that information remains in the realm of gossip - should it turn out to be wrong - its source will be absorbed by the group. The error will chatter its way back to the instigating manager who can then resolve feed back problems by gossiping with colleagues who properly understood the initial information and getting them to talk-up the accurate version.

The speedy climb up the learning curve instigated by the positive frisson of listening-in as colleagues try-out and pass-on information will empower the workforce. And by giving people the opportunity to gossip effectively the popularity of the most diffident manager will be seen to increase.

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I read an article on office gossip recently that I posted on my site's Articles in the News page. Here's the link:

From The Wall Street Journal's CareerJournal supplement, Jared Sandberg profiles several employees who came across confidential information, and delves into the effects of knowing or not knowing that information on their job and, ultimately, their entire workplace. The article is also illuminating because it argues that a certain amont of gossip is actually healthy for the workplace -- which is not the spin of most articles on office gossip.

Mark Harbeke