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Workplace Gossip: Is All Gossip At The Office Bad Gossip?

11/06/2012 09:25 EST | Updated 11/06/2012 11:29 EST
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Psst...can you keep a secret?

Turns out, most of us can't, and as soon as we have a chance to let it all out, we gossip — at least 80 per cent of what we chit-chat about is considered to be a form of gossip, especially when it comes to the workplace.

Filmmaker and producer Paul Kemp of Stornoway Productions in Toronto says gossip in the workplace has become the norm, and in his latest project "The Real Dirt on Gossip," Kemp and his team look at the history of gossip, and why society is obsessed with hearing everyone else's story.

"Most gossip is the truth. This is the misconception about gossip and rumours — rumours are often not true," he tells The Huffington Post Canada. Kemp argues that most gossip is actually positive or neutral, and only 10 per cent of it is actually negative.

"It's the way we judge and discuss things, and this is how an open office should be," he adds.

Gossip in the workplace doesn't have to be about talking about your co-worker's annoying habits or your boss's short temper. According to a study by Georgia Institute of Technology, researchers found that even though negative gossip was 2.7 times more likely to appear in an employee's inbox, all gossip was an "important exchange of social information," according to NewsOk.com. The article added that gossip can promote group cooperation and help employees be more social.

Kemp agrees — for the most part. Through his interviews with scientists and experts for the documentary, he found that gossip in the workplace can be used to get ahead and move up the ladder. For example, if your co-worker gets promoted, you are more inclined to talk (positively) about how they got there.

The documentary also looks at how we gossip and who we talk to. Just because you see more women picking up tabloid magazines, it doesn't mean men don't gossip at all. The documentary found that women are more likely to change their voice or pitch while gossiping with girlfriends or female family members, while men tend to gossip with their partners or over the phone with friends.

And the word gossip can just be an ugly word in itself. If your idea of gossip is people whispering nonsense into each other's ears or saying "shush" when others walk by, it shouldn't be, Kemp says. "If you say you're not gossiping, you're lying. Negative gossiping could be unpopular in the long run, but those who listen and pass along good news will always be well-liked," he says.

"The Real Dirt on Gossip," will air Thursday Nov. 8 on CBC's Doc Zone at 9 p.m.

ALSO: Some highlights from the documentary on gossiping in the workplace and interviews with three members of the cast:

Facts About Gossiping