Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
Forum 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 11:10 GMT
Is office gossip good for you?

Bringing back the tea lady and the Friday night office drink will benefit relations in the workplace, according to a new report.

The report by the Industrial Society recommends that employers should give their staff more room to enjoy their work, should see sociability at work as morale boosting and not in opposition to efficiency and productivity.

"Gossip is the cement which holds organisations together," says report author Judith Doyle.

Is gossip good for companies? Would you like to see the tea lady bought back? Is socialising at work good for you?

HAVE YOUR SAY

Socialising and gossiping at the workplace is absolutely perfect

Oscar Edule, Uganda
Socialising and gossiping at the workplace is absolutely perfect and makes workers love their jobs. Sometimes the gossip subject turns out to be an item for discussion in a meeting and is adopted as policy.
Oscar Edule, Uganda

I firmly believe that socialising with those you work with can only be beneficial. The Friday night drink is very much alive and well with us and I have made good friends out of many of my colleagues through socialising. It has brought definite benefits in helping us to understand each other better and provided a release from the pressures of office work. Yes we bitch and moan sometimes but at the end of the day we all work better together and the office environment is much healthier as a result.

I don't advocate compulsion though as there will always be those who prefer to keep their professional and private lives separate and if that works for them, fine.If you hate your colleagues so much that the thought of socialising with then is anathema then I'd suggest changing jobs. It can't be fun working with people you don't like!
Dave Smith, UK

For all I know gossiping is to talk about someone behind his back for evil intents. This means that gossip is a vice. So how on earth then can we begin to extol it for whatever reason?
Pascal Bessong, South Africa

We in this country do not have "tea ladies", but never abandoned the tradition of offering tea or coffee to a visitor, or to each other, as the need is felt. Maybe we can teach a thing or two to the "stuck up" west! The wheels of business and friendship get well oiled this way.
Omer, Turkey


Gossip is alive and well and can travel quicker than e-mail in my office.

Gerry, Scotland
Gossip is alive and well and can travel quicker than e-mail in my office.
Gerry, Scotland

With many people working longer hours it seems to be becoming accepted that a little time out for a chat or net surfing is essential to recharge the batteries now and again. I don't mind a bit of banter within working hours but draw the line at socialising after work. Pay hard-earned cash to go for a Christmas meal with colleagues I barely tolerate the rest of the year - sorry, I have better things to do with my time and money.
Mike H, Bristol, England


Where is the sense in highly paid professionals making and fetching their own tea and coffee?

Mike, Malaysia
Having worked in Asia and Africa for several years where tea ladies (and men) are the norm, I find the institution to be efficient and cost effective from the employer's point-of-view, besides creating employment for otherwise untrained people. What is the sense of the current fashion in western countries for having highly paid professionals making and fetching their own tea and coffee (or doing copying and running errands) when you can have tea ladies, office boys and drivers do it much more cost effectively?
Mike, Malaysia

Socialising with colleagues and office gossip has the advantage that it helps clarify who stands where and who is an ally of whom without having to find out in the 'task environment'. It thus removes ambiguity, and might increase efficiency. Also, if gossiping/socialising/tea breaks become institutionalised and accepted, they might lose their acid edge.
Pirjo Savinen, Finland

Yes, providing you are not the subject of it.
STC, England

Gossip is good for those who have in common their work and aspirations for their contribution to it. After all, much office gossip is in reality shop talk. Bright people bounce sparks off one another. Remember what the coffeehouses did for English Literature in the Eighteenth Century? It's much the same at work. Good office gossip is to the workplace what the Parisian Left Bank has been to the arts: a forum for mutual energising, collaboration, and creativity.
Alma Martin, USA

Gossip is good in so far as it levels the ground with all superiors and subordinates alike. However, it should be noted that in every office there is always one person that 'knows it all'. Now that person should be fired. Otherwise, it sure helps people vent themselves and unburden their individual resentment towards specific individuals during the course of the work day.
Guru Shenoy, United States


Its strange how fast time can pass when people in the office are gossiping

Bhumii Bhatt, UK
Being new to the working environment I can clearly say that office gossip can be a good thing. Its strange how fast time can pass when people in the office are gossiping. I have seen at my work place that when we do gossip about someone it is more to just interact with one another rather than to gossip. It allows the mood in the office to become lighter and refreshing. As for the tea lady, that can only be a good thing...to gossip about!
Bhumii Bhatt, UK

A good social atmosphere is extremely important at work. However gossiping can lead to rumour which can lead to damaging people's careers. 'Tea ladies' are just a reason to set time-controlled breaks rather than letting people work to their own abilities. I hate to leave my work half-done to go have a break but if you have arranged 'tea ladies' then I would have to leave my work or miss the break.
Paul C, England

We all need a break from time to time. The average attention span is something like 40 minutes. After that, you need to stretch your legs, chat about something inane or just remind yourself that you're human. The problem comes if you haven't got people around you can gossip with: I use my little breaks to catch up with the news on this site or unwind somewhere like the 9 to 5 cafe.
Quentin, UK

Gossip isn't all bad, it can be malicious, but usually it's mindless fun. Like the time I and my friend (and colleague) Sarah found out that we were having an affair with each other, she'd left her husband and she was having my love child!
James, UK

I think the Tea lady should be brought back. You spend a lot of your life at work, so it would be nice to have some authorised time to chat to your work mates, without always having to look over your shoulder in case the Boss walks in.
Jane Evans, England

Positive conversations and positive thinking should be the cement of the workplace not gossips and negative comments (the current norm).
Lazaros Filippidis, London (Greek)

The tea lady is not an extinct species. Several lone survivors can be found at a secret location in a University in the Midlands. It certainly was a surprise to find them there but they certainly help to improve the atmosphere in the office.
Nick Evans, UK


My advice to office gossips is drop the dirge, and discuss pertinent social and political issues

Bob, UK
I am the only man in an office full of women and apart from the obvious distractions, the constant chit-chat and boring gossip is at times absolutely nauseatingly intolerable. My advice to office gossips is drop the dirge, and discuss pertinent social and political issues or put on your walkman and save us from your celebrity nonsense and inadequate home lives.
Bob, UK

Garry White's fears may apply in some companies but not ours. We engineers have lunch at the pub on a voluntary basis at least once a week, and we're happy to drink with other departments as and when. We're a friendly bunch with shared interests besides the job we're being paid for. Quite a few of us travel to get to work so there's no compulsion to drink lots after work before going home.
Phil, UK

Stop reading the internet and get back to work, you lazy slackers - and NO talking!
Lance Strangely, UK

I DO NOT want to socialise with the people I work with, I have friends for that.
Bob, UK

I'm all for fostering personal relationships at work, as well as after work. But I do have a problem with the kind of culture where you're seen as 'antisocial' or 'not a team player' if you don't want to socialise out of office hours. Personally, I choose to spend my time outside work with my wife, and I don't see why this should be seen as a bad thing by employers. So yes, it's good for morale that we should socialise with colleagues, but only if it's on a voluntary basis!
Rob, UK

When things are really busy, it's good to get away from the desk for a chat (or look at websites- like now!). I'm sure I'm more productive this way. At the end of the day however, as much as I like my colleagues, I love to get home. I think forced socialising outside the office is a bad idea, and 'team events' are just not me!
Gail, Scotland

Given that we spend so much of our time at work, it's vital that we get on with our colleagues. Communication is key to team building and fostering good relationships. Socialising at work should be seen in a more positive light. I have never been so unhappy as when I was in a job which frowned upon any kind of 'idle chit-chat.' Thankfully I am now working for a far more enlightened organisation.
Sally Jones, England


I would recommend a certain day of the week where there are a couple of hours for lunch where the whole work place could go out and get to know each other on a personal level

Claire Smith, UK
Rather than gossip inside of work time and in danger of being caught out by your boss, or doing it outside of work time when you could be doing 'better' things. I would recommend a certain day of the week where there are a couple of hours for lunch where the whole work place could go out and get to know each other on a personal level. This would not inconvenience anybody, out of work time, and if anything people will be willing to go, for a change of the routine in work. If there has to be someone in the office at all times, maybe people could take it in turns to cover the office. This way everybody wins and gets to let their hair down for that short time. Relaxing around your colleagues should be encouraged.
Claire Smith, UK

Carry on gossiping, I say. It's morale boosting and can be a very effective safety valve when things become stressful. As for Friday night drinks with my colleagues, I avoid them like the plague. The last thing I want to do after a long week is to spend more time talking shop and putting on an act for senior management when I could be at home relaxing with my partner.
Nick Bannister, UK

Gossip is an excellent way of releasing stress and building good relationships. Being aware of other people is absolutely key when you're in a hard-working 'heavy' environment. If we don't know the people around us we can't recognise when they're struggling or feeling extreme pressure and that can lead to far more serious problems.
Sonya, UK

Some companies do take it that it is the top management and CEO's as the only ones who deserve to be served tea and have fun on Fridays excluding the entire staff. This is in a way creating a strong reinforced wall between management and the rest of staff members. To break the wall everyone must be included irrespective of the portfolio he/she is holding. Let it be a cleaner, gardener or CEO. Everyone contributes to the company's success nor matter how little the contribution is. I would like to urge CEO's to give this a second thought. We have to take a company as a "One Big Family" where everyone is expected to be ever-smiling and this will enhance productivity level.
Bogatsu Edward, Botswana


Artificial socialising creates resentment

Garry White, UK
I used to work for a "progressive" company that frowned on staff not socialising together. If you went home on a Friday instead of going drinking with the "crowd" you were seen as anti-social and it affected your progression in that organisation because you weren't "committed to the company". We have enough pressure to stay at work as it is. I have a life after work and don't want to be pressured into forced socialising. It's not that I don't like the people I work with, it's just that life needs to be balanced. Artificial socialising creates resentment. If people want to drink together -- then great!
Garry White, UK

I feel that if the team get out of the office it will increase the productivity of the team. A person will perform better in an environment that they are comfortable in. As for brining back the tea lady, it will certainly end the fights of "whose turn is it to get the drinks?"
James L, UK

I don't know if it's good for you, but Derek in accounts says it is. He would say that though as he's seeing Sue from Human Resources. I think Ed in Postal probably agrees, but with everything that's gone on between him and Sue behind closed doors I just don't know. And as for Nigel in retail . . . . .
Joe Twyman, UK

I disagree with the concept of formal tea breaks and even a formal lunch break during a working day. However, I think that non-timed breaks and discussions are very beneficial. As long as there is team spirit and the team-members are aware of the time they spend chatting only good will result. This is the formula for a dynamic and successful working atmosphere.
Arthur Williams, Australia

Between you and me I've heard that a bit of social chat around the office is beneficial, but we had better make sure this sort of talk doesn't spread.
Ken Beach, Germany


Bring back the tea lady

Pauline, Republic of Korea
The tea lady was a godsend, with her bacon and sausage butties, you had to leave your desk for at least five minutes, you generally did not eat or drink at your desk and you returned refreshed and ready to begin again. With vending machine tea or coffee, you could return with it to your desk, not exchange words with a single soul, and end up thoroughly fed-up drinking some disgusting concoction. Bring back the tea lady.
Pauline, Republic of Korea

I think it's absolutely necessary to take time out sometimes and catch up with what's happening on the grapevine. And a good social environment always helps employees' morale. The company I work for are great. We have a TV room in our canteen. There are regular social events organised for the employees and a real sense of team-work is encouraged. However, there have also been situations, where malicious gossip has got out of hand. And on certain work nights out. People have found themselves in compromising situations with other work colleagues. Which I don't believe is always a good thing!
Sharon Kasbia, Bristol, UK


We are human beings and not company-serving automatons

Roger Sayer, USA
By all means bring back the tea lady and the chit chat. We only live once and a little extra curricular interactivity will remind us that we are human beings and not company-serving automatons.
Roger Sayer, USA

What you call gossip is actually the grapevine which runs through all organisations - big, medium and small. Top managers use it to their advantage as another line of communication and feedback system. You can pass on subtle messages to your employees and receive their responses. Successful organisations and good managers make use of this technique. Try it!!
Amrita Krishen, India

There's no harm in the odd bit of harmless gossip, as long as everybody can join in. A workplace can quickly become a very nasty environment though when there is a multitude of back-stabbing conversations going on behind everybody's backs. It normally leads to paranoia, a lack of trust of your colleagues and ultimately, a mass exodus of staff.
Stefan Drury, Australia


Twentieth century employers have taken the human element out of the workplace

R. M. Butt, Pakistan
I guess it is all coming back to the good old human beings interacting with each other. It is ironic how the twentieth century employers have taken the human element out of the workplace. Now they have to accept "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!"
R. M. Butt, Pakistan

Yes, gossip is an essential activity in work settings. It provides not only a chance for work colleagues to reaffirm interpersonal bonds and common interests/experiences, but also, and perhaps more importantly from a productivity perspective, functions to build and maintain solidarity between its participants. Any manager with more than a basic understanding of his/her staff will realise that 'gossip' is far more than tittle-tattle but rather is essential to the maintenance of interpersonal relations on which productivity depends.
Rob P, Manchester, UK

I'd like to illustrate the distinction I see between gossip and healthy social interaction.
Gossip is usually conversation of a personal nature about others. This allows room for manipulation and modification of the truth. I see this form of indirect communication in no way beneficial to individuals or to the workplace.
On the other hand, positive human interaction--shared meals, team events, etc.--must be emphasised and seen as having both social and economic benefit.
Too often what passes as social interaction is nothing more than stone throwing, and seems to me even more insidious when these judgments are circulated via e-mail.
Sam F-F,The Netherlands (UK resident)

In light of the recently published report which states that British people are working longer hours than ever, socialising with your colleagues can only been seen as a good thing. Basically, if you are spending so much time with the people you work with, then it is essential that you get on - or at least attempt to get on with them.
Alex, Glasgow, Scotland


I reckon my firm could double its productivity if they took away the internet access!

Alex Xeman, NZ
People spend too much time gossiping, surfing and reading e-mail. I reckon my firm could double its productivity if they took away the internet access! Drinks after work lead to huge problems. It is better to shame yourself in front of your friends at home than in front of your boss.
Tea ladies are an excellent idea. Bring them back! It will save all that time wasted gossiping by the coffee machine!
Alex Xeman, NZ

Yes! I've never seen a social group that did not have a certain amount of gossip. Talking about little problems, have a laugh about them and carry on working is better than getting frustrated. It's a different story of course when people get excluded or isolated as the result of gossip, but a socially strong group will not allow that to happen.
Leo, Sweden

If gossip really is the cement that binds organisations the future for British industry is bleak. Compare and contrast with the strong corporate responsibility and work ethic encouraged in Japan then wonder why UK industry can't compete.
Spencer, England

Who said it had gone? All the gossip I receive now comes via my email and sometimes it can be lively and electric stuff with pictures etc. Email also seems to be the medium of chatting up the opposite sex as well as a good gossip. However drawbacks are that one has to trust the receiver or the email could be used to get you in trouble and I'd hate to be on the receiving end of gossip. So in a way its good because it helps human relationships, but it can be bad as gossip inevitably contains exaggerations and even lies.
Mark, Germany (UK citizen)


Office gossip is no more than tittle-tattle full of untruths or old informatio

Hazel, UK
In my own experience office gossip is no more than tittle-tattle full of untruths or old information. Also, unless one is one of an exceptional team, the last thing to on a Friday night is hang about up town when there are better things to do at home or elsewhere.
Hazel, UK

The Industrial Society appears to be undermining the very pillars of the capitalist organisations and their production techniques - efficiency, effectiveness, productivity and profitability - by bringing back the gossip and the tea ladies!
Mohansingh, India

Given that success depends more and more upon your ability to interact with and influence other people, anything that encourages people to develop this skill is to be encouraged. I wouldn't go as far as saying gossip holds organisations together, but it can brighten up a dull Monday morning!
Malcolm, UK

It is absolutely right that employees should be treated as people rather than machines. When managers manage excessively it breeds resentment, hostility, unwillingness to be flexible and hence lower productivity. Simply giving people the chance to chatter a bit (within reason, of course) and be individuals rather than cogs in the corporate machine is essential if productivity is to be achieved.
John B, UK


A good social atmosphere in the office is very important

Mark B, UK
A good social atmosphere in the office is very important. Teamwork is easier if the employees know and like each other. However, gossip can undermine working relationships if it leads to an atmosphere of mistrust. Socialising outside of office hours is fine, although I have seen situations where people have felt obligated to attend, either by culture or by senior management. Careers may depend on what is done or said at these events, which rarely contributes to a good night out.
Mark B, UK

Of course socialising at work is good for you - and the company too. You can only retain your concentration for a fixed time, so your employer should really encourage you to get on with your workmates!
Tim Miller, England

Of course a certain amount of gossip is good. When we gossip, our frontal minds are away from our work for a few minutes. We learn more about our colleagues and see the world around us in a different light - from the other person's perspective. Then when we return to our desks, we are refreshed and ready to tackle the job we put aside earlier. Bring back Mrs Char!
John C., Warwick, England

Send us your comments:
Name:

Your E-mail Address:


Country:

Comments:

Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

22 Nov 00 | UK
Why gossip is good
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Links to other Talking Point stories