Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Drivers for Workplace Gossip: An Application of the Theory of Planned Behavior

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Drivers for Workplace Gossip: An Application of the Theory of Planned Behavior

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Informal communication is widely known and has been suggested to be important for facilitating communication, improving trust, maintaining cohesiveness, and ensuring a sense of personal autonomy (Charles, 2007; Thomas, Zolin, & Hartman, 2009). Although it is often viewed to be less rational than formal communication (Johnson, 1993), informal communication is a natural consequence of human interaction and therefore is an inevitable part of organizational life (Baskin & Aronoff, 1989; Davis, 1953). A typical type of informal communication medium in organizations is gossip, which refers to "informal and evaluative talk in an organization, usually among no more than a few individuals, about another member of that organization who is not present" (Kurland & Pelled, 2000, p. 429). Although gossip might be seen as daily conversations between two individuals, it could damage an organization as it might result in low morale or mistrust (Michelson & Mouly, 2004; Michelson, van Iterson, & Waddington, 2010). Given that gossip has an impact on organizational outcomes, previous studies have discussed the consequences of gossip in organizations. For instance, Rosnow (1977) claimed that gossip serves as a function of providing organizational-relevant information. Kurland and Pelled (2000) claimed that gossip affects organizational culture and organizational learning as it shapes and reshapes organizational members' perceptions. Meanwhile, it has been suggested that the presence of gossip in an organization could result in a climate of mistrust and poor morale (e.g., Baker & Jones, 1996; Burke & Wise, 2003), which in turn could disrupt productivity and damage the organization (van Iterson & Clegg, 2008).

In addition to the analysis of gossip consequences, a number of studies have sought to identify antecedents of gossip. For example, it is argued that gossip reflects the exchange of emotions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes among organizational members (Michelson et al., 2010). Moreover, Suls (1977) claimed that gossip occurs when an individual has a need for attention and promoting self-interest and self-image. Furthermore, it has been found that an individual is likely to gossip when he or she finds him or herself is in conditions of environmental ambiguity (DiFonzo & Bordia, 2007).

Although gossip in organizations has been investigated from various perspectives, little attention has been paid to factors that affect an individual's intention to gossip. Thus, the main purpose of this study is to explain an individual's intention to gossip using Ajzen's (1991) Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) as the theoretical base since it has been shown to be a useful theory in understanding human behavior (e.g., Ferdous, 2010; Fu, Richards, Hughes, & Jones, 2010) and has been used in various research fields such as consumer behavior (e.g., King, Dennis, & Wright, 2008), management information systems (e.g., Harrison, Mykytyn, & Riemenschneider, 1997), health (e.g., Turchik & Gidycz, 2012), public safety (e.g., Parker, Stradling, & Manstead, 1996), leisure activities (e.g., Hyo, 2011), etc. The basic premise of TPB is that an individual's intention to perform a specific behavior is determined by his or her attitude toward performing the behavior, his or her perceived subjective norms related to performing the behavior, and his or her perceived ease or difficulty of performing the behavior. By using TPB to explain an individual's intention to gossip, this study may provide important insight into managing gossip in organizations more effectively. Figure 1 shows our proposed research model and the relationships among constructs.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The remainder of this study is organized as follows. In the second section, we provide a brief review on gossip in organizations followed by a review on TPB. Next, we develop our theoretical arguments and hypotheses for the proposed research model. …

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