Shit Happens (12)

Tom Franklin, in comments to the previous post, says gossipping isn’t so much about sport as it is power. He writes about it in his blog. Talked about it with Liz Lawley yesterday while lifting weights. (No one was hurt, we’re getting better at multi-tasking). She rationalized that gossip has a couple of functions:

  • Checks to see if others think the way you do
  • Provides a way of showing what the group thinks is inappropriate behavior
  • Is petty.

Maybe there were more “functions”. Still, I laughed when after all the serious (possibly- though I’m not sure I buy it- positive) rationale for gossipping she got to the, “and sometimes it’s just petty” part.


fivecats’, ‘’, ‘’, ‘2004-05-16 20:41:17’ – I still think it ‘s a part of a power struggle. After all, the implication of most gossip is: * the behavior being discussed is *bad* aren’t we so much better/more superior to that person since we don’t engage in that *bad* behavior.  It\’s a “we may lack the Direct power, but we have higher morals”. Listen to what’s being said in this kind of light the next time it’s happening around you and see if it fits or not.

elouise oyzon’, ‘’, 2004-05-16 20:41:17′ – Absolutely-Liz forwarded me an article studying the function of gossip in the workplace. (Leave it to a librarian to actually research). She says she’s formulating a response and will be doing her own gossip blog entry. Some quotes from the article…This suggests, therefore, that gossipers are involved in a type of power-play, using value-laden information as the commodity through which dominance nor self-promotion is achieved, relative to other members of the group.” Gossip is undoubtedly the most important channel for constant reaffirmation of shared values about behaviour. Those who cannot join in gossip about their neighbours, friends and relatives…soon find themselves excluded from conversations at local gatherings.” *(This is one of those reasons I feel trepidation about doing the enough-is-enough thang). and “Whilst they limit their consideration of gossip to its value in decision-making and consequently define it as ‘information without decision relevance’, they are clear about its importance, … not only to understanding everyday life, but also to improving managerial behavior and to designing management information systems. Gossip cannot easily be ignored.’ (March and Sevon 1988: 431)” bove excerpted from Noon and Delbridge, News from behind my hand: Gossip in organizations Organization Studies Berlin 1993

fivecats’, ‘’, ‘’, ”, ‘’, – 2004-05-16 20:41:17′, ‘(This was also posted to my blog. Curses not having a Moveable Type blog!) – “Liz forwarded me an article studying the function of gossip in the workplace. (Leave it to a librarian to actually research).” Hey, didn\’t you read my overly long-winded (even for me) bio on my blog? I’m a Librarian, too. 🙂 Sounds like I’m on the same track as the research (always nice). Maybe I missed my calling. The other concept the research points out is along with Power comes the Power Subset of “Control.” As I’ve already theorized, through gossip the Gossiper gains Indirect Power over the person being gossiped about by exposing the foibles (real or imagined) of those with Direct Power. The Gossiper also gains a degree of Control over the people who s/he is talking to in that: (a) the Listeners are intrigued as to how the Gossiper came by the information (meaning an added respect for the Gossiper for having informational sources that the listener lacks) and (b) by inciting a level of fear in the Listener in that the Gossiper may have also access to information about something the Listener is doing that could be twisted/reported to another group of Listeners. I also think Liz’s “Functions of Gossip” are off the mark. Her first two comments (that gossip checks to see if people have compatible ways of thinking and provides a way of sharing concepts of inappropriate behavior) appear to have a positive spin to them, as if gossip helps to build relationships by indicating like-mindedness amongst group members. I disagree. I think the intent of gossip is typically malicious; it’s destructive, not constructive. Liz’s third “Function of Gossip” is that it’s “petty.” To suggest that gossip is petty is to suggest that it lacks importance, which, as you might guess, I disagree with as well. Anything that\’s concerned with subverting the dominant power structure of a social framework should be given attention and evaluated. I\’m not saying that gossip should be equated with an armed rebellion, but I don’t think it should be dismissed so easily. \n\nIf nothing else, there can be great harm done through gossip. Unsubstantiated rumors can cause problems to someone’s reputation that are very hard to dismiss, especially after they’ve been disseminated amongst a group of colleagues (and beyond).\n\nA side note based on a tangential discussion at dinner last night: I would tack on an amendment to this theory by saying that I think there is a subtle distinction between gossip and discussing office politics. Discussing office politics can simply be a matter of outlining the dominant power structure, both Direct and Indirect, within a work environment. While that information can, potentially, be used to subvert the dominant power structure, which is a separate issue. Personally, I find discussions of office politics to be useful — I prefer to know what the power structure is where I work so I can work with and around it more effectively and efficiently. Gossip, on the other hand, tends to work towards damaging the reputations of individuals through unsubstantiated rumor and innuendos and build up the Indirect power of the Gossiper. It only interferes and impedes with relationships and work.

Francois Lachance’, ‘’, ‘’, 2004-05-16 20:41:17 – Little by little the pairings continue as I continue to read long past entries and comments with an eye to the near future. And so March 27, 2004, discusses a splinter in Off Kilter and here at the tail tip end of the entry on the Taoist inspired Shit Happens I find a reference to the diminuendo effect of the attribution of pettiness to gossip. I just want to restate that the function so it aligns with “checks” and “provides”. Gossip refocuses perception of size and gossip induces laughter. I know that\’s two functions. But you know, the one gives rise to the many. And as a small token of public service, I here inscibe the URLs to the two entries where Liz Lawley tackles the topic big time, drawing upon H. Rheingold’s Smart Mobs in one.\n And a little etymological note: “gossip” is derviced from the Old English _godsibb_ (baptismal sponsor) [from God + sib (relative)]. And a now archaic meaning of Gossip was “boon companion”. So I think that the Invisible Adjunct made an implicit challenge to recuperate the term in pointing out in a comment to one of Liz’s entries that the term is very gender-typed. Well, boys can be cyber-gossips too! Or just plain boon companions and gossips. Imagine being introduced as Gossip Oyzon or Gossip Lawley or Gossip Lachance and how the rules etiquette would evolve as to who you can introduce whom to as a Gossip to you and whether or not someone\’s Gossip after being introduced to you as Gossip to them also becomes a Gossip to you and can you reject the assumption that because of a Gossip introduction a Gossip relation is entailed. Simply put how does a friend of a friend graduate to friend? The I Ching’s ninth hexagram is translated by Wilhelm as “The Taming Power of the Small” and so it is by the gentleness of tiny gestures that the network of gossips knits the friendships that point other friends to a friend\’s entry on a splinter and on sleep cycles off kilter

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