Purpose– The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a difference in the perceptions of diverse individuals, from different racial groups and genders, regarding office gossip. Design– This paper followed a qualitative interpretivist research design, and content analysis was used to analyse the transcribed data. Findings– The findings indicate that the perceptions of office gossip are not gender specific, whereas there were indications of race specific perceptions related to office gossip. A definition of office gossip was compiled and the nature of and the participants in office gossip were identified, while the reasons why people gossip in the workplace and the impact of gossip on an organisation and its employees were emphasised. Furthermore, the characteristics that can be used to draw a line between healthy communication and gossip were identified. Research limitations– The limitations of this study were that the results were limited to the respondents and the specific work context used. In addition, seeing that the focus of this study was the diverse perspectives of individuals from different genders and racial groups, other factors, such as personal and organisational factors that could also have influenced their perceptions of office gossip, were not considered. Practical implications– The results of this study should alert employers to the need for controlling office gossip effectively. Also, formal channels of communication should be utilised effectively to ensure that the grapevine is not misused. Furthermore, employers need to develop a policy against malicious office gossip which should be contextsensitive and detailed. Because gossip is not gender specific, attention also should be given to gossip across genders. Lastly, culture-sensitivity training could prevent different cultures gossiping about one another. Originality– This paper makes a contribution to the literature on gossip in organisations, as there is little known research in South Africa or elsewhere that explores the diverse perceptions of office gossip among employees from different racial groups.
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2011.