Gossip entails spreading evaluative information about people who are not present. From a social exchange perspective, we examined how hierarchical power relationships shape individuals’ gossip motives and behavior. Results of a laboratory experiment (Study 1) partially supported our prediction that gossip is less likely and elaborate in downward compared to upward and lateral interactions. We further predicted that people gossip laterally to seek information and social support, and upwards to exert influence. A scenario (Study 2) and critical incident study (Study 3) with working populations showed that lateral gossip was more functional for seeking information and expressive social support, whereas upward gossip (Study 2) and upward and lateral gossip (Study 3) were more functional for exerting informal influence and for seeking instrumental support. These results confirm our notion that gossip is functional behavior that enables individuals in hierarchical power relationships to strategically exchange different social resources (i.e., information, influence, support).
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jul 2019|