"Aim: To radically change the field of gossip research, this project builds theory that connects divergent perspectives on the effects of gossip on work group outcomes.
Background: Gossip, informal evaluative talk about absent third parties, is omnipresent in organizational groups. However, for scientists and practitioners alike, it is still an ""unknown force"" in organizations, because research findings about its effects on group functioning and performance are inconsistent. Whereas some studies point to the disruptive aspects of gossip, others claim it enhances group cooperation.
Innovation: I present the Gossip Origins, Subsequent Social Information Processing, and Performance (GOSSIPP)-framework, a new paradigm that views gossip in groups as a multi-level phenomenon: It, for the first time, systematically connects individual gossipers' intentions to group-level outcomes via social information processing by gossip recipients.
Propositions: Group members may gossip to benefit themselves or their group (proself vs. prosocial intentions, or motives). Receivers' reactions to gossip are affected by how they perceive senders' motives. These reactions in turn affect group-level processes. How these processes affect group performance depends on the type of group task.
Methodology: Four subprojects test the framework, applying a cross-disciplinary multi-method approach. Subprojects 1 and 2 employ laboratory experiments to assess causal effects of gossipers' motives and recipients' reactions on group processes and performance. Subproject 3 examines effects of different group compositions and feedback loops between performance and gossip, employing self-organizing computer modelling. Finally, to assess external validity, Subproject 4 examines work teams. Results will lead to long-sought understanding of when and why gossip is a functional or dysfunctional force and will enable evidence-based advice to organizations about the meaning and functionality of gossip for groups."
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