Gossip in Organizations

Computational & Mathematical Organization Theory 4:2 (1998): 189-204

16 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2015

See all articles by Rafael Wittek

Rafael Wittek

University of Groningen

Rudi Wielers

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

Date Written: January 1, 1998


Three hypotheses about the effects of different informal social network structures on gossip behavior are developed and tested. Gossip is defined as a conversation about a third person who is not participating in the conversation. Having analyzed the costs and benefits of gossip, we prefer the coalition hypothesis. It states that gossip will flourish in social networks that have a relatively large number of coalition triads, that is ego and alter having a good relationship amongst themselves and both having a bad relationship with tertius, the object of gossip. Two rivalling hypotheses are developed. The constraint hypothesis predicts that the inclination towards gossip is greater, the larger the number of structural holes in the personal network of the gossipmonger. The closure hypothesis predicts that more gossip will be found in networks with a large number of closed triads, that is where both gossipmonger and listener have a good relationship with the absent third person. The hypotheses are tested using a newly developed instrument to measure gossip behavior and network data from six work organizations and six school classes. The data support the coalition hypothesis and do not support the two rivalling hypotheses.

Keywords: informal networks, third party gossip, social control, social capital

JEL Classification: D23

Suggested Citation

Wittek, Rafael and Wielers, Rudi, Gossip in Organizations (January 1, 1998). Computational & Mathematical Organization Theory 4:2 (1998): 189-204. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2655646

Rafael Wittek (Contact Author)

University of Groningen ( email )

Department of Sociology
Grote Rozenstraat 31
Groningen, 9712TG
+31503636282 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.rafaelwittek.eu/

Rudi Wielers

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) ( email )

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3000 DR Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland 3062PA

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