Moving beyond assumptions: The reconceptualization and measurement of workplace gossip
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Despite decades of research from other academic fields arguing that gossip is an important and potentially functional behavior, organizational research has largely assumed that gossip is malicious talk. This has resulted in the proliferation of gossip items in deviance scales, effectively subsuming workplace gossip research into deviance research. In this paper, it is argued that organizational research has traditionally considered only a very narrow subset of workplace gossip, focusing almost exclusively on extreme negative cases which are not reflective of typical workplace gossip behavior. Instead of being primarily malicious, typical workplace gossip can be either positive or negative in nature and may serve important functions. It is therefore recommended that workplace gossip be studied on its own, independent of deviance. To facilitate this, the workplace gossip construct is reconceptualized and then a series of general-purpose English- and Chinese-language workplace gossip scales are developed. Using 8 samples (including multisource, multiwave, and multicultural data), this research demonstrates the construct validity, reliability, cross-cultural measurement invariance, and acceptable psychometric properties of the workplace gossip scales. Relationships are demonstrated between workplace gossip and a variety of other categories of organizational variables and processes, including sensemaking, emotion validation, organizational justice, influence, self-enhancement, job performance, and turnover. Future directions in workplace gossip research are discussed.