The best RTO perks that no one talks about? Office gossip

Since people started working from home during Covid, bosses have been trying to find ways to get people back to the office. Companies have also come up with big incentives to stir up excitement about it: free food, corporate style, Welcome back concert and redesigned offices.

For Amir Henley, there’s another big benefit of being back in person: the return of office chatter.

“I’m the CEO of office gossip,” the 23-year-old marketer jokes. Henley has even gone viral on TikTok for his quip about timing just for food in the latest drama at work.

(For the record, the office gossip he participates in is “all for fun and love and a way to pass the time,” he said.)

Henley is not alone in finding that the greatest benefit of an office job is the opportunity to spend time with co-workers in the flesh.

While working remotely is a boon to flexibility, it’s not the easiest thing about our social connections. According to Gallup research, since the start of the pandemic, people say the biggest challenges facing remote work have been feeling less connected to their organizational culture, reduced teamwork. and impaired working relationships with co-workers, according to Gallup research.

Meanwhile, when there is an opportunity to work on-site in a hybrid form, 59% said their priority is meeting colleagues. By comparison, 39% say they focus most on their time at the office to have face-to-face time with their boss.

All the time seeing some unwritten workplace rules in action and ample opportunity to exchange knowing glances with colleagues IRL, making the office a breeding ground for employees. gossip stories.

Elena Martinescu, a gossip researcher at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, notes that gossip that falls under the category of bullying or harassment is completely bad. But in some ways, small talk can actually be beneficial workers. It can help people bond, advance at work, learn to navigate office politics and even, possibly, save company culture.

How gossip can fast-track friendships at work

First, a little context: Gossip is a general term that includes a conversation in which you and another person talk about a third party who is not present, Martinescu said.

It can be positive or negative, related to a quest or completely random, but plays in the exclusive field and is “something about a person that we find interesting and potentially suitable. “

Whatever form it takes, gossip is an important basic human behavior and vital to social relationships, says Martinescu.

For example, if you share an opinion about an absentee party and the other person agrees or has a different point of view to add, you automatically have something in common to talk about. Small talk works best when you and your partner share the same thoughts about your goals, like having fun (as opposed to digging to pull someone through a puddle).

All of this could suggest that office gossip can dent friendships at work, which have been eroded, says Ben Wigert, senior workplace analyst at Gallup. for so many people during the pandemic.

“We’ve seen a dramatic drop in people who say they have strong relationships at work and at the same time, relationships are more important than ever,” he said. People who don’t have strong relationships in the workplace are more likely to be let down, be less productive, feel disconnected from the company culture, and ultimately leave their jobs.

According to data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, having friends at work can be the key to happiness in life.

That’s because work is considered the worst of all activities (second only to being stuck in bed). But not everyone can simply stop working, he said in an interview with Voxso his data reading is that “the number one factor that increases your happiness while you’re working is liking the people you’re working with. It just blows things up”.

It might even be good for your career

In addition to helping people find common ground, workplace gossip can be very helpful: It can help you make sure you’re on the same page as your coworkers about a common goal, says Martinescu. figure out how to work with different (maybe even clashing) personality types.

Small talk can tell you who to work with and who to avoid, or who you can trust and who should keep your distance.

We’ve seen a significant drop in people saying they have strong relationships at work and at the same time, relationships are more important than ever.

Ben Wigert

Senior workplace analyst at Gallup

Another important function, adds Martinescu: sharing information that helps you understand your social environment. What is the norm? What are the penalties if you break the standards? In other words, what are all the unwritten rules in the workplace that you need to know to get ahead?

Henley likes to see the ability to make small talk as a good motivator. You can use gossip to share positive things about co-workers (“Did you know today is Sam’s third anniversary?”), or to change their negative perceptions of others (“I know the two of you struggled with quarterly reports, but Blake has great things to say about your commitment and ability to work under pressure.”).

Small talk about work-related challenges can lead to some good problem solving, adds Henley. And if anything, a steam session might be just what you need to blow off steam, joke about quitting, and remember that you at least have to have your work buddy to keep you sane if you decide to continue.

Gossip can balance the dynamics

In some ways, face-to-face interactions help decipher, if not degrees, some of the power dynamics in the workplace.

“I think there’s some benefit to being in direct contact with management to know what they don’t want you to see, like how you treat people around you or how you talk about your wife,” says Kelsey McKinney. host of Defector Media’s “Normal Gossip” podcast. “Those things are hard to absorb in a work Slack. There are certainly traits that emerge in casual conversations that immediately turn into office chatter.”

It can be especially beneficial for those who have not traditionally held positions of power in the workplace: women, people of color, junior employees.

“Normal Gossip” producer Alex Sujong Laughlin recalls a group of older women supporting her at the beginning of her sound career. “They told me who to avoid, who should not be in a room alone, a lot of these open secrets ended up being revealed around #MeToo, which was very helpful for me in learning how to navigate the industry.” , she said.

Then there was the net whispering about the company’s actions That could spark a labor movement, Laughlin said — conversations about how much people are being paid or the company’s latest layoff plan.

“Gossip is ultimately a tool of the unmanaged,” says McKinney. “People with no accountability can talk to each other to form alliances, union-based, or just share your wages with each other, which is a very powerful form of gossip that can bring you great benefits. what you deserve, and get. information that allows you to negotiate for better things.”

Gossip back to the office

So, how should bosses really think about what workers want most from the office?

Martinescu says: If they’re not ready to see gossip as a potentially good by-product in the workplace (or at least an inevitable one), they should at least understand the employee’s desire for the outcome. social connections as part of the job.

That can be like introducing social events for the sole purpose of not talking about work, and they should be part of the workday rather than something to be tackled outside of office hours.

The irresponsible people can talk to each other to form a union, based on the union or just share your pay with each other, which is a very powerful form of gossip that can get you things. that you deserve.

Kelsey McKinney

Host of the show “Normal Gossip”

How does a 29-year-old man earning $245,000/year in Anaheim, CA spend his money?

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