Office Gossip On The Decline, And That May Hurt Productivity

02/23/2012 09:01 am ET | Updated Feb 23, 2012

Your co-workers have been gossiping less as of late, and that should have the old boss worried.

Most workers -- 63 percent, in fact -- say that water cooler chit-chat about their co-workers is commonplace, a survey from The Creative Group cited by the Los Angeles Times finds, but that's down from four years ago when nearly 85 percent of companies said that office gossip was a regular occurrence.

The decline may be indicative of a pick up in the larger economy, especially when compared to the reported 2008 boost in gossip and rumors about downsizing and layoffs as the economy worsened. Since the depths of the financial crisis, corporate profits have racked up a couple all-time highs and hiring has seen a slight increase, perhaps alleviating some workplace pressure.

Yet a drop in office gossip may actually be harming, not helping, worker productivity. When it focuses on general rumors instead of malicious tidbits, office gossip can actually help workers bond during a time of anxiety, according to Fast Company. If employees bond enough, it could get them to hang out outside the office, an additional productivity boost. More than half of supervisors say co-workers doubling as friends outside of the office has a positive impact on the workplace, the Times of India reports.

In addition, workers may have to engage in some office chit-chat to be successful at a company. Nearly 60 percent of workers said getting involved in office politics is necessary to get ahead, according to a survey from Robert Half International, a finance and accounting firm.

And if gossiping doesn't make you more efficient, there are some other unexpected strategies you could try. "Browsing the Internet serves an important restorative function," boosting productivity at work, according to an August study from the National University of Singapore cited by the Los Angeles Times.

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