08/30/2011 11:40 am ET Updated Oct 30, 2011

Think Gossip Is Harmless? Research Says Otherwise

Across offices in every industry and workers in every function few things are constant. But one of them is definitely gossip. Talking about other people helps pass the time in nearly every office, and psychologists have shown that the practice isn’t always pernicious. Gossipers report larger, more supportive social networks and talking about others has been shown to help people work out what the acceptable boundaries of behavior in a group are. And as everyone knows, sharing a juicy morsel of gossip is a great way to bond.

But a new study illustrates that being the office gossip does come with a dark side. To find out how gossipers were perceived by others, researchers asked 128 participants to complete a questionnaire rating various personality traits of a person they knew who was either a prolific gossip or particularly close-mouthed. Because the word has negative connotations for some, ‘gossip’ was never used. Instead the participants were told to think of someone who “spent a lot of time (or little time) talking about other people when they were not around.”