When most people think about gossip they infer some kind of negative communication, but the fact is gossip does not have to be negative and is even a needed part of communication. Gossip is a good source of information about people, without having to actually interact with them, and is common to all people. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology decided to study just how common gossip is in the work place and fortunately there is a good source of information. After the Enron scandal in 2001, some 600,000 emails from within the company were made publicly available for study. The Enron corpus is the largest, publicly available collection of related and natural emails in the world.
The researchers found that roughly 14.7% of the emails were gossip emails. Considering the average corporate email user will send 112 emails every day that is a lot. For those of you who are guilty of gossiping at work though, don't worry, you are in good company because the second most gossipy rank at Enron was occupied by vice-presidents and directors. The most gossipy were the regular rank-and-file office workers.
This study was not done to inform executives about how much their employees gossip though. It was done to improve our knowledge of anthropology and sociology by examining how gossip is used in different social groups. As a means of entertainment, information, intimacy, and influence, gossiping is here to stay.