The Gossiper's high and low: Investigating the impact of negative gossip about the supervisor on work engagement

Rui Zhong, Pok Man Tang, Stephen H. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although negative gossip is ubiquitous in the workplace, we know little about how negatively gossiping about the supervisor—who occupies a higher hierarchical position in the organization—influences gossipers themselves. To address this question, we draw on the conservation of resources theory to account for the resource-consuming and resource-generating impact of negative gossip about the supervisor on gossipers’ work engagement. Findings from three experience sampling studies show that negative gossip about the supervisor is a double-edged sword for gossipers that seems to do more harm than good to their work engagement. On the one hand, spreading negative gossip about the supervisor evokes the resource-consuming mechanism of image maintenance concerns, which impairs gossipers’ work engagement, especially when perceived organizational politics is higher. On the other hand, engaging in such gossip elicits the resource-generating mechanism of sense of power, which only improves work engagement in Study 3 but not in Studies 1 and 2; contrary to our expectation, this effect is unaffected by perceived organizational politics. We conclude by discussing the theoretical and practical contributions of our research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPersonnel Psychology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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