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


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
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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