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Whispers by the Water Cooler: University Study Finds that Leaders Can Influence Office Gossip

United Kingdom, 20 November 2014 – Negative workplace gossip is often the bane of a manager’s life. Not only is it disruptive to a working day, but it can also have a devastating effect on an organization. Latest research published in the International Journal of Conflict Management (IJCMA) has found that gossip sentiment levels hinge on just one factor - the justice that workers feel when in conflict with their leader.

Researchers at the VU University, Amsterdam, surveyed police officers and the relationship with their superior in the study, ‘Gossiping as a response to conflict with the boss: alternative conflict management behavior?’ The research found that if followers felt they were unfairly treated by their leader during conflict, they may engage in negative gossip to not only vent emotions but also bond with their peers. Other reasons included damaging the reputation of the leader and/ or as a tool to warn others about the leader. If followers felt their leader had treated them fairly and with respect, they still displayed a desire to gossip, but with the purpose of sharing good practice and boosting the leader’s reputation.

To read the study, which is available for free access until 30 November visit

Emerald Group Publishing has developed a special 25th anniversary virtual issue where you can access this research and other studies published in the IJCMA. This journal is included in Emerald’s Business, Management & Strategy collection, which covers all major disciplines including management science, entrepreneurship, business ethics, strategy and international business. Information about the collection can be found by visiting

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About Emerald Publishing:
Nurturing fresh thinking that makes an impact

Emerald Publishing was founded in 1967 to champion new ideas that would advance the research and practice of business and management. Today, we continue to nurture fresh thinking in applied fields where we feel we can make a real difference, now also including health and social care, education and engineering. We publish over 300 journals, more than 2,500 books and over 1,500 case studies, via our dedicated research platform


Natasha Hartley
Content Communications Executive
Emerald Publishing Limited
Phone: +44 (0) 1274 785046