Might office gossip be good for you?

From CANOE.ca (Forbes.com):

Pssst, did you hear that gossip in the workplace can actually be beneficial?

That’s the word from researchers at Indiana University who detail in a recent article how the rumor mill can provide insight into workplace politics and power. At the same time, gossip can subtly undermine those on the receiving end….

“The fact that people automatically think gossip is bad is a bad rap,” says Frank McAndrew, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. “Gossip is a social skill. Think of it less like there are people who gossip and people who don’t. There are people who are good gossipers and people who aren’t.”

Its origins can be traced to prehistoric times, when people lived in small groups and success in those groups–attracting a mate, establishing status, getting dibs on the fruits of a hunt–depended on getting the scoop on your neighbors.

“Those who weren’t good at gossip were eventually weeded out,” says McAndrew. “Those of us on this planet are descended from people who were good at it. It’s hardwired in us.”

At the office, gossip creates camaraderie. “If someone shares gossip with you, it bonds you together,” says McAndrew. “It creates trust. If you’re not in the loop, you feel ostracized.”