Workplace gossip in Chinese organizations: Topics, gossip partners, contexts and impacts

Songli Nie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


Workplace gossip differs in different culture, and such topics have been understudied in the Chinese contexts. Aiming at addressing this gap and further examining workplace culture in China, this study focused on topics, gossip partners and their relationships, and contexts, as well as impacts of workplace gossip in Chinese organizations. Workplace gossip was first reconceptualized with the classification criteria of valence and content. To better understand the contextual factors of workplace gossip, time, channels, motivations and interactions were investigated. Social exchange theory was later adopted in understanding motivations and interactions. Since culture matters in such an activity, Hofstede’s (2011) Culture Dimension Theory was also utilized to understand such a behavior in Chinese culture.

This study conducted individual interviews with 15 employees from different industries and organizations from Mainland China. By thematic analysis of the interview data, this study examined the different perspectives of workplace gossip in China. Findings have shown that workplace gossip was regarded as a feminine act and gender takes an important role in workplace gossip. Employees gossip both work-related and non-work-related topics positively and negatively. Employees tended to gossip with coworkers within their work unit boundaries, and employees in different job positions may initiate gossip out of different purposes. They may gossip face-to-face and via WeChat during or after work. Gossip partners may also interact with each other depending on situations. Both positive and negative impacts have also been found to have on individuals, interpersonal relationships and organizations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2022
Event72nd Annual International Communication Association Conference, ICA 2022: One World, One Network‽ - Paris, France
Duration: 26 May 202230 May 2022 (Link to conference programme)


Conference72nd Annual International Communication Association Conference, ICA 2022
Internet address


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