Gossip and emotion in nursing and health-care organizations

J Health Organ Manag. 2005;19(4-5):378-94. doi: 10.1108/14777260510615404.


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between gossip and emotion in health-care organizations. It draws on findings from empirical research exploring the characteristics and function of gossip which, to date, has been a relatively under-researched organizational phenomenon.

Design/methodology/approach: A multidisciplinary approach was adopted, drawing on an eclectic range of discipline-based theories, skills, ideas and data. Methods included repertory grid technique, in-depth interviews and structured diary records of work-related gossip. The sample comprised 96 qualified nurses working in a range of practice areas and organizational settings in the UK.

Findings: Template analysis was used to integrate findings across three phases of data collection. The findings revealed that gossip is used to express a range of emotions including care and concern about others, anger, annoyance and anxiety, with emotional outcomes that include feeling reassured and supported. It is the individual who gossips, while the organization provides the content, emotional context, triggers and opportunities.

Research limitations/implications: Nurses were chosen as an information-rich source of data, but the findings may simply reflect the professional culture and practice of nursing. Future research should take into account a wider range of health-care organizational roles and perspectives in order to capture the dynamics and detail of the emotions and relationships that initiate and sustain gossip.

Practical implications: Because gossip makes people feel better it may serve to reinforce the "stress mask of professionalism", hiding issues of conflict, vulnerability and intense emotion. Managers need to consider what the emotions expressed through gossip might represent in terms of underlying issues relating to organizational health, communication and change.

Originality/value: This paper makes a valuable contribution to the under-researched phenomenon of gossip in organizations and adds to the growing field of research into the role of emotion in health-care organizations and emotion work in nursing.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Health Facilities*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Male
  • Nursing Staff / psychology*
  • United Kingdom