You heard WHAT?

If you can’t say anything good about someone, sit right here by me. The humorous quote by…

Georgia (Aug 25, 2014) — If you can’t say anything good about someone, sit right here by me.


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The humorous quote by Theodore Roosevelt’s only daughter aptly describes the basic human tendency to gossip. But in an office setting, it isn’t quite so charming…

… Just as in the “telephone game” that demonstrates how an initial message can be distorted after being passed along from person to person, office gossip often starts with a kernel of truth, said Amy Henley, associate professor at Kennesaw State University’s Michael J. Coles College of Business.

“We talk about [how] the brain doesn’t like empty space. When you don’t tell your employees anything, cognitively they are still going to seek out information, and you don’t want them to create information where there is none,” said Henley, who teaches organizational justice and intragroup conflict.

“Maybe you’re only slightly considering cutting hours for one week next month,” she said. “Well, all of a sudden, people think you are cutting 10 percent of the workforce. A little information will compound into other information when people start getting together. People want to fill empty space, and as a manager, if you don’t fill it for them, they are going to fill it.”

And gossip, partially factual or totally erroneous, she said, is the information they will act upon as if it were factual.

“A lot of times, managers won’t share information because they don’t want to panic the employees,” Henley said, “but in essence what that does is create the desire to seek that information elsewhere. They try to stop the information- gathering, but they create the opposite effect, and employees start to wonder, ‘What else is it that I don’t know?’ ”

While the “organizational grapevine,” as she calls it, can transmit some degree of truth, it’s usually only a small degree.

“By the time it becomes gossip and the employees are desperately seeking it, they are holding onto whatever they hear and assuming it is true,” she said.

Thus, many a well-intended manager wanting to avoid sharing unpleasant news with employees actually creates a worse outcome, she said.

“You don’t want it distorted and the anxiety escalated,” she said.

It gets worse.

“If your employees find out something they should have found out from you, it communicates a lack of respect on your part for your employees,” Henley said.

This perception is one from which it is difficult to recover.

“To me, right or wrong, it creates a perception that my boss doesn’t respect me,” she said.



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit