Mr. Personality

A personality expert talks character and destiny.

Gossip, Social Networking, and Job Satisfaction: Why Personality Matters

Is Facebook a Digital Gossip Device?

Tons of books have been written on talent management and there are hundreds of studies on how psychological traits predict job performance. And yet a relatively different issue is whether employees enjoy their work on not. Moreover, companies today are spending millions of dollars on employee satisfaction surveys trying to understand why their staff are unhappy - the results are quite inconsistent, except for the almost universal finding that 70% of employees dislike their bosses.

One of the recent changes in the world of employement is the explosion of social networking sites, used more and more frequently at work (unless your employer has decided to ban them). Although many employers consider sites like Facebook a big threat to their employees' productivity (mainly because they are distracting and employees could spend that time on something more productive), there is as yet no evidence for severe cyber-slacking as a major threat of staff productivity. Moreover, the fact that employees are happy to surf and browse the internet, especially sites that connect them to others, clearly suggests that they extract some sort of pleasure from those activities.

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Could it be, then, that social networking sites can boost employee morale? That is, is it not logical to assume that the bored employee would turn to Facebook or Twitter as an antidote to boredom, and that they would not necessarily spend that time on something productive if they didn't have access to those sites? The idea that Facebook threatens work productivity seems as naive as the idea that it threatens romantic relationships - just like happy couples are unlikely to cheat because of social networking sites (or any other reason), the engaged employee will not be distracted by Facebook or any other site.

But one of the questions that seems worth exploring is the MOTIVES that drive employees to spend a great deal on time on social networking sites. Of course, boredom is a likely candidate, but the question still remains as to what psychological benefits employees obtain via their specific uses of social networking sites. In our latest study, we explore the relationship between employee engagement levels and one of the potential behavioral tendencies that could be responsible for the explosion of work use of Facebook and other social networking sites, namely GOSSIP tendency.

Although the topic is hardly researched, it would appear that employees would gossip for the same reason they use social networking sites: that is, in order to get along or bond with others. This is what psychologists refer to as the fundamental or core affiliation motive. People have always lived in groups and they evolved as collective creatures. What's interesting about gossip tendency is that it fulfills not only the need to get along, but also the need to get ahead and compete with others. Just like basic group dynamics, and a key tool for delineating the out-group from the in-group, gossiping allows us to get close to those we like and keep those we don't a little bit more distant. But how many types of gossip do we know? Is there a clear gossip typology or taxonomy that can highlight individual differences in personality or work productivity?

In our new test, you will be able to get feedback on your gossip personality style - it takes just 10-minutes and should provide you with some insight into your gossip networking profile. One of the interesting questions is whether you use gossip in a more affiliative or competitive way, as the latter could end up being destructive, not just to others but also to yourself.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D., is a Professor of Business Psychology at UCL and NYU. He studies online dating, entrepreneurship, and consumer preferences. more...

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