Have You Heard?: How Gossip Flows Through Workplace Email
Keywords:email, computer mediated communication, natural language processing, gossip, status
We spend a significant part of our lives chatting about other people. In other words, we all gossip. Although sometimes a contentious topic, various researchers have shown gossip to be fundamental to social life—from small groups to large, formal organizations. In this paper, we present the first study of gossip in a large CMC corpus. Adopting the Enron email dataset and natural language techniques, we arrive at four main findings. First, workplace gossip is common at all levels of the organizational hierarchy, with people most likely to gossip with their peers. Moreover, employees at the lowest level play a major role in circulating it. Second, gossip appears as often in personal exchanges as it does in formal business communication. Third, by deriving a power-law relation, we show that it is more likely for an email to contain gossip if targeted to a smaller audience. Finally, we explore the sentiment associated with gossip email, finding that gossip is in fact quite often negative: 2.7 times more frequent than positive gossip.