Stephen Lee is a postdoctoral researcher and visiting lecturer at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He studies how people interact with each other in the workplace and why well-intended behaviors may have unintended consequences. His research focuses on behaviors including workplace gossip, helping, and voice. His work has been published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
Stephen currently teaches the Undergraduate core course on Teamwork and Interpersonal Influence (MGMT 301). Previously, he has taught Leadership and Organizational Behavior at the University of Washington, where he received the PhD Program Distinguished Teaching Award.
Stephen received his Ph.D. in Business Administration (Organizational Behavior) from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington and earned his BBA from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Before academia, he worked in management consulting.
Abstract: Despite the ubiquity of gossip in the workplace, the management literature offers a limited understanding of its consequences for gossip senders. To understand whether gossiping is beneficial or detrimental for the gossip sender, it is necessary to consider the perspective of gossip recipients and their response to gossip. We develop a typology of gossip that characterizes archetypal patterns of interpreting gossip. We then draw from attribution theory to develop a multilevel process model of workplace gossip that focuses on how the gossip recipient’s attributions of a gossip episode shape the gossip recipient’s subsequent response and behaviors. In addition to the valence and work-relatedness dimensions of gossip that comprise the typology, we examine credibility and the status of the gossip target as fundamental features of the gossip episode that jointly affect the gossip recipient’s attributions. At the episodic level, the process of deciphering the gossip sender’s motives influences the subsequent reciprocation of gossip. Depending on the locus of causality attributed to the gossip episode, gossip also contributes to the perceived trustworthiness of the gossip sender and the gossip recipient’s cooperation with or social undermining of the gossip sender over time. The proposed model suggests that the potential benefits or social consequences of gossip for the gossip sender depend on the characteristics of the gossip and the context of the gossip episode that serve as inputs to the gossip recipient’s attributional process.