Learning from supervisor negative gossip: The reflective learning process and performance outcome of employee receivers

Yun BAI, Jie WANG, Tingting CHEN, Fuli LI*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Workplace gossip is generally viewed as a deviant behavior that negatively affects the work outcomes of employees. However, we argue that this negative view is incomplete. Drawing on the cultural learning perspective of gossip and social learning theory, we examine how the job performance of employee receivers benefits from supervisor negative gossip through reflective learning. On the basis of multi-source, cross-sectional designs, Studies 1 and 2 consistently find that supervisor negative gossip facilitates employee receiver reflective learning and subsequent job performance when controlling for two sets of theory-relevant variables. Study 3, which has a multi-source, cross-lagged panel design, provides further evidence of the directional relationship from supervisor negative gossip to employee receiver job performance through reflective learning. The findings of the three separate field studies support the positive effect of supervisor negative gossip on employee receivers from a learning perspective. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings in terms of how employee receiver job performance can benefit from workplace negative gossip.
Original languageEnglish
Article number001872671986625
Pages (from-to)1689-1717
Number of pages29
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number12
Early online date19 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

The authors are very grateful to the associate editor, Professor Amanda Shantz, and the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the earlier drafts.

The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research received partial financial support from National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant numbers 71872143 and 71902092) and an MOE (Ministry of Education in China) Research Planning Foundation Project of Humanities and Social Sciences (grant number 18YJA630050), awarded to Fuli Li. This research has also benefited from financial support from the Outstanding Researcher Support System, Nottingham University Business School China, awarded to Jie Wang.


  • Job performance
  • reflective learning
  • supervisor negative gossip


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