In this paper, I explored how to research a sensitive topic such as gossip in organizations and used a narrative approach to illustrate the methodological and ethical issues that come up when considering a variety of research methods. I first attempted to conduct an ethnographic research on a project group from a Dutch university undergoing a major change. At the very beginning of the project, as a participant observer, I struggled to remain an outsider, or a “fly on the wall.” But as issues of power came into play and access became increasingly problematic, I moved towards the role of an “observing participant.” Therefore, in order to research gossip and some of the hidden dimensions of organizational life, I turned to auto- and self-ethnography as a way to regain access and greater authenticity. While following this route presented its share of ethical and methodological issues, it also provided valuable insights that could be of value to researchers attempting to study sensitive topics such as gossip in organizations.
Gossip, Ethnography, Autoethnography, Research Methods
The author would like to thank Jacco van Uden and the colleagues from the research group Change Management of The Hague University for their guidance and feedback.
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Recommended APA Citation
Darmon, D. J. (2018). Researching the Mechanisms of Gossip in Organizations: From Fly on the Wall to Fly in the Soup. The Qualitative Report, 23(7), 1736-1751. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2018.2912