Friendly office banter and gossip are worlds apart. But how do you tell the difference? Consider the following:
Discussion: A friendly office discussion that talks about others keeps the references to other people general, friendly and supportive. The speaker is not obsessed with picking holes in another person's character but is merely imparting information about what another person or people have done in a matter-of-fact way, to further an objective, work-related conversation and to enlighten the listener about office relevant information.
Gossip: Gossip tends to be talk that gains attention for the speaker. The speaker will often adopt a confidential tone and is using the information about somebody else to be the centre of attention and will impart the details in a way that tries to undermine the credibility or likability of another person. The details may be given with moralising undertones and character assassination may be the top of the gossiper's agenda. Often you are told more personal details than you care to know about. The motivations behind gossip include attention-seeking, self-inflation, exaggeration and a me-versus-them mentality.
Grapevine Gossip: This is gossip pertaining to general change occurring within a workplace. Someone started it and now it is running about like wildfire. Usually this happens in an uncertain environment and is fuelled by fear, poor communications from management levels and wild guesses by staff. It is less personal than gossip attacking another person but is as equally damaging and demoralising.