Your private office Slack messages about the decisions of so-and-so have more power than you think. A new study has found that just knowing the existence of an online whisper network at an organization can cause teams to change how they act to others in the group.

Existence of secret group chats motivates more discussion between opposing groups

In a new study, researchers at INSEAD, Columbia Business School, and Singapore Management University proposed that we change how we act when we know people can talk behind our backs online because private backchannels make people in the majority feel less powerful. That sense of powerlessness, in turn, “motivates majority opinion holders to process unique information offered by the minority more deeply.”

In other words, people in the majority feel like they have to take minority opinions more seriously when there’s a threat to their power. And the secret discussion opportunities that technology makes easily available provide that threat.

The power of private group chat

The researchers’ hypothesis held true in a series of experiments. The researchers found that telling participants in the majority about the existence of a private group chat was enough to spur them to reach across party lines and seek more information, ask more questions, and engage in more dialogue from participants with minority viewpoints. This held true even when only a small subset of team members actually used the secret conversations opportunities.

The mere presence of a private group chat was enough to change team dynamics. Even if their opinion was securely in the majority, majority holders still wanted to know what others were saying if they knew there was a private chat.

A force for good

Researchers suggested that the facilitation of diverse perspectives can make these online secret whisper networks a force for good. If managers want to create better debates and Read More Here