Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

The whispers are everywhere.

Walk along any office and you'll hear quiet conversations, the participants' eyes shifting just in case someone might overhear. 

You assume, with good reason, that most of this gossiping is malicious, right?

And do you ever wonder how much time people spend gossiping?

Helpfully, researchers are the University of California, Riverside thought they'd find out.

Their new study offers some remarkable information, some of which runs counter to many assumptions.

The researchers believe that most people view gossipers as "immoral, uneducated, typically female, and of lower social class."

Had you heard that? No, I hadn't heard that. 

Instead, what this research discovered -- by using recording devices listening in on people's everyday lives -- that men and women gossip around the same amount.

Those who gossiped more often were those the researchers regarded as more extroverted.

Yet here's something that jabs at the stereotypes: 

Women engaged in more neutral gossip than men, and younger people tended to negatively gossip more than older people.

You see, I immediately thought, the real villains of the gossip world are men, not women. They're the evil ones. They're the ones saying nasty things about others.

And young men are just the worst.

I thought I'd ask the study's author, Megan Robbins, just in case I'd got this wrong. She told me I wasn't quite right: 

Women engaged in neutral gossip more often than men, but women and men engaged in positive and negative gossip at very similar rates.

Oddly, though, people are generally less nasty in their gossip than many might assume.

Indeed, around three-quarters of all the gossiping Robbins observed was of the neutral kind.

People just want to connect, talk and share. They're less keen on being mean about someone else.

This is remarkably hopeful for humanity as a whole and for office life in particular.

Especially when you realize how much time we spend gossiping.

This research suggests the average human spends 52 minutes a day talking to someone about someone else.

Yes, almost an hour is spent on wondering whether Clarence has been himself lately or whether Jocasta is looking for another job.

Robbins told me her research was conducted at weekends, so there was relatively little office interaction. 

Still, it's easy to become paranoid in an office environment when you see people enjoying these private little chats over a coffee, a cigarette or a truly dreadful lasagne.

You fear they know things you don't. Worse, you fear they're talking about you and know things about you that you don't.

Which, some scientists say, isn't such a bad thing. 

Elena Martinescu, a researcher at King's College, London, told NPR that when you hear negative gossip about yourself it can make you angry. 

It also makes you reflect about yourself a little. 

Perhaps the gossipers are right, at least sometimes. 

If only they'd tell you directly.