Rudeness is contagious in the workplace

614 reads

Germs can run rampant in a workplace, but so can another problem.  Researchers at the University of Florida, presenting their findings in the"Journal of Psychology," say that rudeness can be contagious.

The researchers followed 90 graduate business students as they practiced negotiation techniques over seven weeks, switching partners several times.  Students who described a partner as rude were more likely to be considered rude themselves by subsequent partners more often than those who negotiated with people they felt were polite.  The researchers theorize that this suggests that experiencing rudeness may make people more inclined to engage in it themselves.

Do your best to stay polite and courteous all the times, and you may be able to stop an epidemic in your organization.

Workplace rudeness can be a serious problem.  It can bring down morale and lead to lost productivity.  Rudeness doesn't just affect work; it can lead to lost customers.  

A study by the University of North Carolina (UNC) shows that 94 percent of the 775 people surveyed told someone else about their encounters with rude co-workers.  Those "someone elses" included peers, supervisors and even people they managed. 

What kind of encounters caused such loss in productivity?  A few examples of rude behavior included:  nasty and demeaning notes, accusations about lacking knowledge, name-calling and challenging credibility in front of others.

The study concluded that employees spent more time disgruntled or worrying about the rude person and less time concentrating on their work.  These stats from the UNC survey support that conclusion: 

  • 28 percent lost work time avoiding the rude person. 
  • 58 percent lost work time worrying about the encounter or possible future interactions.
  • 37 percent reduced their commitment to the organization.
  • 22 percent decreased their effort at work. 
  • 10 percent decreased the amount of time they spent at work. 
  • 46 percent contemplated changing jobs to avoid the rude person. 
  • 12 percent changed jobs to avoid the rude person.

This is why it is essential to squash rude behavior the minute it rears its ugly head.  Granted, the workplace is not always the easiest place in the world to get along with others. However, it is important to feel respected by others in the workplace.  This kind of healthy atmosphere almost always will increase productivity. 

Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic on how to deal with a co-worker who is rude to you:

  • Hold your tongue.  Take some time to cool off if someone is rude to you.  Don't spout off something you will be sorry to have said later.  Don't be sarcastic.  When someone says something rude to you, repeat it back to them in your own words and ask the person if that is what he or she is trying to say.  
  • Be direct.  Very calmly tell the other person how his or her comments or behaviors have made you feel.  Make your co-worker aware that it's a problem for you.
  • Tell the person whose behavior is bothering you about it - not other people in the office.  Directing your comments to the person is the mature, adult way of handling the matter.  No one likes to be criticized publicly, especially before the person with the problem has let him or her know personally.
  • Find a solution.  Ask the person who was rude to you to help you solve the problem.  Ask for his or her ideas about the problem and what to do about it. 
  • If nothing else helps, then go to your supervisor.  If you've truly run out of ideas of how to solve the problem, or if your co-worker is uncooperative, let your supervisor know.  He or she may know how to handle the situation or have experience dealing with similar problems in the past.

And speaking of supervisors, a study by the University of Florida found that even the best employees can become negative at work if they think their bosses have treated them with rudeness or are mean-spirited.  That means gossiping, pilfering, backstabbing and long lunch breaks can become the norm.

Managers have to set the tone, starting with the way they treat employees.  Management training needs to include an emphasis on treating employees with respect and refusing to accept rude behavior in the workplace.

Want to boil it down to a simple phrase?  Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

Mackay's Moral:  Common courtesy should never be an uncommon practice.



misner's picture

Dude, Where are my Wheels? Why Networking Helps – Even in the “Hood”

I recently visited Los Angeles and drove through an area that I grew up around.  I was regaling my wife with a story about a job I had in a pretty tough neighborhood when I was in college.  At the end of the story she said, “you have to
Harvey Mackay's picture

Resourcefulness = “Of Coursefulness”

A firm needed a researcher. Applicants were a scientist, an engineer and an economist. Each was given a stone, a piece of string and a stopwatch and told to determine a certain building’s height. The scientist went to the rooftop, tied the stone to
johnsullivan's picture

Sourcing Is the New Recruiting

I have some excellent news for you. Sourcing is the place to be in talent acquisition today! Recruiting as it has traditionally been known is going away. Increasingly companies are adopting recruitment process automation, and that means that there
harvardbusinessreview's picture

How to Prepare for a Panel

Make sure to connect with the moderator beforehand.
johnsullivan's picture

HR Roundtable: The Value of a Multi-Generational Workforce

In the classic rock anthem My Generation by The Who, lead singer Roger Daltrey screams, “I hope I die before I get old.” He echoed a sentiment of the times, but he never knew that he was also doing what...
adamgrant's picture

Why Women Volunteer for Tasks That Don’t Lead to Promotions

Here’s a work scenario many of us know too well: You are in a meeting and your manager brings up a project that needs to be assigned. It’s not particularly challenging work, but it’s time-consuming, unlikely to drive revenue, and probably won’t be
johnsullivan's picture

How Personas Change Sourcing Outcomes

It’s really intimidating to walk into a room full of people you don’t know. We’ve all had that moment of panic, scanning the room for any semi-familiar face and praying it’ll work. Just one person. I personally hate that feeling....
misner's picture

Body Language When Networking

Body language can be a powerful attractant or deterrent when it comes to building relationships with others. People assess you visually within the first fewminutes of meeting you.  I’ve been asked a lot about body language by the media over the
adamgrant's picture

This 4-Day Work Week Experiment Went So Well, the Company is Keeping It

A first-of-its-kind four-day work week experiment in New Zealand has come to an end after two months, but the trial went so well the company actually wants to make the changes permanent.While lots of research has shown the numerous benefits a