5 reasons to be concerned about rudeness at work


Posted on May 6th, by Dr Rob Yeung .

Unfortunately, most of us have either been on the receiving end of rudeness or have observed it going on around us. It’s something we are so used to that we probably just accept it. But here are 5 ways in which incivility can affect us.

1. Observing rudeness reduces performance and creativity
Of course being on the direct receiving end of rudeness can make us feel angry or frustrated. But research tells us that even observing incivility can be harmful. A study by investigators Christine Porath and Amir Erez found that merely seeing someone being rude to a third party damaged both the performance and creativity of onlookers.

Think about the implication for your own career. If you work in a place where rudeness is commonplace, then it probably stops you from being productive and creative – it stops you from reaching your full potential. If you are a manager, this research also suggests that you should go to real efforts to stamp out rudeness – as rudeness affects not only the target but everybody else in the vicinity who may have observed it, too.

2. Observing rudeness could literally kill someone
A scientific investigation led by Arieh Riskin looked at the performance of 24 real medical teams in a training simulation involving an infant who was deteriorating rapidly. During the simulation, an expert made comments on the performance of the teams. Half of the teams were exposed to neutral comments on their performance; the other half were exposed to mildly rude comments on their performance.

Startingly, the medical teams who heard mildly rude comments performed 12 per cent worse. That’s a real difference. And this study by Riskin isn’t the only one in a medical setting to demonstrate that incivility harms the decision-making and performance abilities of real doctors. In other words, rudeness could literally cost lives.

3. Rudeness at work affects your home life
This probably won’t surprise you, but experiencing rudeness at work doesn’t just affect you while you are at work. Baylor University researcher Meredith Baylor has collected evidence showing that employees who experienced incivility during their work day tended to experience more stress and conflict with their partners.

So, don’t just think of rudeness at work as something to put up with. Are you willing to allow rudeness at work to affect your family life, too?

4. Rudeness is contagious
Rudeness doesn’t just affect the emotional wellbeing and performance of onlookers. It turns out that rudeness tends to be contagious. Seeing someone being treated badly encourages others to do the same. So rudeness can cause a ripple effect, affecting more and more people – making them all feel worse and performing worse, too.

The implication: if you’re a leader, then don’t allow rudeness to happen in your workplace. It’s easy to dismiss moments of minor incivility as a natural consequence of pressure in the workplace. But consider that tolerating even relatively minor incidents of incivility could have broader effects on the performance of your entire team.

5. Rudeness affects committed employees more
Incivility doesn’t affect everybody equally. Data collected by researcher Weiwei Liu suggest that employees who are the most emotionally attached to their jobs are the ones who suffer the most. In other words, if you care about your work and want to do a good job, then it probably affects you more. Employees who don’t care about their work and whether they deliver good work don’t seem to be as bothered by rudeness in the workplace.

There’s probably not much you can do about rudeness in the short-term. But, over the many months and years of your career, it’s worth remembering the multiple effects of rudeness in terms of your creativity, your performance, and your relationships at home. In the long run, is it really worth putting up with rudeness – or would you be better off going elsewhere?





Leave a Reply