Rudeness breeds rudeness

On average people spend around 90,000 hours at work in a lifetime; that’s a lot of mid-morning lattes (no wonder coffee vans do good business). Spending that much of your life in the workplace means that you want it to be as pleasant and nurturing as possible. That is why you want to nip any workplace rudeness in the bud because a new study has shown that workplace rudeness just breeds more workplace rudeness and so the spiral goes.

The new study was looking at what they called incivility in the workplace. By incivility they are not referring to openly hostile acts like bullying, harassment and threats. Instead incivility is more subtle but still damaging and includes things like put-downs, sarcasm, and other condescension.

For the study the researchers surveyed employees three times a day for ten consecutive work days. The surveys included questions and performance based tasks that assessed how often acts of incivility occurred and what effects they had.

The results showed that people who were the subject of rude or uncivil behaviour experienced increased mental fatigue. In turn this reduced their level of self-control which made it more likely that they would behave in a rude or uncivil manner later in the day. These spirals of incivility were not intentional but they tended to occur more in workplaces that were seen as “political” which the researchers defined as an environment where workers do what is best for them and not what is best for the organisation.

So rudeness breeds rudeness and it does it in a very short time frame simply because being the subject of rudeness depletes your own reserves leaving you more likely to be rude yourself, even if you don’t mean to. It is another reminder that while civility costs nothing, it is incredibly valuable.

Source: Journal of Applied Psychology

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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