What Perpetuates Rude Behavior At Work?

A survey project over recent years involving around 2000 health care providers as shown that the same factors that contribute to poor mental health and to burnout also contribute to rude behavior among colleagues.

We asked about three types of rude behavior at work:

  1. how often your supervisor has been rude to you,
  2. how often your coworkers have been rude to you,
  3. how often you are rude to other people at work.

The biggest factor in how likely a person is to act rudely now is how rudely they behaved in the past. It’s sort of like fate, but with a bit more latitude. People are not condemned to maintain identical level of rudeness forever, but more likely than not, people will be just as rude this year as they were last year. If you want to change that pattern, you have to put some effort into pulling your socks up.

The next two factors are the key people in your worklife: supervisors and coworkers. People clearly shape what they give to what they receive. That sounds more like retribution than the Golden Rule, but we are what we are.

The third factor is rudeness rationales. That means that when people give themselves a good excuse for behaving rudely, they are more likely to keep doing so. One popular excuse is: I was under pressure and I lashed out. This excuse makes sense and you may have sympathy for someone under so much pressure, but if that excuse becomes acceptable in your worksetting, it will encourage more rude behavior in the future.

Each of these factors has a somewhat distinct impact. Supervisor incivility is most closely related to whether people act rudely in the future. It seems that the boss can give employees permission to act badly at work. Coworker in civility and the rudeness rationale not only contribute to behaving rudely, they also are related to reduced mental health and greater cynicism about one’s work.

So, the same qualities that impel people to behave badly towards others also erode their sense of wellbeing at work.

The good news about this analysis (yes, there is good news here), is that it identifies a clear focus for improving a range of feelings and behaviors. Improving the social environment of work not only makes it a nicer place to be, it also improves employees’ state of mind, feeling, and action. People respond to the way others interact with them.

As any part of a work environment begins improving, it lifts others along the way.

To learn more see www.workengagement.com/crew

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