Rudeness is infectious

Aug 22 2011 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Here at Management-Issues, we don't like incivility. Whether it's texting during a meeting, halting an important conversation to answer your mobile or some other non-specific discourtesy, good manners and consideration for others can go a long way to make the workplace a better place for everybody.

Bad manners can also affect productivity. An Australian study from 2007 found that even the occasional rude comment from a manager or supervisor is enough to lower engagement and make the target of such comments feel less committed to their job

But now, a study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior suggests that the impact of rudeness can spread far beyond the workplace, affecting personal relationships and even other workplaces.

According to Dr Merideth Ferguson, an assistant professor of management at the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business, the stress created by incivility can be so intense that, at the end of the day, it is taken home by the worker and impacts the well-being of the worker's family and partner, who in turn "export" the stress to their own workplaces.

"Employees who experience such incivility at work bring home the stress, negative emotion and perceived ostracism that results from those experiences, which then affects more than their family life Ė it also creates problems for the partner's life at work," she said.

"This research underlines the importance of stopping incivility before it starts so that the ripple effect of incivility does not impact the employee's family and potentially inflict further damage beyond the workplace where the incivility took place and cross over into the workplace of the partner," she added.

Another issues, she found, is that since the employee comes home more stressed and distracted, the partner is likely to pick up more of the family responsibilities, and those demands may interfere with the partner's work life.

The upshot, the study found, is that rudeness can ultimately contributes to affected the worker's and the partner's marital dissatisfaction.

"Unlike the study of incivility's effects at work, the study of its impact on the family is in its infancy. However, these findings emphasize the notion that organizations must realize the far-reaching effects of co-worker incivility and its impact on employees and their families," Dr Ferguson said.

Older Comments

So, I'm curious. I wonder if the fact that a person who is (consciously or unconsciously) rude, who's being driven by his/her amygdala/limbic brain (not their neo-cortex-rational, logical brain) brain will care that their being rude to another will affect that other's family/life outside of work. Not being in a psycho-emotional state that supports the 'logic' of not being rude, will compassion and understanding now rise to a level that s/he will curtail their rudeness.

In other words, the stats and findings do not get to the heart of the matter. Why does one feel s/he needs to be uncivil in the first place. Answer that question and deal with the root cause of rudeness and incivility and one might be on the way to lasting, real and self-responsible solutions.

peter vajda atlants, ga