A University of Florida research study looked at how rudeness plays a role in the workplace — and perhaps it’s not too surprising that rudeness has become a standard part of how business is conducted. The surprising part of the study is that rudeness is contagious; what may start as one employee lacking manners can actually turn into an office of rude employees.
In the June 29 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, the research team explains how it studied a group of 90 graduate students as they worked on negotiating with their peers.
According to WESH 2 News and phys.org, researchers found that if a student rated his or her first negotiation partner as rude, he or she was more likely to pass on the first partner’s rudeness and be perceived as rude by a second partner — thus spreading impoliteness, one person at a time.
Both actual and perceived rudeness, lead author Trevor Folk explained, can be equally harmful in a professional setting — specifically when one employee is figuring out how to respond to another.
“When you experience rudeness, it makes rudeness more noticeable,” Folk stated. “You’ll see more rudeness even if it’s not there.”
The risk of perpetuating a hostile work environment has been studied before, and it’s clear that when rudeness isn’t addressed, the entire business tends to crumble. A Harvard Business Review article reported back in 2013 that when employees are “on the receiving end of incivility,” there was a substantial decrease in productivity and quality.
Studies have found that 78% of employees feel less dedicated to the organization as a whole when they’re subjected to a coworker’s rudeness and 30% of employees experienced a decline in creativity and problem-solving. Only 12% of employees are likely to leave the business, but it would be remiss not to acknowledge that as rudeness is on the rise in the American workplace, the number of businesses that support telecommuting is also on the rise (67%, according to the latest research).
It’s possible that as employees become more disconnected, they develop rude habits without realizing it — and because this rudeness can be passed on so quickly, perpetuating rudeness seems almost inevitable.
On the other hand, it seems just as likely that one positive employee or manager could have just as much influence — but in a positive way.