Rude behaviors in office are contagious, says study

Rude behaviors in office

Rude behaviors at work are not rare. These behaviors, such as put-downs, sarcasm and arrogant comments, can make us frustrated and upset.

Now researchers from the University of Arkansas find that rude behaviors in the workplace can be contagious, and employees who are hurt by them become rude too. The finding is published in Journal of Applied Psychology.

A total of 70 employees took part in the study. They answered questions and completed performance-based tasks 3 times a day for 10 consecutive workdays.

The questionnaires and tasks allowed the researchers to study how and why acts of incivility were contagious in business organizations.

The result showed that experiencing rude behaviors caused mental fatigue in employees. It reduced their self-control and led them to act in a similar rude manner later in the day.

Furthermore, rude behaviors were more likely to occur in workplaces that were perceived as “political”. In such work place, workers do what is best for them and not best for the organization.

Basically, rudeness begets rudeness. These contagion effects could occur within very short, even daily cycles.

Researchers suggest that rude behaviors are easily to be ignored, because they are less serious than openly hostile behavior such as bullying, harassment and threats.

However, rude behaviors are more frequent in the workplace and have a significant effect on employees.

In addition, it can cost companies a lot more money. It is estimated that over the past 20 years, rude behaviors have cost companies about $14,000 per employee annually because of loss of production and work time.

To reduce rude behaviors at work, managers should provide clear feedback to employees regarding the types of behaviors that are desired.

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Citation: Rosen CC, et al. Who Strikes Back? A Daily Investigation of When and Why Incivility Begets Incivility. Journal of Applied Psychology, published online. DOI: 10.1037/apl0000140.
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