All politics aside, a lot of grown-ups are acting out and acting rude in public spaces from restaurants to parks, offices, streets and more with shouting, yelling, shoving and worse. Some of the cultural angst and anger is leaking into the workplace.
Of course, one person’s labeling of rude may be another’s outspokenness. And what is polite in some arenas is rude in others. For this discussion, boldness and strong convictions are not rudeness. Disregard for another’s safety or feelings definitely are. Silence is not mandatory, but consideration is.How do you create a workplace that does not tolerate rudeness? #KindLeadership Click To Tweet
“This is a particular challenge for leaders, because what is rude in one culture is accepted behavior in another. A leader has to be sensitive to those diversities without losing her personal authenticity,” says Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead.
“I’ve come to believe it is important for coworkers to share why they behave as they do, and to have some flexibility to allow for a wide range of behavior, as long as there is mutual respect and understanding. What’s most important in my view is that people not withhold informed opinions that can contribute to the well-being of the organization under the guise of being civil,” Feldt says.
What we are addressing here is the blatant disregard for another person with deliberately aggressive behaviors such as name-calling, belittling, interrupting, exclusion from information, spreading falsehoods and more. This is not about oversight, slights or perceptions of impoliteness. And the bad news is new research shows women experience more rudeness—from other women.Research shows women experience more rudeness—from other women. How do you show kindness to other women at work? #KindLeadership #WomenLeaders Click To Tweet
“Across three studies focused on gender and workplace incivility, researchers found that women were 5 to 9 percent more likely to experience incivility from other women than from men, according to Marcus Butts, an associate professor in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, who co-authored the research,” writes Lydia Belanger at Entrepreneur.
“Getting to the bottom of why woman-to-woman incivility is so common helps toward preventing and resolving it, but it’s also important to consider what’s at stake if no one does anything about it. As Allison S. Gabriel, the studies’ author and an assistant professor of management and organizations at the University of Arizona. Gabriel explains, ‘When women reported more incivility from other women, they were more likely to be dissatisfied at work, they were less vital and they were also more likely to say that they wanted to quit and leave.’”
Regardless of how you are feeling about the state of the world, the state of your life, your work and your humanity, the elimination of outrageously rude behavior serves everyone. For retention, harmony, productivity and 1,000 other moral imperatives, it is best to nip incivility at its root and maintain a culture of respect in the workplace.
Research from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington addresses the costs of rudeness or workplace incivility and finds it is “as contagious as the common cold,” Heidi Mitchell writes in the Wall Street Journal.
“Some 98 percent of workers experience incivility on the job, with 50 percent reporting they engage in rude exchanges at least weekly, according to research in 2013. In addition, nearly any victim of rudeness can become a carrier, passing a manager’s unfair treatment down the chain of command to rank-and-file employees. Other studies have shown that the disengagement that stems from personal experience of rudeness can result in a loss of significant revenue due to project delays and cognitive distractions,” Mitchell writes.
“It makes sense to disengage when exposed to rudeness,” Dr. Andrew Woolum, an assistant professor of management at UNC tells WSJ, “but it’s a hell of a thing in the workplace.”
Trevor Foulk, PhD candidate in business administration at the University of Florida, writes in Aeon, “It would be easy to believe that rudeness is ‘no big deal’ and that people must just ‘get over it’, but more and more researchers are finding that this is simply not true. Experiencing rudeness at work has been associated with decreased performance, decreased creativity, and increased turnover intentions, to name just a few of the many negative outcomes of these behaviors. Knowing how harmful these behaviors can be, the question becomes: where do they come from, and why do people do them?”
“While rudeness of a more minor nature makes its consequences a little harder to observe, it is no less real and no less harmful, and thus it might be time to question whether we should tolerate these behaviours at work,” Foulk writes.
1. Be mindful of rudeness in yourself and others. Don’t assume the worst and do not jump to conclusions. If a comment you perceive as rude is tossed your way verbally or in an email, do not respond in kind. Give the benefit of the doubt and ask the person—at a later date—how she is doing. Maybe she is unaware of her tone or of how she is perceived. And if others recoil when you enter a room or cringe at your rushed response, ask yourself what you did that may be considered offensive. If a colleague or manager is consistently rude, then document and report the behaviors. And definitely, if someone points out that something you said or did felt rude, then apologize and change the behavior. “There are a number of socially-unacceptable terms that have been widely adopted as offensive so keep those words out of your vocabulary, even if you are joking around with friends,” writes Lachlan Brown in Ideapod.
2. Practice empathy. “Ditch the drama,” says Rae Shanahan, chief strategy officer of Businessolver. “Exercise the empathy muscle. I think you can deepen the skills and learn how to be sympathetic,” she says. As a leader in the workplace, you can model a culture where rudeness would not be welcome. “You can drive awareness of empathy and change the dialogue.”
3. Value and reward politeness and civility. Of course you do not have to give a promotion or raise to everyone who is kind to each other at work, but notice it and comment on it. “The negative impact of one toxic employee more than wipes out any gains he or she may make with even superstar performance, according to Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and author of Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace,” writes Christina Folz in Society for Human Resources Management. “Ultimately, creating civil cultures requires work from the bottom up and the top down, but it’s worth the effort. ‘What I know from my research is that, when we have more-civil environments, we’re happier and healthier. Let’s put an end to the incivility bug and start spreading civility,’” Porath says Value and reward politeness and civility. Who is someone who brightens your work day? #ChooseKindness Click To Tweet
4. Have zero tolerance for rudeness. Ask HR if there are workplace behavior guidelines posted online or visible in the workplace that outlines repercussions for outrageous behavior. The board of directors at Boeing Co. recently adopted mandatory rules for maintaining “harmonious interactions and relationships” at work. Yes, bumping into someone may not be cause for termination, but name calling and screaming just might be. If there are no guidelines visible, create them. It also might not be a bad idea to have reminders posted about what is acceptable behavior. You don’t have to have those corny posters featuring kittens hanging in the kitchen area, but inspiring quotes about empathy might do the trick. “Put an end to the rudeness as soon as you can. Even if you’re not a confrontational person, find a way to communicate to the coworkers who are stressing you out in a mature and professional way. If it’s something you need help doing, chat with a manager or boss you trust and see if they can step in, without telling throwing you under the buss or making you seem like a tattletale,” writes Jen Glantz in
5. Exercise your power to be a force for kind behavior and to use your power to change the workplace culture. It’s difficult to resist someone who always has encouragement for others, speaks respectfully and listens intently to peers, managers, clients, customers and more. Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead, advises in Leadership Power Tool # 7 of 9 Leadership Power Tools, “Take Action; Create a Movement.” Feldt writes, “Things don’t just happen. People make them happen in a systematic way. And you can change systems. Apply the three movement building principles of Sister Courage (be a sister, act with courage, put them together to create a PLAN) and you will realize your vision at work, at home, or in public life.”
Why bother? Who cares if people are rude at work? Perhaps you can just ignore it and move on. Maybe not as if directly affects your health and your sleep.
“Experiencing rude or negative behavior at work, such as being judged or verbally abused, was linked with more symptoms of insomnia, including waking up multiple times during the night. But people who were able to detach and do something relaxing to recover after work — such as yoga, listening to music or going for a walk — slept better,” writes Rick Nauert at Psych Central.
“Other studies also suggest incivility by top brass – whether immediate supervisors or CEOs – has an outsized influence on the uncivil behavior of those below them,” writes William Wan in Chicago Tribune.
“But perhaps most worrisome is the effect of all this growing incivility. Mounting research shows rudeness can cause employees to be chronically distracted, less productive and less creative. Researchers have shown how incivility can lower trust, spark feelings of anger, fear and sadness, and cause depression. One study found increased incivility at work had personal life implications, such as less marital satisfaction,” Wan writes
“Incivility in the workplace takes a toll on sleep quality,” Caitlin Demsky, Ph.D., of Oakland University in. Michigan, tells Nauert. “It does so in part by making people repeatedly think about their negative work experiences. Those who can take mental breaks from this fare better and do not lose as much sleep as those who are less capable of letting go,” Demsky says.
“Making workplace interactions more positive and supportive for employees can go a long way toward creating a more positive, healthier environment that helps sustain the company in the long run, ” Gabriel, Ph.D., assistant professor of management and organizations in the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management.Organizations, told Psych Central.
They should make sure they also send signals that the ideas and opinions of all employees are valued, and that supporting others is crucial for business success — that is, acting assertively should not be viewed negatively, but as a positive way for employees to voice concerns and speak up.”
The bottom line is to create a workplace culture of respect, regardless of individual personal style.
“I grew up in a household where everybody talked at once–loudly– and that was not considered rude,” says Feldt. “It meant we all had passionate opinions and were encouraged to express them, even the children. Arguing was just a way of thinking through issues out loud. People who come from calmer, quieter cultures can be quite distressed by all that noise and emotion.” She adds, “I prize vigorous debate for vetting my ideas and surfacing solutions that might well be better than what I thought of.”