Rudeness at work is contagious

December 04, 2015

Workplace incivility should be treated with the utmost seriousness. This is the finding of three psychologists at Lund University in Sweden who surveyed nearly 6 000 people on the social climate in the workplace. Their studies show that being subjected to rudeness is a major reason for dissatisfaction at work and that unpleasant behaviour spreads if nothing is done about it.

Rudeness in this context refers to something that goes under the radar for what is prohibited and that in some way violates the norm for mutual respect. It can refer to petty behaviour such as excluding someone from information and cooperation, or "forgetting" to invite someone to a communal event. It can also refer to taking credit for the work of others, spreading rumours, sending malicious emails, or not giving praise to subordinates.

"It's really about behaviour that is not covered by legislation, but which can have considerable consequences and develop into outright bullying if it is allowed to continue", says Eva Torkelson, who is leading the project on rudeness as a social process in organisations, which is financed by FORTE, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare.

She observes that bullying in the workplace is quite a well-documented phenomenon, whereas rudeness that risks turning into bullying is not.

The research team's studies show that the most common cause of acting rudely is imitating the behaviour of colleagues.

In total, 75 % of the survey respondents stated that they had been subjected to rudeness at least 1-2 times in the past year.

"An important finding from our studies is that those who behave rudely in the workplace experience stronger social support, which probably makes them less afraid of negative reactions to their behaviour from managers and colleagues", says Martin Bäckström, Professor of Psychology.

As people often imitate the behaviour of others, there is a risk that rudeness becomes a vicious circle with considerable consequences for the entire workplace. Previous research points to mental illness, reduced job satisfaction, staff members who work less efficiently or seek jobs elsewhere, reduced loyalty and more conflicts.

But what can be done to address unpleasant behaviour that is a little unclear and hard to put your finger on?

Eva Torkelson thinks that the solution is training for staff and managers:

"When people become aware of the actual consequences of rudeness, it is often an eye-opener", she says. "And, of course, most people do not want to be involved in making the workplace worse."
-end-
Further info:

The research consists of two separate studies. The first was carried out in the hotel and restaurant sector, and the second is based on data gathered by the Swedish institute for opinion surveys (SIFO) from a sample that reflects the Swedish population.

The first study, Models of Workplace Incivility: The Relationships to Instigated Incivility and Negative Outcomes, was published in BioMed Research International and the second is awaiting publication.

Lund University

Related Bullying Articles from Brightsurf:

Gender, age divide in new bullying study
Students' emotional resilience is linked to their chances of being victimised, with less resilient students more likely to suffer from harassment, new research shows.

Anti-bullying PEACE program packs a punch
Italian high schools have reported success with a South Australian program to help victims of bullying and aggression.

Arts-based method to detect school bullying
Co-authors Daria Hanolainen and Elena Semenova created and tested an experimental method of graphical vignettes - a set of incomplete comic strips which kids are asked to complete using their own creative vision.

Bullying gets worse as children with autism get older
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to experience bullying than children without ASD and this bullying gets worse with age, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Does obesity increase risk of being a bullying victim, perpetrator, or both?
A new study has shown that obese adolescents are not only significantly more likely to experience bullying, but they are also more likely to be both victims and perpetrators of bullying compared to their healthy weight peers.

Study examines consequences of workplace bullying
New research reveals how frequently being the target of workplace bullying not only leads to health-related problems but can also cause victims to behave badly themselves.

Bullying linked to student's pain medication use
In a school-based survey study of all students in grades 6, 8, and 10 in Iceland, the use of pain medications was significantly higher among bullied students even when controlling for the amount of pain they felt, as well as age, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Teen girls more vulnerable to bullying than boys
Girls are more often bullied than boys and are more likely to consider, plan, or attempt suicide, according to research led by a Rutgers University-Camden nursing scholar.

Bullying among adolescents hurts both the victims and the perpetrators
About a tenth of adolescents across the globe have been the victim of psychological or physical violence from their classmates.

Bullying evolves with age and proves difficult to escape from
An international team from the Universities of Cordoba, Cambridge and Zurich conducted a study on bullying roles among peers.

Read More: Bullying News and Bullying Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.