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Study: Being Rude Can Be Contagious

Dorathy Gass

According to a recent study coming out of the University of Florida, it seems that rudeness is something that can spread like a virus. Researchers analyzed individuals in a workplace situation, and revealed that those who got a taste of rudeness from a colleague were likelier to, in turn, be rude to other coworkers. The research team observed 90 graduate students as they went through a series of business negotiation exercises; and the study revealed that those graduates who noted that their initial negotiation partner was rude, was likely to be rude to others within the team, following their experience.

University of Florida reports that it seems researchers have uncovered that no individual is immune to the after effects of rudeness. The study also revealed that those who simply observed rudeness, and was not directly impacted by the behaviour, were also more likely to be rude. Students were also asked to watch a clip of a rude situation in the workplace, and they too ended up responding to a neutral customer service related email in a rude way as a result. The end conclusion: rudeness creates something in our subconscious to expect this type of behavior in future situations, even when it is not there.

Lead author Trevor Foulk chimed in to note that this behavior has a tremendously negative impact on the workplace.
How can one stop the rudeness cycle? It is important to think about clear communication; especially when dealing with rude behavior in a work environment. If someone has experienced rudeness from an otherwise civil colleague; take a deep breath, and try to determine if this might be a situation of miscommunication or misinterpretation. Unfortunately, being rude back is not the best solution.

Should an individual face consistent rudeness in the workplace from one specific colleague, it is best to keep track of these incidents, rather than responding back in a negative way. If there is an ongoing pattern, seek help from a third party; whether that is a direct manager, senior management, or a Human Resources representative with the company. Ongoing rudeness can fall into the category of ‘workplace bullying’; which can cause further stress on any individual.

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