Rudeness at work is contagious, study finds

A doctoral student has discovered that a mechanism in the brain is switched on when we experience rudeness

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The Independent Online

Rudeness in the workplace is contagious.

A rude workplace culture is nasty for employees, but it can also have a negative effect on the success of their employer too. A new study has confirmed that the cumulative effects of rudeness can damage the productivity and performance of businesses.

Trevor Foulk, a doctoral student in management at the University Of Florida, said that most workers will go their entire careers and not experience true aggression in the workplace, but people experience rudeness all the time in their day to day jobs.

"Rudeness has an incredibly powerful negative effect on the workplace," Foulk said. "When people experience rudeness they perform worse, they’re less creative, and they’re less helpful with coworkers."

Foulk has discovered that a mechanism in the brain is switched on when we experience rudeness, drawing our attention away from the work we’re paid to do.

Foulk studied undergraduate students reaction between a late-arriving student and a study leader before asking them to respond to a fictitious customer email. When the study leader reacted angrily to the late student’s arrival, the students were more likely to answer the customer email in a rude way.

He said that rudeness needs to be tackled at an organisation level to stop it from weighing on business performance. "I hope this study turns managers’ attention to how negative these behaviors can be and how harmful they can be to performance."