Workplace study: rudeness begets rudeness, costs bottom line

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Photo illustration MetroCreative

Rude or impolite employees can cause other employees to become rude and impolite, according to a recent study titled “Who Strikes Back? A Daily Investigation of When and Why Incivility Begets Incivility,” published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The study found that when employees experience rude behavior, such as sarcasm or put-downs, it creates what’s dubbed as “incivility spirals” where employees pass on that behavior to other co-workers and experience mental fatigue.

The study was relatively small: 70 workers filled out surveys three times a day for 10 consecutive workdays. Nonetheless, the findings largely supports conventional wisdom.

Its researchers state, “these findings provide evidence that incivility begets incivility and, it is important to note that they verify that these contagion effects occur within very short, daily cycles.”

Authors of the study described workplace incivility as ubiquitous, saying it’s doubled over the past two decades and costs companies an estimated $14,000 per employee per year.

Gabriella Dunn: 316-268-6400, @gabriella_dunn