Office & Public Rudeness Counterproductive

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With business and office communications becoming more faceless, e-mail and phone communication may be causing a rise in office rudeness. Studies are being done and books are being written on the subject as productivity is sapped, as well as some efforts to retain good talent, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The distance between management and workers seems to be growing, too. An office manager told the Wall Street Journal of the situation with the owners in her office, “They treat employees like we're not even here.” The office manager continues by saying that one employee quit after a day and those still working there weren't willing to put in any extra effort. “By 5:30, whether the work is done here or not, everyone is gone.”

Steve Miranda, chief human resources officer for the Society of Human Resource Management, told the Wall Street Journal, “It's becoming a bigger issue. People forget that you can be kind, thoughtful, and respectful, and get the product out the door just as fast.”

This behavior is also consistent with the erosion of common courtesy seen in society, according to We already see road rage, air rage, angry shoppers, irate retail clerks, and bad phone manners documented in the media.

Dana Law, an organizational psychologist and president of Sankora Executive Solutions, told the Wall Street Journal, rudeness “is becoming more of a problem in the workplace. People have to respond in shorter time spans now they often have greater workloads, which causes more stress.”

Lynne Truss wrote her latest book, “Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door,” after several encounters with rude people. She told the Wall Street Journal that incivility in the office is “part of a general shift to people thinking mainly about themselves.”

Dr. Christine Porath, a management professor at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, is pursuing a study into rudeness in the workplace in which nearly 3,000 people responded. Her research shows that the holding back of work effort, absenteeism, and even stealing of office supplies may be signs of an organization fraught with rudeness, according to the Wall Street Journal. Porath found that more than 90 percent experienced incivility. Of those:

  • 50 percent lost work time worrying about the incident.
  • 50 percent contemplated changing jobs to avoid a reoccurrence.
  • 25 percent cut back their work efforts.
  • 13 percent, one in eight people, left a company after an incident of rudeness.

Another study is being undertaken by a group of psychologists at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Canada, according to Professors Lori Francis and Camilla Holmvall are starting a study examining how people react to incivility from fellow workers, and whether people return bad manners with their own rudeness. This is said to be the first academic study concerning rudeness in the workplace.

Francis posed questions to, “If you treat people somewhat rudely, how do they respond? Do they escalate the situation? Do little bits of incivility lead to a larger reaction that escalates into something that's a true conflict? Our theory is that it does.” She continued, “And that's the thing with incivility –- it's not always meant in a negative way, it's not always meant to be rude, but that's the way it's often taken.”

Cell phone use is another vehicle for potential crass and vulgar behavior, according to Some people don't seem to understand that private conversations should be kept private. Cell phones shouldn't be used disruptively whether you're at the movies, in an elevator, or walking down a sidewalk. Distractive as a call might be, it helps to pay attention in the grocery store or walking across a street.

Taking a call in the middle of a face-to-face conversation is considered disrespectful to most people who also understand that callers can leave a message. Letting the person you're speaking with know that you have to take a call is fair. Having an emotional conversation on your cell phone in public is not. You should wait until you get home or to a more private place to take these calls, according to Exercising courtesy and discipline when using your cell phone is always a good thing for the rest of us.

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