The Rampant Rise of Rudeness

  • 3 mins read

Are we letting our ‘frank discussions’ veer into rudeness and incivility at work?

“These may not be the best of times, and these may not be the worst of times, but for sheer rudeness, these times beat the dickens out of most times.” ~ Roger McElvey, ‘Mr. Manners,’ Men’s Health, May 1995

While I see plenty of leadership development programs that propose social and emotional intelligence, we’re not doing so well in our workplace interactions.
Over the last 14 years, thousands of workers have been polled on how they’re treated on the job – and a whopping 98% have reported experiencing uncivil behavior. In 2011, half said they were treated rudely at least once a week, up from 25% in 1998.
These startling facts were published in The Price of Incivility, a January-February 2013 Harvard Business Review article by Professors Christine Porath and Christine Pearson.
Most managers know incivility is wrong, but some fail to recognize its tangible costs. Those at the receiving end of rudeness often punish their offenders and the organization, although most hide or bury their feelings and don’t view themselves as vengeful.
After polling 800 managers and employees in 17 industries, Porath and Pearson learned how people’s reactions play out. Among workers who have been on the receiving end of incivility:

  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort.
  • 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work.
  • 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work.
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident.
  • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender.
  • 66% said their performance declined.
  • 78% said their commitment to the organization declined.
  • 12% said they left their job because of the uncivil treatment.
  • 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers.

Incivility is expensive, yet few organizations recognize or take action to curtail it. This leads to several possible outcomes:

  • Incivility chips away at the bottom line. Nearly everyone who experiences workplace incivility responds negatively – in some cases, with overt retaliation.
  • Employees are less creative when they feel disrespected. When they’re fed up, they leave.
  • About half deliberately decrease their efforts or lower the quality of their work.
  • Customer relationships are damaged.

How’s it going in your office? I hear some incredible stories in the work I do with clients. It’s one thing to be open and honest, but there’s a line that often gets crossed, especially in the heat of things. And it’s often not the boss, but among co-workers that I hear about rudeness. I’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment.

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