Andy’s Quick Hits (93): Rudeness at Work — A Vicious Circle

Andy Hab
2 min readSep 23, 2021

So is rudeness a problem in the workplace?
Well, according to Park and Martinez, it seems to be on the rise. Lack of interpersonal face-to-face relationships and interactions seems to be making people ruder, or incivil, as they call it.

So, a bit like social media threads that spiral out of control really quickly?

And how did they research this — by being rude to people in the office?
No, this was a meta analysis of 76 different studies into incivility including 35,344 workers.

And what did they find?
Lots of things, but some of the interesting findings are that if a person experiences incivility, or even just observes it, they are more likely to engage in incivl behaviour!

Uh oh! You can see the negative spiral…
Yes, they did also note factors that are more likely to instigate incivility which include some obvious personality traits such as disagreeableness but also, interestingly, negative correlations to psychological wellbeing and physical wellbeing.

That suggests that people who don’t feel good with themselves take it out on others!
To a degree. But what is also interesting is what breaks the cycle.

And that is?
Firstly, the more control you have over your job the less likely you are to engage in or reciprocate incivil behaviour. Secondly, if you work in a civil team or closely with civil people you are also less likely to reciprocate incivil behaviour. And thirdly, older employees are less likely to reciprocate incivil behaviour.

So having a respectful woking place with autonomy in the job will minimise these behaviours.
Yes, another reason to pay attention to this. And, as I also said, personal wellbeing minimises the risk of incivil behaviour.

Look after yourself and look after others!
Spot on!

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Related articles:

How Rudeness Makes Decision-Making Worse

The Dark Side of Helping Coworkers

Brain differences between agreeable and disagreeable people

Lauren S. Park, Larry R. Martinez.
An ‘I’ for an ‘I’: A systematic review and meta-analysis of instigated and reciprocal incivility
Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 2021
DOI: 10.1037/ocp0000293

Andy Hab

The brain and human behaviour, in business, society, learning, and health.