Rude behavior in the workplace isn't too widespread, study finds

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Maintaining friendly relationships with coworkers can be beneficial for consumers

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Central Florida explored how coworkers interact from a social standpoint. 

The team found that the majority of consumers experience rude behavior at work, but they say it generally isn’t a consistent problem. In fact, the researchers say many coworkers wind up developing strong relationships that can be very helpful. 

“Because prior research suggests workplace mistreatment is harmful and widespread, it is often called an epidemic, but our findings show that rude behavior is less like the flu and more like cholera,” said researcher Shannon Taylor. “It is still harmful, but far less common, and outbreaks are often traced to a single source -- much like a contaminated water pump.”

Understanding workplace dynamics

To determine the prevalence of rudeness in the workplace, the researchers analyzed employee dynamics from offices, restaurants, and manufacturing plants. 

The study found that the majority of the study participants described their workplace relationships in a positive way. However, 70% of the group also reported experiencing rude behavior at work. According to the researchers, problems usually occur between two workers because of unique and specific dynamics.

“Even if one employee is a jerk to everyone and their coworker is the office punching bag, there is still something unique about their relationship that explains how well they get along together,” Taylor said. “Most people do experience rude behavior, but most of their relationships are not characterized by rudeness.” 

As many consumers are getting ready to head back into the office after the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important for employers to take these findings into consideration. The researchers explained that fostering a respectful and encouraging environment in the workplace is the best way to eliminate negativity and harsh feelings between employees. 

“Employees’ beliefs about what is ‘right and wrong’ at work have a big impact on what happens on the job,” said researcher Lauren Locklear. “Employers should ensure there are strong norms for respect and civility in the workplace. Having a zero-tolerance policy for these rude behaviors is key to stopping mistreatment in its tracks.” 

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