How Rude! Minding Your Manners at Work

We have all seen rude behavior at work. The co-worker who becomes absorbed into their phone mid-meeting or the colleague who doesn’t clean up after themselves in a shared space. What do you consider rude work behavior and do you feel it is on the rise?

A growing number of psychologists do and they are conducting research on incivility in the workplace. Polls are finding that most Americans feel civility has declined, not just making the workplace unpleasant but ultimately having an impact on work productivity and well-being — even beyond the cubicle.

A professor from Georgetown University, Christine Porath, wrote a recent NY Times op-ed, “No Time to Be Nice at Work”. The author remembers seeing her “athletic dad” in the hospital with electrodes strapped to his chest. She couldn’t help but wonder how this had happened and she believed it was related to work stress as “for years he endured two uncivil bosses.”

In part, her hunch was confirmed by a study published in 2012 which showed that stressful jobs increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by 38%. Another poll of 800 workers on the receiving end of bad behavior found that half intentionally decreased work effort, 65% admitted performance decline and 12% quit.

AARP compiled a list of the top work offenses, including:

  1. Not saying hello
    Ignoring or not acknowledging a co-worker
  2. Acting superior
    This could include belittling someone’s ideas or suggestions in a meeting
  3. Inappropriate work language
    Using profanity or offensive comments
  4. Gossipping
    Some may call it venting, but talking about people behind their backs only leads to a toxic work environment
  5. Having sharp elbows
    Being overly ambitious or driven without regard for others in your lab/office
  6. Misusing email
    Either in frequency or in tone. Emails can often be misread, so if discussing a sensitive topic, have a conversation in person

They chose to stop at six, but what would you add to this list? Leave a comment below with what you think is the worst work offense.

Rude behavior often falls outside the scope of basic workplace policies, making it difficult (but not impossible) to remedy the behavior. To be fair, most people don’t know they are being rude. They may be so preoccupied with work that they forget their behavior has an impact on others. So, what can you do if a co-worker is being rude?

  1. Call them out on it.
    If possible, address the inappropriate behavior in the moment. A bad behavior unaddressed will most likely become a pattern. If you need time to collect your thoughts, then do so, but ultimately you need to have that conversation.
  1. Have a goal for the conversation.
    You will need to convey what you want to happen going forward. What is the behavior that needs to be addressed? What are your expectations post-conversation? Think about this on your own so you can articulate it to your colleague. For example, does your co-worker constantly interrupt you? Say so as diplomatically as you can and note that you expect this behavior to be curtailed going forward.
  2. Thank your co-worker for listening to you.
    This should be a respectful conversation not a confrontation. Return this respect by allowing them to voice explanations or any of their own concerns.
  3. Move on.
    Hopefully, now that the issue has been addressed, it will be resolved. Don’t let feelings of resentment linger; however, if you continue having issues, seek help from managers or mentors. You don’t have to endure an uncomfortable work environment. If you are at the NIH, there are many offices to help you, including: the Ombudsman, CIVIL, and EAP.

 

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2 Responses to How Rude! Minding Your Manners at Work

  1. Kara says:

    I think that people having loud conversations in areas where others are doing quiet work (like reading, writing, database development) is really rude. Most workplaces have a common area for people to have conversations, so if a person is clearly doing thoughtful work their coworkers should keep down the noise!

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