Rude Behaviors in the Workplace Cost Money

I observed a vice president leading a contingent of visitors into an early-morning meeting.  As the group approached a conference room, the vice president noticed what appeared to be spilled coffee on the new carpet.  A staff member happened to be walking by.  The frowning, vice president gruffly said, “It looks like you need to teach your friends to be more careful with their coffee.”

Studies suggest that, during a work week, about half of employees engage in rude behaviors.  Further, Dr. Woolum and associates, writing in the Journal of Applied Psychology, report that merely witnessing rude behaviors costs the company money.

Examples of rude behaviors include:  crude language, interrupting others, failure to show appreciation, loud talking, checking your phone during conversations, eye-rolls, gossiping and so on.

Apparently, observation of rudeness sets a frame in the brain.  Later, when employees see what may be ambiguous behaviors—not necessarily rude; they interpret the behavior to be uncivil. Employees who perceive rudeness may avoid interactions with others and dampen their commitment to tasks.

In the interest of civility, not to mention the bottom line, leaders would do well to model respectful, courteous and considerate behaviors, while professionally calling out team members who slip up.

Leaders Avoid Becoming Prey to Bullying Employees

“I am exasperated,” proclaimed Jamison, “I’ve bent over backwards to help Jerry.  He shows no appreciation.”

“Is Jerry a good employee?” I asked.

“He has good skills but if he does not like a task, he starts griping and does just enough to get by.”

Jerry was friendly and nice when Jamison became his manager.  But after about three weeks, Jerry began coming in a late.  When Jamison approached Jerry about his attendance, Jerry responded rudely, “We’ve been working too much overtime lately.  Why are you on my back?”

Jerry is a bullying employee.  He saw that Jamison was a kind, caring manager and perhaps vulnerable.  Jerry first endeared himself to Jamison (an effort to cause Jamison guilt feelings).  Later Jerry tested Jamison with rude behaviors.

While Jamison was compassionate and well meaning, Jerry saw him as vulnerable and he escalated his defiant behaviors.

Maybe it is the “law of the jungle,” but aggressive employees seek out leaders who may be vulnerable and they test them with inappropriate but acceptable behaviors.  Appeasing and patient leaders may actually encourage increased employee aggression.

When dealing with predatory animals, school-yard bullies, or aggressive employees, one must respond confidently and firmly to avoid becoming prey.