Over the years, I've heard business leaders excuse rude behavior by employees by saying things like, "He's a hard worker, and that's all I care about," or, "That's just how she communicates. She doesn't mean to come across that way."

And sometimes nice people get blamed for being too sensitive. I've heard leaders say things like, "We don't care if anyone's feelings are hurt. We care about getting the job done," or, "She just needs to learn to ignore his rude comments and not take every insult so personally."

But rude employees aren't just hurting people's feelings. Studies show they actually hurt a company's bottom dollar.

How rude people cost employers money.

A 2007 study published in the Academy of Management Journal reports workplace incivility costs companies $14,000 per employee because of lost productivity and work time.

To be clear, the study wasn't referring to outright bullying or threatening behavior. Instead, the researchers examined incivility--less overt forms of misconduct, like making derogatory remarks, ignoring co-workers, and using a condescending tone.

And perhaps even more disturbing, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology reports that incivility is contagious. Just as kindness can be "paid forward,"
so can rude behavior.

Researchers discovered that people on the receiving end of uncivil behavior experience mental fatigue because they are often left wondering why they were targeted and how they should respond.

That mental fatigue decreased their ability to manage their impulses and regulate their emotions. In turn, they were more likely to treat others in an unkind manner. Those spirals of incivility were often unintentional.

Dealing with sarcasm and putdowns means employees have fewer resources to devote to their work, which is why rude behavior is costly to a company.

The effects were worse in organizations that were perceived as internally political--where employees do what is best for them, not necessarily what is best for the organization.

The study also found that workplace incivility has doubled over the past two decades.

Strategies for improving workplace culture.

It's important for managers and leaders to recognize the harmful effects of rude behavior. And rather than blame employees for being weak or sensitive, address rude behavior at its source.

Don't be afraid to call someone out and address it when someone's cutting remarks or eye-rolls are harming the workplace culture.

Of course, it's important for leaders to be good role models too. If you treat others disrespectfully, incivility will spread among the ranks.

Published on: Dec 12, 2016
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