We've all encountered rude people at work, and most of us can just brush it off-understanding that we're not at fault; the rude person is. However, a new study found out that rudeness can literally be deadly.

A new study, "The Impact of Rudeness on Medical Team Performance: A Randomized Trial" found that rudeness damages the ability to think and make decisions. In a medical setting, that can be absolutely deadly. NY Magazine explained that the researchers set up 24 medical teams with the job of diagnosing and treating a potentially fatal case of necrotizing enterocolitis, in a premature infant.

When the researchers told the participants that they were "not impressed with the quality of medicine in Israel" (where the study occurred) among other insults, they performed at a much lower level than the control group. Overall, there was a 52 percent difference in performance between the teams that heard the rude comments and the control groups.

52 percent difference is huge. That's life and death in the NICU, but what about your work?

Most of us don't hold tiny infants' delicate lives in our hands when we go to the office, so rudeness isn't as critical, but if rudeness can have that large of an impact on trained medical professionals, what about the impact in your office?

Do you really want a team that operates at 52 percent less than what they are capable of, just because you allow a team member to make snide remarks to them. Or worse, when you (as a person in a position of power) choose to make those remarks yourself.

Sure, no infants are going to die if you don't get that PowerPoint presentation done, but your employees depend on your business to provide their income that buys food for their children, pays the mortgage, and allows them to live someplace other than their parents' basements. Why would you want to put that at risk for your employees-and yourself-by being rude?

Sticks and stones may break bones, but apparently rude words do hurt performance. This isn't to say that you can't give negative feedback. Negative feedback is absolutely necessary to the health of business. But, don't be rude about it. Be honest, but not mean.

And don't make comments about general groups. For instance, let's take the first rude remark from this study, where the researcher said he was "not impressed with the quality of medicine in Israel." Think about that. Is there any good purpose in that statement? No. It's not about the person; it's about a group. How could that statement help them perform at a higher level?

A lot of racial, religious, and sexual discrimination happens in rude statements like this. "We've never had a woman succeed in this role." Ummm, so? No need to say that.

But, how do you give negative feedback without being rude? Negative feedback should be one-to-one, or to those in the group to whom it applies. It should come with a solution. "Your performance isn't where it needs to be," is just rude if you walk away after that, but if you add, "You need to reduce the time it takes to get from A to F, and your writing could be tighter. Jane is going to help edit your work until you get on top of the writing thing." That's helpful. It's not rude. It's managing.

The next time a rude remark comes to your lips, keep it inside. It only serves to impact negatively your team and lessen their chance of success. Who needs that? Not your business. It's deadly.

Published on: Mar 9, 2016
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