Rudeness At Work: On the Rise, And Coming With A Big Cost

Last Updated Aug 31, 2011 7:41 AM EDT

Just because you've developed a thick skin for rude, discourteous behavior, doesn't mean workplace incivility is not hurting you--and your family. A new Baylor University study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that workplace rudeness can follow you home, causing you to unleash "incivil" behavior on your loved ones.

That's disconcerting news for the 43% of Americans who have experienced incivility at work, according to the report, Civility in America, 2011. To be clear, incivility is different from aggressive bullying, which usually carries the intent to harm someone. With incivility, the intent is ambiguous, and it's less intense and characterized by demeaning remarks, showing little interest in a worker's opinion, acting rudely or with poor manners, among other uncivilized behaviors.

The Baylor study found that those who experienced workplace incivility had lower levels of marital satisfaction and greater family/work conflict, particularly for the partner. It also found that stress from incivility was contagious to family members.

Who's to blame?
When asked to name some of the top causes for the growing incivility problems, 65% of workers blame their company's leaders and 59% also blame employees, while 46% list the lagging economy as a cause. Interestingly, 34% blame younger employees for incivility and only 6% blame older employees. But incivility at work, many agree, is an artifact of life in America. More than 70% of Americans consider political campaigns, pop culture, the media, government and the music industry hubs of incivility, according to the Civility in America Report.

How to tamp down rudeness
In the words of Aretha Franklin, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The authors of the Civility in America report write:

Johns Hopkins Professor Pier M. Forni, co-founder of the Civility Project, defines the basics of civility as the Three R's: Respect, Restraint and Responsibility. When Americans were asked to define "civility," the words "respect" and "treating others as you would want to be treated" predominated.


And rather than shrug off rudeness, name it, because the more you become inured to it, the more normal it becomes.

Related: Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist who writes for the New York Times, national magazines and websites. Follow her on twitter. Photo courtesy of Flickr user tourist_on_earth.
  • Laurie Tarkan

    Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist who writes for The New York Times and many national magazines. She is a contributing editor at Fit Pregnancy magazine and the author of three books, Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility, Perfect Hormone Balance for Pregnancy and My Mother's Breast: Daughters Ace Their Mothers' Cancer.. You can follow her on Twitter at @LaurieTarkan.

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