The rise of childish workplace behavior

Questionable workplace behavior is making headlines again. The catalyst this time is a recent New York Times article that described a "bruising" and Darwinian office culture at Amazon (AMZN).

New academic research notes rudeness in the workplace isn't just unpleasant but contagious, and such negativity can quickly spread around an office like a bad cold.

And now, a national survey conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder adds a new element to the mix: It noted the rise of workplace behaviors more suited to school playgrounds.

According to the poll of over 2,500 hiring and human resources managers as well as more than 3,000 adult employees across a wide spectrum of industries and companies, "adolescent" behaviors such as whining, pouting and temper tantrums are an all-too-common occurrence in U.S. offices and other work spaces.

More than three-quarters of the employees polled said they've witnessed some type of childish behavior among their colleagues. More than half, 55 percent, said they've dealt with whining, and 46 percent have watched other employees openly pout over events that didn't go their way.

Tattling on a co-worker was a behavior that 44 percent of respondents had witnessed. And more than a third of those polled said they've seen the classically immature make-a-face-behind-someone's-back scenario while at work.

It also appears a lot of workers indulge in practices that many others probably thought they left behind in elementary school. Around a third said they've come in contact with office cliques, as well as rumors being spread about co-workers and other employees being targeted for pranks.

Some actions would have gotten you sent to "time out" in kindergarten. Nearly 30 percent of those polled have seen co-workers storm out of a room, 27 percent said they've witnessed at-work tantrums and 23 percent said they've dealt with co-workers refusing to share office resources with others.

Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder, believes some of this behavior can be harmless and can be seen as a way for employees to let off steam or even build a sense of camaraderie.

"But there's a fine line between innocent fun and inappropriate behavior," she continued in a press statement. "Actions like spreading rumors, 'tattling' and forming cliques to exclude others can be perceived as mean-spirited, bullying and even harassment."