Work rudeness and consequences

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Joe Dispenza
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Work rudeness and consequences

According to various studies, it is enough to adopt rude or aggressive behavior towards a colleague for the same to become contagious and provoke other more rude behaviors that often lead to harassment.

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2021

Too often we witness incidents of rudeness at work. Rude colleagues are those who use teasing and criticism and who, far from facilitating tasks and teaming up, continually create problems.



With their often aggressive and unethical behavior, they create a highly negative work environment that affects the entire company.

We are not mistaken if we say that this reality worries experts more and more. Each work scenario is a microcosm of the company itself.

It is a space of human interrelation whose purpose should be to work in synergy to achieve common goals. However, disrespect, harassment and rudeness seem to be a constant.

There are studies that give us interesting and surprising information. It is enough for someone to adopt rude behavior for it to spread, little by little, like a flu.

These dynamics translate into low productivity and, what is worse, in anxiety disorders, depression and sick leave.

Rudeness begins with a lack of consideration and respect for a colleague. This attitude can gradually turn into aggressive behavior.

What is rudeness at work?

Just a few months ago, a study was published that should make us think. The University of Illinois (Chicago) has conducted research that has spanned more than two decades and shows us that rude behavior, rudeness and disrespect are a constant in the workplace.



The basic problem is that rudeness is tolerated and that containment measures, sanctions and even reminders are not applied. The surprising aspect is that these aggressive dynamics tend to normalize so much that there are companies in which nothing changes for years.

The authors of this study define this situation as a chronic lack of civilization that appears in both restaurant chains and large tech companies. Now let's see what rudeness at work consists of.

From rudeness at work to aggression

This data is important and continues to attract the attention of experts. This type of behavior ranges from the least serious to the most serious and has its origin in the simple lack of courtesy.

For example, it might happen that you don't consider a person when doing a job or don't take his opinion into account when deciding something. Or, you can avoid someone during work breaks, lunch breaks, etc.

These episodes, which are not important to many, are increasing and with them their severity. At some point, real rudeness manifests itself, like speaking badly about a colleague to someone.

Underestimating the judgments of a colleague and ridiculing him in front of others are increasingly recurring episodes. The worst comes gradually and over time.

It is very common for aggressive behavior and even bullying to occur sooner or later. It starts with rudeness at work, moves on to rudeness and ends with increasingly less concealed manifestations of aggression.

Contagious behavior

If that weren't true, it would look like a horror movie. Research such as those carried out by psychologists Trevor Foulk, Andrew Woolum and Amir Erez of the University of Florida have shown something very serious.


Rudeness at work is contagious and imitated. Aggressive behavior is not only tolerated and if someone adopts it, others allow it and even adopt the same behavior.


These data show us something recurring in a lot of experimental research. We recall, for example, the experiment of the Bobo doll and infantile aggression. What has been recorded is that negative behavior is not only tolerated in the workplace, but is often learned, integrated and repeated.

There are those who are harassing because other colleagues are too. There are those who adopt this behavior in order not to be outdone and, obviously, there are those who do not exceed the limit, but tolerate and do not report.


Zero tolerance for rudeness at work

Rudeness at work cannot be normalized. Rudeness cannot be tolerated and bullying cannot and should not be allowed. As they say in the workplace, sometimes it is enough that there is only one "bad apple" to spoil the whole fruit basket.

There are always one, two or three people who initiate these negative and counterproductive behaviors. Disrespect, taunt and criticism slowly creep into the workplace creating an epidemic of misconduct.

We have to be clear on one aspect: everyone ends up losing out with this set of dynamics. The climate that is created is so negative that it affects all levels: psychological, social, productive, etc.

Organizational psychology proposes something very simple: detect infectious foci and remove them. Lack of civility is not admissible and managers, and those who work in human resources, must find strategies to identify the uncivil, the rude, the harasser.


We need managers who promote coexistence, respect, collaboration and gratitude. Only a team of men capable of working in harmony and respect can create happy scenarios to go forward (and far) all together. We must be united in the same project and respect, value, trust each other.

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