Rude behaviour at work can encompass many behaviours, from ignoring a colleague, to making disparaging comments, to interrupting someone during a meeting. These behaviours may seem quite mild, but the effects can be far reaching and have been linked to: employee burnout, increased stress, increased quitting intention, decreased motivation and feelings of isolation and anxiety. It’s important to understand more about rude behaviours, the factors that influence behaviours and how best people can cope with rudeness in the workplace. This knowledge can then be used to reduce the impact of rudeness and help support the victims of rudeness.
The APHF team have conducted rudeness research across three main contexts thus far – academia, mental health and veterinary practice. The key focus of this research is to understand how people experience rudeness, how they respond and cope with this behaviour, and the factors influencing the experience. Some key findings include:
- Perception of rudeness can vary across contexts – in our study examining perception of rudeness in academia the same rude behaviour (e.g. scrolling on mobile phone) was seen as more rude in a small group tutorial session than a large-scale lecture theatre.
- Attitudes towards rudeness can be influenced by perceived causes – in our study examining rudeness in mental health settings rudeness was considered to develop due to factors such as family issues, stress and mental illness, and as such was accepted as part of relationship development / counselling and not harmful. Similarly in our study with veterinarians, they were more likely to ignore rudeness that they viewed as resulting from emotional upset or stress, than rudeness they felt was due to an individual’s general character.
- Most of the participants across all of our studies acknowledged that rudeness could have an adverse impact, both at a personal level and on work performance. Frequently mentioned coping mechanisms included talking to colleagues, mindfulness to manage stress and trying to understand, and solve, any underlying issues with the person engaging in the behaviour. Our interviews with veterinarians highlighted the importance of a supportive practice environment – suggesting attitudes towards rudeness can filter down from the top.
Read more about the various studies conducted thus far below: