Rude behavior in the office is contagious

Rude behavior in the office is contagious

While it may be easy to brush off a hostile stranger or distance yourself from a disrespectful friend, some find it harder to escape someone’s unpleasant attitude in the workplace.

Dealing with rude co-workers on a regular basis not only creates a toxic environment, but their uncivil behavior can be contagious and spread through the office like a virus, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Researchers determined that people who are subjected to rude behavior are more likely to project that same negative attitude on others.

Over a seven-week period, researchers tracked 90 graduate students who engaged in negotiation exercises with several partners. Following each session, they were asked to complete a questionnaire that rated their partners’ rudeness. Students who rated their first negotiation partner as rude were far more likely to be rated as rude themselves by subsequent partners.

“Part of the problem is that we are generally tolerant of these behaviors, but they’re actually really harmful,” lead author Trevor Foulk said in a news release. “Rudeness has an incredibly powerful negative effect on the workplace.”

Researchers advised people make a conscious effort of their attitude and also communicate as clearly as possible so there is never any ambiguity when communicating with colleagues.

“Self-awareness is important when working with a hostile coworker,” says Dr. Sudhir Gokhale, psychiatrist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “If you feel frustrated after an impolite interaction, take a few minutes to yourself to take deep breaths and regroup yourself before meeting with others.”

Dr. Gokhale also recommends people build a support system with colleagues they work well with. Establishing healthy work relationships helps people feel supported by colleagues and gives them greater satisfaction in their job.

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About the Author

Julie Nakis
Julie Nakis

Julie Nakis, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. She earned her BA in communications from the University of Iowa – Go Hawkeyes! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring the city and cheering on the Chicago Cubs and Blackhawks.