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Ever notice that when a boss bullies one employee, the employees also start bullying each other? This might be because bad behaviour in the workplace is contagious.
According to a study by the University of Florida, when people encounter rude behaviour at work, they are more likely to perceive rudeness in subsequent interactions.
This increases the likelihood of them being rude in return.
“When you experience rudeness, it makes rudeness more noticeable,” said lead author Trevor Foulk, a doctoral student in management at UF’s Warrington College of Business Administration. “You’ll see more rudeness even if it’s not there.”
Tracking negotiation of 90 graduate students with their classmates, the researchers found that those who rated their first negotiation partner as rude were more likely to be rated the same by their next partner.
This shows that they have unknowingly passed along their first partner’s rudeness. The same effect is seen even when the first and second negotiations happen a week apart.
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The study also found that just like how those who experienced rudeness were more likely to be rude to others, the people who witnessed rudeness were also more likely to pass it on.
The study found that after watching a video of a rude workplace interaction, participants answered a neutral-toned fictitious customer email with more hostility than those who viewed a polite interaction before responding.
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“That tells us that rudeness will flavor the way you interpret ambiguous cues,” Foulk commented.
“You might go your whole career and not experience abuse or aggression in the workplace, but rudeness also has a negative effect on performance. It isn’t something you can just turn your back on. It matters.”