Received any rude emails lately? Or maybe no answer to your message? Have you witnessed any heavy-handed snarkiness? If you suspected that rudeness was on the rise, you’re right, and the damage from rude behavior costs you probably more than you realize.
This was all news to me. Last week I had the good fortune to meet with John Smith, CTO and Chief Evangelist of Sparc, a local software company. Much to my surprise, our big conversation topic was Incivility, covered in a recent article in Havard Business Review. That exchange got me to check out Dr. Pier M. Forni, a professor of Italian literature at Johns Hopkins who is also the leading civility expert. Some of what’s out there on the topic is common sense, and then there are surprises.
What they call "incivility" at Harvard, we call "rudeness" down here. As in "how rude!!!" The factors driving up rudeness, or incivility, are the usual suspects: stress, negative emotions, being rushed, lack of community and narcissism.
The surprise is how far the ripple effects of rude behavior extend.
Some rudeness is due to ignorance. It took me a long time to get used to saying "good morning" and "good afternoon" when entering elevators when I lived in Caracas. Turns out not greeting people on an elevator, even though they’re perfect strangers, is considered highly rude behavior, a total lack of good manners. Who knew?
Samples of the most commonly occurring work-related rudeness include:
- Talking over people.
- Not answering emails or voice mails.
- Texting during a meeting.
- Answering the phone while meeting with someone face to face.
- Not introducing people.
- No salutation.
- Talking bad about people, aka gossip.
- Talking too loudly.
- Talking on your cell phone so loudly that it distracts everyone around you.
- Not cleaning up after yourself.
- Not starting a new pot of coffee, or replacing the paper towels when you use the last one.
- Consistently arriving late to meetings.
How does rudeness (or incivility if you prefer) raise the price of doing business? Let us count a few of the ways:
- Simply witnessing rude behavior leaves a highly negative feeling about the company which turns away customers, turns off employees.
- Employees who feel victimized by rude behavior may intentionally downgrade the quality of their work.
- Rudeness lowers feelings of self-esteem, which lowers engagement, performance and productivity.
- Rudeness begets more rudeness, creating a dangerous spiral of behaviors and attitudes.
- Rude behaviors interfere with work creating a need for recovery time for affected employees.
The best way to deal with rudeness is action before it happens. MUSC, like many hospitals, has an intentional civility policy in place, called AIDET that establishes a norm for the uncommon "common sense" process of introducing yourself to others.
At Sparc, they go far beyond mere civility at the workplace and have established a Hug Factor norm. It does not involve physical hugging, but rather creates the expectation that you want people to feel better after their encounter with you than they did before. How cool is that?
Communication training is a great way to raise the awareness about rudeness and setting the expectation for civility, connection and appreciation in all interactions, especially meetings and emails.
Do you ever encounter rudeness at work? We’d love for you to share by commenting below.