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Kathy Marshack News

Are You Working with Toxic People? The Science Behind Rude Behavior

Monday, June 29, 2015


rude behavior can harm you “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Like myself, you may have grown up with that nursery rhyme and later found out it’s not true. Words can really hurt. Especially when they’re said intentionally to strike our vulnerabilities or when we’re constantly barraged with subtle digs all day long.

It would be nice if we could just let every rude remark and unkind action roll off of us. Yet that’s not how we generally react. More often than not, people immediately withdraw into themselves, feeling hurt and rejected. Then they replay, rehash and relive the experience for the rest of the day, if not longer.

As people become more and more rude and intolerant, it begs us to consider: How are rudeness, incivility and bad manners affecting your long-term health and the health of your business?

Recently I read an excellent New York Times article on how rudeness is becoming an increasingly destructive influence in the workplace and in the health of the victims. Yes, I said victims. Rudeness and bad manners are forms of bullying and emotional attacks on another person’s sense of wellbeing.

For 20 years, Christine Porath an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business has been studying this subject. She’s compiled a number of studies that illustrate the damage rudeness causes. A few of her findings include:

Experiencing or just seeing uncivil incidents elevate levels of hormones called glucocorticoids potentially leading to health problems such as obesity and heart disease.

Rudeness stifles creativity and innovation, because people are afraid to stick their necks out for fear of becoming the next target.

It reduces the ability to concentrate and see solutions that are right in front of you.

It hampers efficiency because people are always on the alert to avoid the rude person.

It damages customer relations, because if treated badly (or if they see someone treated badly) people take their business elsewhere.

Court cases have been lost solely because the jury is appalled by a lawyer’s rudeness. Shockingly, one study showed that patients have died in hospitals where the medical staff was demoralized by the attending doctor, which resulted in fatal errors.

There are things we can do to improve our situation. Are you in a position of leadership and want to create better work environment at your business? Or are you receiving this type of demoralizing behavior and want it to stop? Many have found that consulting with a trained therapist and business coach has helped them find positive solutions. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.



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