Ever been in a discussion at your workplace which is going fine until one colleague completely hijacks it? Or ever had a co-worker make snide remarks about your appearance, only to term it as a ‘joke’ when you confronted them? Rude behavior in the workplace may seem all too common, but it has a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of employees and in certain situations, can even be life-threatening!

A study shows that the performance of doctors and medical professionals exposed to rudeness deteriorated compared to those doctors who had not been exposed to incivility. Similarly, customer service representatives who experience rudeness may not only suffer while interacting with that customer but also suffer long into the future.

Popular sentiment suggests that people should simply “toughen up” and “get over” rude behavior, but increasing research shows that the effects of workplace rudeness are far larger than we currently understand.

In the words of Socrates, “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” It is tough to define an ambiguous concept like rudeness but in general, an incomplete list of rude behavior includes passing personal comments, a lack of punctuality, not giving credit to people for their work, interrupting them in mid-sentence, and so on. Seemingly small things like these can build up like the proverbial last straws on the camel’s back and lead to an inhospitable work environment and sometimes even explode into something more serious like a key employee resigning in a huff.

But before casting the first stone, we need to realize that we could be equally guilty of such behaviour. Haven’t there been occasions when we have all consciously or sub-consciously behaved rudely at work? Therefore, it’s essential to understand how we can avoid such behaviour ourselves as well as adopt mechanisms to maturely handle rudeness.

It might sound trite, but a little kindness does go a long way.

  1. Listen! Listen to respond not to reply. Try and remember that in most situations everyone is trying to reach the same goal, only their paths may be different. It benefits the organization as well as your professional goals, when you allow others to state approaches to achieving such goals in ways different from your own.
  2. Get to know the real person. Although it’s a challenge to maintain a healthy balance between one’s professional and personal life, building an equation beyond work with colleagues helps in getting to know them better. Then, it’s easier to have an honest and polite chat when things go wrong, and keep tempers in check.
  3. Show appreciation. It could be through formal rewards and recognition programs, spontaneous gifts, or just a pat on the back and a kind word. Being liberal with positive feedback and showing gratitude when colleagues go beyond their normal duties, goes a long way in maintaining strong work relationships. You don’t have to be critical all the time. After all you’re not a reality show judge!

The best advice of all is also one of the oldest and it comes to us from the Sermon on the Mount – “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” That is pretty much all it takes.

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