A study of about 20,000 employees shows that being treated with respect by their leaders matters to employees. In fact, this simple behaviour beats other needs like recognition, feedback, and even learning opportunities!

Yet, we see regular instances of incivility at our workplaces. So much so that passing a snide remark, cutting the queue, or being mean to a colleague over a project, is almost commonplace. We brush them aside as minor flaws. Irritating behaviours; not catastrophic mistakes.

The news is: these seemingly small instances of rudeness carry a big price tag, with a tangible impact on the company’s bottom line.

#1: Rudeness hampers productivity. Employees who experience incivility and rudeness are mentally fatigued. They often struggle to understand why someone was rude to them. Or feel annoyed and angry. And a distracted mind can’t give its best. Studies assess that such incivility costs companies $14,000 per employee due to lost productivity and work time.

There’s additional pressure on managers who take on damage control, dealing with the aftermath of rudeness and mending employee relationships. That’s valuable time removed from project work.

#2: It impairs creativity. Research shows, participants’ performance on creative tasks dropped when they were exposed to uncivil behaviour. Merely imagining such behaviour too had a similar result. Researchers explain that creative thinking needs mental agility, where we compare old information with new inputs stored in our working memory. Rudeness interferes with the working memory and impairs attention. That’s dormant ideas, lost opportunities, and blunted competitive edge in a world that thrives on innovation.

#3: It affects employees’ health and adds to attrition. Employees experiencing rudeness feel embarrassed and also insecure about their jobs. In some cases, it could take a toll on people’s health, with symptoms such as headaches and sleeplessness. That’s reason enough to quit work. And statistics prove it: in a survey, 1 in 10 participants said they quit their work because of uncivil behaviour.

Rude behaviour that’s not nipped in the bud could eventually lead to a toxic environment that eats into the organization’s reputation. A culture of respect, in contrast, fosters creativity, a sense of being valued, and more commitment from people. It’s what our brains require to bring out their best.

As a manager, team leader, or supervisor, communicate with honesty, listen with an open mind, and more than anything else, check rude behaviour as soon as it occurs. It’ll make a world of difference to your people.

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