Workplace Rudeness Is As Contagious As Common Cold, Shows Study

17/07/2015 5:10 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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NEW YORK—Workplace rudeness, such as making a sly comment or excluding or ignoring a co-worker, may be as contagious as the common cold, a new study suggests.

Researchers likened everyday, low-level rudeness to the common cold, which is very easy to catch.

"Just a single incident, even observing a single incident, can cause you to be more rude," said the paper's lead author, Trevor Foulk, a doctoral student in management at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business Administration.

Experiencing rudeness makes it more noticeable in your mind and in the world around you, the study found.

"You see it one time and it changes something in your mind and this activation changes the way you interpret the world," Foulk told 'Today.com'.

"You'll interpret your interactions in the world as more rude and then respond to this perceived rudeness as rude. It doesn't just happen and end. It happens and spreads," he said.

For the research, Foulk and team conducted studies on University of Florida students.

In one study students were involved in a negotiation class. After each negotiating session, they completed online questionnaires that asked about partner rudeness.

The study found that students who rated their partner as rude in a negotiation were themselves rated as rude by their next negotiating partner. The rudeness effect was found to last a week.

"It's essentially saying rudeness is contagious," Foulk said.

The second study involved students who saw a neutral interaction between two people or a rude interaction. Afterward, they were shown strings of letters and had to identify which formed words and which were nonsense.

The students who saw the rude interaction found the words associated with rudeness within the letters faster than those who saw the neutral interaction.

The research was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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