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"It's time to stop." Why you should be adopting 'positive rudeness' at work.

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Sorry, I shouldn’t use so many exclamation points. Wait sorry, I shouldn’t be apologising

Ah. The perils of punctuation and politeness.   

Women are often told to remove the exclamation point, delete the “just” from our vocabulary and stop saying “no worries if not”. Whilst some argue it’s an act of courtesy, others say this feminine form of friendliness is a product of sexism. 

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One woman who knows about this all too well is UK-based author Rebecca Reid, whose recent book The Power of Rude argues that women in the workplace need to adopt ‘positive rudeness’. 

Reid is a journalist who in 2018 made headlines thanks to a run-in on Good Morning Britain, while seated next to Piers Morgan. When Reid was interrupted by a fellow panellist, she asked him to ‘shush’. A social media storm ensued, with hundreds of people labelling her as ‘rude’. But Reid doesn’t see being ‘rude’ as a weakness. Rather, it is a strength that more women should embrace, she says, just like their male counterparts. 

“Very often we as women mitigate our behaviour in an attempt to avoid being regarded as aggressive, bossy or controlling,” she tells Mamamia. “Positive rudeness is about freeing yourself from that fear and embracing the idea that someone might think you're rude. It allows you to focus on what you want or need, rather than worrying about someone else's opinion of you.”

Studies show that this pressure for women to be more polite in their mannerisms is not just an innate urge, but a societal expectation.  

“Unfortunately we know from lots of research that women are punished for the same workplace behaviours for which men are rewarded,” Reid explains. 

“Men who ask for pay rises, for instance, are regarded as ambitious whereas women are often regarded as ungrateful. We also expect women to pretend that they don't have children, whereas we know that men tend to earn more money and be promoted after becoming fathers.”

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Reid says adopting ‘positive rudeness’ will stop you from wasting energy on prioritising being ‘nice’ over other personal qualities. 

“For a very long time women have suppressed their natural frustrations in order to keep a veneer of niceness, which has only resulted in frustration. It's time for that to stop.”

Reid clarifies that ‘nice’ is a complicated word.

“I'm pro being generous, kind, loving and all those things, but these qualities should come from an active choice,” she explains. “Being kind is allowing someone to go ahead of you in a queue because they seem stressed and busy. Being afraid of being rude means allowing them to do it because you're too scared to say anything.”

“Kindness should be an active choice, not an act of omission.”

She goes on to say that a lack of assertiveness can have real consequences.

“As humans we value strong people, and while being nice isn't actually the same as being weak, we often regard it as such. Unfortunately, no-one is going to choose to promote you or pay you more unless you can make a case for it, so traditional workplaces favour people who advocate for themselves. Fortunately, it's perfectly possible to learn how to do that.”

The first (small) step is the demise of exclamation points. 

“If your email contains a reasonable request framed in reasonable language, you don't need to compensate with your grammar,” Reid explains. 

“I will often catch myself sending an invoice which reads 'I've just popped an invoice below! Thanks so much!' The words 'just' and 'popped' are completely pointless and they make me sound weak and flimsy. When we write like that we undermine ourselves.”

There are many other ways to do this too. 

Reid says more women need to talk about their achievements, especially if working from home and your boss isn’t always seeing your wins. 

“Men are generally much better at reporting on their own success. Women need to do the same,” Reid explains. “This might be sending a weekly email with a list of everything you've knocked out of the park, or putting a call on the books to run through various topics including your wins. 

“If this feels impossible for you, consider finding a brag buddy. You can talk her up and make sure your whole team knows what she's succeeded in doing, and she can do the same for you.”

To be "more rude" is unconventional advice. But it could just revolutionise how women are perceived in the workplace. Sorry, I'll stop saying 'just' now. I'll also stop apologising. Argh!

You can purchase Rebecca Reid's 'The Power of Rude' book here.

Feature image: Getty. 


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