It has been said that a bad mood is contagious — and certainly more preferable than other contagious diseases, such as ringworm — but is it true?
Does a rude comment have a tangible effect on us in the same way as the Trichophyton fungi found in ringworm? (Sorry, that’s the last I’ll make mention of it).
A recent study discovered that just as we are more susceptible to physical infections when our immune systems are down, we are similarly more likely to be rude to others when our ability to regulate behaviours is running low.
The team at the University of Arkansas used ego depletion theory to ascertain whether someone who experiences rudeness at work, is more likely to then behave rudely themselves.
Cheeky little rude bacteria are creeping around workplaces like Tim in Accounts, who is somehow always first to arrive at a staff birthday cake unveiling.
Ego depletion theory essentially states that self-control is a finite resource.
If you reflect on your own experience at work or study, it makes sense: there is only so much we can expend emotionally and psychologically before we end up snapping.
So how can we do our best to reduce instances of rudeness, and prevent the dreaded spread of incivility?
Aside from the obvious (wear gloves if someone is being rude to you), we have compiled some easy tips for workplace etiquette.
Is now really the best time to ask your manager Fran about plans for the Christmas party, while she is working through lunch to make a conference call while simultaneously faxing reports to head office? Perhaps not. If a colleague seems frazzled and your concern can wait, or be directed elsewhere, perhaps practice some discretion and let it wait.
In the meantime, you could do some work (boring), waste time in the tearoom or figure out why your company still uses fax machines.
Let it go
Some people are just nasty and mean and callous and it is in their nature. Others, however, might be more prone to rudeness if something is going on in their life.