Rudeness In The Workplace

I’ve been truly fortunate most of my career to have worked with extraordinary people that embrace the importance of common courtesy. And along the path, I’ve had fun. But now that I’ve been analyzing other companies for a while, I’m realizing that common courtesy, in and of itself, is increasingly uncommon. Not everyone works in an environment where everyone respects each other. Where no one cuts you off, ignores what you contribute at meetings, or puts you down for any reason.

Any way you slice it, rude and discourteous people, unfortunately, are everywhere. And studies say uncivil behavior at work is on the rise. In fact, according to a Georgetown University 2016 working paper, the share of people who report being treated rudely by coworkers at least once a month has risen by 13 percent since 1998.

Notwithstanding my opening statement, we’ve all been there—a coworker’s bad behavior leaves your blood boiling. Maybe it’s petty—for instance, ignoring an email or interrupting a conversation—but it all takes a toll. If you complain, you hear things like, “He’s been here forever,” and “She’s really a hard worker.”

Some argue politics and reality TV are to blame, where people yelling at each other are common. Whatever the reason, most people eventually give up. They show up at work, pretend everything is fine, do their job and go home. After all, it pays the bills.

But we all know that unhappy people ultimately put in less effort and work fewer hours. What’s more, they often take out their frustrations on other employees, as well as clients or customers. 

What’s even more alarming is that all of this is affecting not only your health but possibly also your spouse’s health.

A new study by a team of Portland State University and University of Illinois researchers says that if a coworker is rude or disrespectful, and if you take it home with you, it can negatively affect both your sleep and your spouse’s sleep. And lack of sleep can lead to serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

The study, published this month in the journal Occupational Health Science, involved 305 couples in a range of jobs. Each couple worked an average of 20 hours a week. 

All participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about the workplace incivility they’d faced over the past month and the insomnia symptoms they’d experienced. The researchers then crosschecked each participant’s response against that of their partner. 

The team found that when one spouse is unhappy because of deviant workplace behavior that frustration can lead to difficulty falling or staying asleep. But perhaps most troubling the researchers found that bringing home a broken spirit because of workplace rudeness can also affect your partner’s sleep—but only if you work in the same company or occupation.

That’s because work-linked couples compared to non work-linked couples have more work-related conversations outside of work. So they are more supportive about each other’s work problems. 

But at what cost? The researchers claim that providing support comes at a cost for the support-provider in terms of sleepless nights. 

That said, not talking about work or not supporting your spouse is not the solution, the study says. The researchers suggest that both partners talk about their working life, vent about it, and discuss it. The secret to a good night’s rest, they say, is to make a conscious attempt to unwind together and create good conditions for sleep.

What instances of rudeness have you experienced on the job—and how did you respond?


  • Born in Brooklyn and raised in the Carolinas | runner | bogey golfer on a good day | beagle dad | lover of all things Italian | coffee snob