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  • Tamar Balkin

How Do We Reduce Rudeness At Work?

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

“We're not gonna take it

Oh no, we ain't gonna take it

We're not gonna take it anymore"

We're Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister (click here for the song)

“It wasn’t the sentiment, I can handle the truth,

it was the tone and the language. I never expected someone in the senior executive of a listed company to swear and be so unkind.”


When I hear examples of rudeness in large national organisations, I always feel a sense of disappointment. With all the talk of wellbeing, inclusion I am perplexed as to why people don’t have manners. Last year I blogged in general about manners (click here for my blog) and thus today I decided to focus on the research into workplace rudeness. Researchers found that when rudeness has become embedded within the social fabric of the workplace, it can be both contagious and contaminating. Witnessing rudeness at the beginning of the work day can lead people to perceive more workplace rudeness throughout their day. In addition employees who experience rudeness at work will (a) perform worse on important intensive work activities, and (b) withdraw psychologically and socially from others at work.

What causes workplace rudeness?

Regular readers would be aware that the ‘dark side of personality’ emerges when people are tired stressed or bored.

What are the delicate situations to be wary of?

  • Periods of high pressure and stress where there is a tendency to ‘let your guard down’ an allow the the dark side of personality to emerge. (click here for my blog on the “Dark side of personality”).

  • Decision making. By its very nature decision making in organisations is fraught. Given the volume and magnitude of decisions a leader makes daily, it is inevitable that even the kindest most rational of leaders will inevitably not be able to please everyone (click here for my blog on decision making). It is also valuable to be mindful of the fact that adjustment and life satisfaction is much higher when you are pulled rather than pushed into a decision. Unfortunately, the nature of life especially in the last 12 months has been characterised by decisions being ‘pushed’ on us.

  • Requests for support from employees. When an employee asks for support it is an effective technique of improving their productivity, job satisfaction and wellbeing. When these requests go unanswered, it will negatively impact how they feel, behave, and connect with others, especially their boss. In addition, this impact will be exacerbated if they perceive differential treatment of employees.

  • Ignorance of Bad habits: Many of my most well-meaning clients were not only unaware that they behaviour was viewed as rude but it had become a habit they did not know how to undo.


“The escape from problem blindness begins when with the shock of awareness that you’ve come to treat the abnormal as normal”

Dan Heath


What skills should leaders practice?

  • Self-Awareness (Click here for my blog on Self-awareness )

  • Emotional Intelligence (Click here for my blog on emotional intelligence)

  • Emotional Regulation (Click here for my blog on feelings and here for my blogs on emotional regulation)

Regular readers would be aware that whilst this list looks short and simple, each element is extremely complicated.


What about wellbeing, can YOU “handle the truth”?

Click here for the famous "you cant handle the truth" scene with Jack Nicholson from the movie A Few Good Men.

Regular readers know that wellbeing can be imagined as a “see-saw” with a balance point between an individual’s inner resource pool and the challenges faced. Stable wellbeing is when individuals have the psychological, social and physical resources they need to meet all the challenges they face. When individuals have more challenges than resources, the see-saw dips, along with their wellbeing, in addition people are motivated to acquire resources and prevent resource loss. Many colleagues, and clients will sheepishly tell me that ‘just for the moment’ they are working long hours, don’t have time for a lunch break know that they aren’t really looking after their wellbeing. They always have a multiple of explanations: they are a team member down; there’s a big project on, or whatever. It is clear that by raising their discomfort with me they are mindful that they need to face the truth. Ideally everyone should regularly sit down and objectively review their demands and resources and make the brave call to not only increase resources but to reduce demands.


“By kindness I mean compassion, tolerance, respect, sensitivity towards other people. And the radical version is absolutely non-discriminatory; the revolution is when you are kind not just to your nice neighbour, but to the ones you don’t know or don’t like much.”

Hugh Mackay


Finally, thank you to the reader who told me that when they are really angry and frustrated, they go for a walk and listen to heavy metal music, you inspired the song this week.


References: Dodge, R., Daly, A., Huyton, J., & Sanders, L. (2012). The challenge of defining wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(3), 222-235.

Eurich, Dr T. (2017) Insight: The Power of Self-Awareness in a Self-Deluded World. McIlroy, T. D., Parker, S. L., & McKimmie, B. M. (2021). The effects of unanswered supervisor support on employees’ well-being, performance, and relational outcomes. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 26(1), 49–68 Woolum, A., Foulk, T., Lanaj, K., & Erez, A. (2017). Rude color glasses: The contaminating effects of witnessed morning rudeness on perceptions and behaviors throughout the workday. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(12), 1658–1672. Kenneth S. Shultz, Kelly R. Morton, Joelle R. Weckerle, (1998) The Influence of Push and Pull Factors on Voluntary and Involuntary Early Retirees' Retirement Decision and Adjustment, Journal of Vocational Behavior, 53,(1) 45-57,

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