A recent study found the effects of rudeness in the workplace, especially superior to subordinate, have immediate and long reaching impacts. Even “second-hand rudeness” – observing rude behaviour happening to others – significantly diminished performance. Cited by Human Resources Executive, the study found:

“Simply observing discourteous behaviour can erode the ability of fellow employees to think creatively, solve problems and act as team players. Victims of rudeness were negatively affected by the behaviour with severe effects on creativity and the ability to solve problems. Even if they just imagined rude behaviour, the results were the same and affected their memory.”

A Bnet report of a study on narcissistic, self-centered bosses is just as damning:

According to the researchers, employees working under self-centered bosses reportedly:
• Had lower levels of job satisfaction
• Saw their stress levels increase over the previous year
• Were less appreciative of their work and organisation
• Had lower levels of effort and performance
• Were more prone to sadness and frustration at work

What’s the solution? I think the co-author of the rudeness study, Amir Erez offers a start:

“HR leaders need to change the atmosphere in the organisation, and create the climate that this behaviour is just not acceptable. Managers may be concerned about long-term effects, but here we see that just one incident affects productivity.”

It’s more than “creating a climate” – it’s changing the culture into one where rude, selfish behaviour is not accepted and instead appreciation and recognition of effort is the norm. Creating these cultures of recognition must start at the top with the CEO setting the tone and the example for his/her direct reports to follow.

What’s the culture in your organisation? Is it given to rude and selfish behaviour? How high up does that tone rise? Or is it more appreciative? Do you see your CEO and senior executives demonstrating those desired attributes of a positive culture?