Duncan Andison/Shutterstock.com

Another reason to play nice with your co-workers.

It’s certainly annoying to interact with a rude co-worker. But even worse: That person’s behavior can make you ruder, too.

Uncivil behavior is contagious, a new study found. The report, in the Journal of Applied Psychology, claims that your jerky tone of voice or snappy retort can actually negatively impact your fellow desk jockeys long after you leave the office.

Researchers from the University of Florida asked study participants to engage in 11 simulated negotiation exercises with partners over a seven-week period. They found that a subject who perceived rudeness in one interaction was subsequently perceived as rude by his next partner. The effects lasted for up to a week.

Study co-author Trevor Foulk explained on Gizmodo:

What is so scary about this effect is that it’s an automatic process—it takes place in a part of your brain that you are not aware of, can’t stop, and can’t control.

So what if your mean co-workers are rubbing off on you? Previous studies suggest that witnessing rudeness is correlated with poorer performance on both creative and rote tasks. That means that witnessing—and internalizing—rude behavior could snag workplace productivity, in addition to making the perpetrator the least popular guy in the office.  

The long-term effects can be pretty dramatic. An article in Harvard Business Review summarized researchers’ findings after polling 800 managers and employees across 17 industries. Of those who reported bearing the brunt of rude behavior, 66 percent admitted that their work suffered, 80 percent lost work time fretting over the incident, and 12 percent left their company.

So do your best to avoid workplace jerks, or risk becoming one of them.

Top image: Duncan Andison / Shutterstock.com.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: Interstate 70 near Odessa, Mo.
    Transportation

    A Transportation Grant Program's Trump-Era Rebrand

    Under Trump, an Obama-era transportation grant program designed to fund innovative multi-modal projects became a rural highway-building machine.

  2. Life

    Tailored Place-Based Policies Are Key to Reducing Regional Inequality

    Economist Timothy Bartik details the need for place-based policy to combat regional inequality and help distressed places—strategies outlined in his new book.

  3. photo: Helsinki's national library
    Design

    How Helsinki Built ‘Book Heaven’

    Finland’s most ambitious library has a lofty mission, says Helsinki’s Tommi Laitio: It’s a kind of monument to the Nordic model of civic engagement.

  4. Three men wearing suits raise shovels full of dirt in front of an American flag.
    Equity

    How Cities and States Can Stop the Incentive Madness

    Economist Timothy Bartik explains why the public costs of tax incentives often outweigh the benefits, and describes a model business-incentive package.

  5. Equity

    Bernie Sanders and AOC Unveil a Green New Deal for Public Housing

    The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act would commit up to $180 billion over a decade to upgrading 1.2 million federally owned homes.

×