HR Strange But True!
February 23, 2006

On your way to the lunchroom, you greet a colleague with a hearty "hello," but he walks right past you, looking straight ahead. You arrive at the coffee maker only to find the pot empty. Heading back to your desk, you stop at the copier and find that someone has left it with a paper jam.

Welcome to the world of workplace incivility.

"People have jumped on this," said Lori Francis, an assistant professor in the psychology department at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. "There's something that's really ringing true to people... the idea of rudeness at work."

Francis is one of five St. Mary's researchers studying workplace incivility and how people react to it, the Halifax Chronicle Herald reports.

In the first of what they hope becomes a series of studies, the St. Mary's team is researching whether, when people encounter rudeness in the office, they remain polite, respond with an equal amount of rudeness, or escalate the situation by reacting with even greater incivility.

Such rudeness can have profound effects on employees.

"It can lead them to feeling stressed, have an impact on how satisfied they are with the work, and impact their relationships with co-workers," Francis told the Chronicle Herald.

The premise of the study is not original, but Francis said that the methodology of simulating workplace experiences is so novel that she doesn't want to disclose details until the study is complete. She said she eventually would like to take the research out into the corporate world.

Francis told the Chronicle Herald that she has heard all kinds of stories from people who think they've been treated rudely at work. Her team also is investigating whether what's considered rude behavior differs not only from person to person, but from job to job.

Perceived rudeness is not always intended that way. The colleague who ignored you may have been lost in thought or recently received bad news. The person who left the paper jam may have been late for a meeting with the boss, and intended to come back and fix it later.

"I think sometimes we don't realize (that) what we're doing, other people are interpreting as rude," Francis said. "We might be more forgiving of our own behavior than we are of others."

Source: The

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