Rude Coworkers Hurt Other Employees and Their Spouses

Office stress follows you home and goes to work with your spouse

Paperwork isn’t the only thing you’re bringing home from the office these days. Turns out, you’re taking your coworkers’ brutal behavior with you, too.

If you feel like your colleagues could use a crash course in manners, you’re not alone. A recent survey from Indiana Wesleyan University and Florida International University shows that the workplace is becoming an increasingly hostile environment. If that’s not bad enough, another new study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior shows that on-the-job rudeness has far-reaching consequences. Workplace rudeness can cause such extreme stress that it impacts the well-being not just of workers, but their entire families, too. Employees “bring home the stress, negative emotion and perceived ostracism that results from those experiences, which then affects more than their family life -- it also creates problems for the partner's life at work," explains the study’s author, Merideth J. Ferguson, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business.

You know how it goes: your boss snaps at you because she’s having a bad day. On your way back to your cubicle, your over-sharing coworker pounces on you to regale her latest bunion saga. Still steaming, you tell her get her orthopedic-clad feet out of your way, and find someone who gives a bleep. You mutter your way through the rest of the day and then drive home with a serious case of road rage. When you see your husband’s dirty socks on the living room floor, you lose it and release every last bit of fury on him. You both head off to separate corners of the house to sulk in private.

What you probably didn’t realize is that your husband absorbs your ungracious behavior and unleashes it on his coworkers, until every person in America is practically seething over their preposterously rude office mates. Think of it less as the ripple effect and more like a tsunami.

“These findings emphasize the notion that organizations must realize the far-reaching effects of co-worker incivility and its impact on employees and their families," says Ferguson.

So what can you do to break the cycle? Refuse to engage and kill them with kindness instead.

As a work-from-home freelancer, I don’t have to deal with too much negativity from colleagues. But recently I did receive edits to an article that, far from being constructive -- they were just plain mean. With comments like, “This is ridiculous! I don’t understand this article at all,” I wasn’t sure why it was being sent back to me instead of into the trashcan. After stewing for a day, I decided -- against every non-confrontational bone in my body -- to call her out on her behavior. I pointed out that the comments were unnecessarily rude and unprofessional, and not particularly helpful. Turns out, they had been written by another editor. Still, she apologized for her colleague, who she described as a bull in a china closet. The article, ironically enough, was about how to win people over. I couldn’t help but point out to my editor that this woman should probably follow the “ridiculous” advice in my article. But then again, who needs to charm when you can bully instead?

All I can say is, I’m glad I don’t work with that editor -- and I feel bad for the family members of those who do. Course, given how interconnected we all are, she probably impacts my life, too.

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