Rudeness Is Just As Contagious As The Flu, Says Study

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Keep that ish to yourselves.

There's always one person who insists on coming into work when they're as sick as dog. They try to appear noble and act as if they'd be letting everyone down if they called in sick. Since no one else wants to get whatever horrible sickness they have, they're usually sent home.

If only people who were rude and acted badly were sent home, because apparently, rudeness is just as contagious as the flu. A new study from the University of Florida says that encountering rude behavior at work makes people more likely to perceive rudeness in later interactions.

"When you experience rudeness, it makes rudeness more noticeable," said lead author Trevor Foulk. "Rudeness has an incredibly powerful negative effect on the workplace."

Co-workers who have been the object of rude behavior have a tendency to feel like others are treating them in a negative way, which makes them respond with more rudeness. And the rudeness gets passed on like germs on unwashed hands.

The study investigated the contagion effect of rudeness and the cognitive mechanism that explains this effect. 

The researchers followed 90 graduate students practicing negotiation with other students. Those who rated their initial negotiation partner as rude were more likely to be rated as rude by their subsequent partner, demonstrating that they passed along the first partner's rudeness. The effect continued, even when there was a week between negotiations.

In another study published in the Academy of Management Journal, researchers found that different forms of workplace rudeness — such as from an authority figure, a third party or even imagined rudeness — reduced performance on routine and creative tasks and decreased over all helpfulness. 

Rudeness isn't something you should let fester and get worse; you've got to treat it so it goes away and nobody else gets infected. Just like germs, keep your rudeness to yourself, people.


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