Study Shows Being Rude To Workers Causes 50% More Errors — Even In Jobs Like Healthcare

Kindness always counts, even when it feels hard to access.

couple talking to counselor Antonti Shkraba / Pexels

Anyone who’s been through kindergarten has heard of the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated.

More often than not, it can feel challenging to lead with kindness, especially in high-stress situations. Yet research shows that being kind can be essential to getting your needs met in almost every professional arena.

A study revealed that being rude to workers causes 50% more errors, even in places like hospitals.

Grace McCarrick is a culture coach who’s re-envisioning what work looks like in a corporate setting. She referenced research from the book “Social Chemistry” by Marissa King, specifically citing a study done in the NICU ward of hospitals.


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“These researchers went in and did this study where they examined whether rudeness, politeness, or neutrality had an effect on the work being done,” McCarrick explained.

According to the study, being rude to employees can lead to major mistakes on the job.

“There’s a common sense factor to this, but numbers-wise, what they found was when the researcher, who was pretending to be someone, came in and was rude to the nurses, rude to the staff, rude to the doctors” there was a “50% variance in diagnosis, 43% variance in treatments,” McCarrick said.

She noted that in a hospital, “You want there to be very little variance” in both diagnoses and treatments.


“I can imagine any of you who are in an environment where someone is very rude to you at work; this makes sense to you,” she continued.

nurse standing outside hospital Laura James / Pexels

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Various healthcare workers spoke up in the comments section, explaining how important kindness is to getting consistent results in the work they do.


One person shared that in one high-stress situation with someone acting aggressively, “the more frazzled I got, and more mistakes were made because I was so anxious.”

Another person echoed that experience, saying, “My med error was while [the] family was screaming at me for something completely unrelated to care at the start of my shift. It’s a huge distraction.”

“I experienced this doing tech support,” said someone else. “Why would you yell at someone helping you with a complex issue you can’t solve yourself?”

barista Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels


A service industry worker shared, “Being kind goes a long way,” noting, "If you order with genuine kindness, we will go above and beyond every time, even odd requests!”

It seems like common sense: The nicer you are to a worker, the better results you’ll get.

Yet sometimes, being in a high-anxiety situation leads people to lash out, which not only hurts the employee they’re interacting with but lowers the likelihood that they’ll get what they want out of the interaction.

Marissa King, the author of the book McCarrick discussed, is a professor of Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management.

Her work maintains that how we conduct our relationships, both personal and professional, has a huge impact on the quality of our lives.


She believes that building meaningful social networks is the crux of finding professional success and personal fulfillment.

Being nice might not always come easily, yet as this research shows, it's in our best interest to stay calm and speak with kindness when we’re working through an issue.

If we feel that edge creeping into our tone or feel like we’re ready to absolutely lose it, taking deep breaths and doing grounding exercises is a great way to recenter.


It’s always important to remember that the person on the other end of the phone is, indeed, a person, just like you, who deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, even in frustrating situations.  

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.