The study, undertaken by management professor Chris Rosen at the University of Arkansas, found that experiencing rude behaviour in others increases mental fatigue, reducing employees’ self-control and prompting them to act in a similarly uncivil way as the day goes on.
These ‘incivility spirals’ as the report calls them, occur unintentionally and mainly in workplaces that the study describes as ‘political’, that is, where workers tend to do what is best for them and not what is best for the organisation.
“Basically, incivility begets incivility," said Rosen. “And our findings verify that these contagion effects occur within very short, even daily cycles.”
‘Incivil behaviour’ is defined as less serious than hostile behaviour such as bullying, harassment and threats. However, according to the study, uncivil behaviour is more common and can have a major effect on employees and productivity.
“It's probably costing companies a lot more money,” said Rosen. “Estimates are that workplace incivility has doubled over the past two decades and on average costs companies about US$14,000 per employee annually because of loss of production and work time.”
The study surveyed 70 employees, three times a day for 10 consecutive workdays. The workers answered questions and completed performance-based tasks.
In regards to countering politics in the workplace, the study recommended that managers provide clear feedback to employees regarding what kind of behaviour is desired. This can be done informally through day-to-day interactions, or formally through performance reviews.
Rude and ‘uncivil’ behaviour in the workplace has been found to have a contagious effect according to a new study from the United States.