New York: Encountering rude behaviour from seniors at work can turn employees impolite in return, spreading rudeness like a virus, a study says.

Not just vitiating the atmosphere, rudeness in office has a negative effect on overall performance.

“When you experience rudeness, it makes rudeness more noticeable. You will see more rudeness even if it is not there,” said lead researcher Trevor Foulk, doctoral student in management at University of Florida.

The team tracked 90 graduate students practicing negotiation with classmates.

Those who rated their initial negotiation partner as rude were more likely to be rated as rude by a subsequent partner, showing that they passed along the first partner’s rudeness.

The effect continued even when a week elapsed between the first and second negotiations.

“We are generally tolerant of these behaviours but these are actually really harmful. Rudeness has an incredibly powerful negative effect on the workplace,” Foulk said.

Rudeness directed at others can also prime our brains to detect discourtesy.

Foulk and his co-authors tested how quickly 47 undergraduate students could identify which words in a list were real and which were nonsense words.

Before the exercise began, participants observed one of two staged interactions between an apologetic late-arriving participant and the study leader.

When the leader was rude to the latecomer, the participants identified rude words on the list as real words significantly faster than participants who had observed the neutral interaction, said the results published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The impact of second-hand rudeness did not stop there. Just like those who experience rudeness in the first place, people who witness it were more likely to be rude to others.

Foulk hopes the study will encourage employers to take incivility more seriously.

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