The cost of bad manners that are not highlighted

 In Mindset

For this week’s post, I’ve invited Rosemary Gillespie of Proof Communications to be a guest blogger.


A friend of mine once worked for a company where constant rudeness made the atmosphere so toxic, preferred office wear was a HazMat suit. When we experience rudeness in a restaurant or shop, we can make our feelings known or vote with our feet. But what happens when we’re on the receiving end of continued bad manners at work?

Rude Polite Signpost Means Good Bad Manners

All of us are guilty of exhibiting a flash of bad manners every now and again; we’re human after all.

A particularly terse response or talking over a colleague in the heat of the moment can generally be forgiven and a simple ‘sorry’ does wonders to restore workplace equilibrium. However, when a display of bad manners is prolonged and unrelenting, it can negatively affect productivity.

Dr Barbara Griffin, organisational psychologist at the University of Western Sydney, conducted a study recently which found that as many as one in five people were experiencing bad manners as often as once a month. Her research was thorough.

More than 54000 employees across 179 organisations in Australia and New Zealand took part, and her findings have serious implications for businesses.

Undermining colleagues, constantly interrupting, making snide comments, never being on time, a complete absence of ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ – all are typical examples of poor behaviour towards others. Behaviour not necessarily directed at any one person in particular can also be a problem.  Think about the co-worker who always withholds information or the woman who makes derogatory remarks during every meeting.

But is this all so bad? Yes, it is, maintains Dr Griffin, because when bad manners are consistently displayed and no effort is made to stop habitual offenders, the knock-on effects are highly corrosive. There is less employee engagement and far less employee commitment, with the option to resign becoming a very real choice for those constantly having to put up with poor behaviour.

It’s also important not to confuse bad manners with bullying, according to Dr Griffin. Bullying is easier to identify as it’s generally targeted at one individual. Pinpointing bad manners, on the other hand, can be like trying to nail jelly to the ceiling. It can be subtle and diffuse and if objected to, victims are often told to simply ‘get over it’. But the fact remains, she continues, is that even the occasional rude comment is enough to lower employee engagement and isn’t easily forgotten.

Senior management needs to “create an atmosphere where people feel they are being treated fairly,” says Dr Griffin. “Having procedures in place to manage rude behaviour and ensuring these policies are clear to all employees is also vital.”

The modelling of good behaviour by those in charge is what we should expect, but quite often is not what we get. Employees in management positions can be just as guilty of exhibiting bad manners but will often get away with it because those lower down the ranks feel too intimidated to speak up.

by Rosemary Gillespie

Proof Communications



ph: (02) 9314 7506

Check out his prior post on the worth of small wins

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