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How rude

Posted 07/02/2013 by sevans

Rudeness at work is on the increase – at least it was in 2011 when 800 managers and employees in 17 different industries were surveyed by US professors from Georgetown University and Thunderbird School of Management. Half of those surveyed said they were treated rudely at least once every week, up from just 25 in 1998. And the researchers showed that there is a tangible cost to this poor behaviour in terms of work quality, commitment, productivity and employee retention as well as possible impact on customers and clients (Harvard Business Review, 2013, January-February).

Of those on the receiving end of this rudeness, 48% said they intentionally decreased their work effort; 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work; 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work; 80% lost work time worrying about the incident; 63% lost work time avoiding the offender; 66% said their performance declined; 78% said their commitment to the organisation declined; 12% said they left their job because of the incivility; and 25% admitted taking their frustration out on customers.

And just the process of managing such incidents can be expensive – a study by Accountemps and reported in Fortune magazine found that manager and executives at Fortune 1000 firms spend 13% of their work time, equivalent to seven weeks/year – mending employee relationships and dealing with the aftermath of rudeness.

So there is a major impact on the bottom line, and this rudeness will have a major impact on what has come to be known as the ‘meaning quotient’ of the work that a team is doing and getting it right can inspire team members to perform at their peak. But what is this ‘meaning quotient’?

It is when people are ‘in the groove’ if they are musicians or as sportsmen might express it, ‘being in the zone’. It is about feeling that what one does really makes a difference to oneself or others. But as this suggests it can be elusive. It can involve inspirational story-telling that show how such differences can be made, but it could also be about allowing team members to get involved in creating their own sense of direction, or it can be as simple as small and unexpected gestures or rewards – just three examples that can provide motivation that does not have any connection to financial compensation.

A recent article in the McKinsey Quarterly, highlighted how effective storytelling and just plain cheerfulness can be effective, and the organisation given as the example was – the Royal Navy!

What was being highlighted was the importance of the ‘softer’ skills of leadership, which are vital for leading small teams in constrained quarters on ships that can be at sea for months at a time, but which the author Andrew St George believes are just as application to other organisations that rely on teamwork. No-one follows a pessimist gladly, but cheerfulness can overcome many obstacles, and one of the routes that appears in the Navy along with many other organisations is that peculiarly British form of playful, but gently mocking, form of communication that can breakdown formal hierarchy and regulate relationships, promoting inclusion.

Of course, banter that gets out of hand can bring us right back to the initial problem – rudeness. There is a fine line that cannot be crossed, but are we losing the ability to tread that line without stepping over it?

Neil Eisberg – Editor

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    15/10/2013 06:40

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    13/10/2013 01:37

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