culture club

Rudeness Rising with Remote Work

Miss-ing Manners

Few culture killers are as powerful as workplace incivility, and a new study indicates that rudeness is on the rise—particularly in remote workplaces. Nearly 60% of professionals surveyed by consulting firm Korn Ferry in November 2021 reported that co-workers have become ruder to each other since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and 70% said that working remotely has made it easier for co-workers to get away with uncivil behavior such as not returning e-mails and cutting off colleagues on calls. 

Uh, rude

Workplace incivility had been on the rise even before the pandemic. According to research by Georgetown University business professor Christine Porath, nearly half (49%) of workers surveyed in 1998 said they were treated rudely at least once a month. That percentage rose to 62% in 2016. The reliance on digital communications brought on by the pandemic will likely push that percentage higher. A couple clicks through social media are all that’s required to see that incivility can thrive when people are communicating virtually instead of face-to-face. Plus, without the benefit of body language and tone, digital communications are more apt to cause misunderstandings.


Small slights can have big impacts on productivity and culture—and they could drive staff out the door. More than three-quarters (78%) of workers surveyed by Korn Ferry said it was difficult to focus on work after rude encounters, while 75% have considered quitting due to discourteous co-workers or bosses.

Get civilized

Not only is rudeness more difficult to monitor in a remote work environment, but those experiencing disrespectful behaviors are physically separated from officemates who may have offered emotional support in the past. That means managers must make extra efforts to check in regularly with team members. Hold discourteous employees accountable and provide coaching, if necessary, while demonstrating empathy and extending support to those on the receiving end. Head off issues by setting clear rules for remote interactions such as not speaking over one another in meetings and be vigilant for signs of staff burnout, which can contribute to uncivil behavior.

the next you

Pandemic Risks “Lost Generation” of Leaders

In too deep

The coronavirus pandemic has made the chronic challenge of leadership development even more of a struggle. With the C-suite consumed with navigating their firms through unprecedented upheaval, owners cashing out at a record rate, and the Great Resignation roiling staffing levels, many newly minted leaders have been thrown into the deep end without adequate training and support over the past two years. 

Delayed development

According to a May 2021 study by global consulting firm Development Dimensions International (DDI), a lack of sufficient training during the pandemic has created a significant risk of a “lost generation of leaders.” The study found that the percentage of leaders who received skills training plunged from 61% in 2019 to 48% in 2020, while the share of leaders who underwent formal assessments dropped from 55% to 45% and the percentage who received 360-degree feedback fell from 51% to 42% in the same time period.

Critical condition

A lack of adequate training during the first three months of newly minted leaders’ tenures can have a long-lingering, detrimental impact on their future confidence levels and performances. According to the DDI survey, more than one-third of leaders described their transitions as “overwhelming or very stressful.” Of those leaders who experienced stressful transitions, 37% felt spent at the end of their workdays compared to only 11% who reported low-stress transitions. While 45% of leaders with stressful transitions rated themselves as average or below-average leaders, only 16% of those with low-stress transitions evaluated themselves similarly. 

Back to the future

The study highlights the need for firms to double back with leaders installed during the pandemic to ensure they have received high-quality assessments that identify individual strengths and weaknesses. Firms can use the results of those assessments to flag and strengthen areas where skill gaps exist. The DDI study found that companies that added such assessments reported a 30% boost in bench strength. This added investment will help increase the confidence and lower the stress levels of newly minted leaders who could be feeling in over their heads. 

communications corner

Taming Digital Anxiety

Information overload

To constantly connected employees in hybrid and remote-working environments who feel on-call 24/7, the firehose of information pouring forth from Slack channels, e-mail, video calls, and a cacophony of pinging texts can be overwhelming—and burnout-inducing. A research survey of nearly 2,000 office workers conducted by Erica Dhawan, author of the book Digital Body Language, and market research company Quester in January 2021 found that 44% of respondents reported frequent digital anxiety. The percentage was even higher for managers (48%) and parent managers (53%), who are particularly struggling to balance work and life during the pandemic. 

An overwhelmed majority

In a similar study, more than half (54%) of 2,000 employees surveyed by HR technology company Enboarder in November 2021 reported feeling more overwhelmed by the number of work-related notifications compared to the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. In addition, 60% of managers said that information overload prevented them from doing their jobs efficiently. 

Know limits

“With the rapid shift to hybrid work there is a need to create new rules for digital communications,” Dhawan wrote in a May 2021 Harvard Business Review article that outlined how firms can curb digital anxiety by setting boundaries. Dhawan recommends talking to employees about which communications tools they utilize and what rules they would like to see regarding their uses before establishing norms for each communications channel. 

New rules

Dhawan recommends that companies determine when each communications channel should be used—such as for extremely time-sensitive matters or for use as a last resort. In addition, specify response times. For example, ASAP on instant messages, within 30 minutes for texts sent during business hours, and within 24 hours for e-mails. Dhawan suggests that companies also delineate best practices for each channel, such as limiting the number of people included on group texts and indicating urgency and response expectations in e-mail subject lines. She also proposes that staff members be appointed champions to ensure that best practices are being implemented. 

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