Rudeness Rising with Remote Work
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.
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.
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.
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