Does it seem that people are suddenly ruder than ever before? Have you worried that maybe you’ve been imagining things or are just hypersensitive?
Stop worrying. It’s not all in your head.
We are becoming more discourteous, both in public and at work. Recent studies of thousands of people, across different industries and nations, all indicate that rudeness is on the rise. The statistics vary widely but people report increases in rudeness at rates as high as being up 65% from the early 2000’s.
Our increased lack of basic manners and common courtesy is more than just an upsetting trend or mere fodder for business columnists. In the workplace bad manners are costing us all millions of dollars a year while simultaneously damaging our reputations and our relationships with our co-workers, clients and customers.
A Harvard Business Review article highlights a study by Christine Porath (associate professor of management at Georgetown University) and Christine Pearson (professor of global leadership at Thunderbird School of Global Management) that revealed that due to rudeness in the workplace:
• 48% of respondents intentionally decreased their work effort.
• 47% of respondents intentionally decreased the time spent at work.
• 38% of respondents intentionally decreased the quality of their work.
• 80% of respondents lost work time worrying about the incident.
• 63% of respondents lost work time avoiding the offender.
• 66% of respondents said that their performance declined.
• 78% of respondents said that their commitment to the organization declined.
• 12% of respondents said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment.
• 25% of respondents admitted to taking their frustration out on customers.
It’s not only rude customer service clerks, bosses or those who can’t put their phones down in meetings or at the dinner table who are being identified as major sources of irritation. People who don’t reply to emails and phone messages are often singled out in studies and articles about rudeness in business. It’s a problem that upsets people a lot. A quick Google search returns over 5 million hits on the subject!
Most people have an outgoing phone message acknowledging how important your call is and that they’ll reply promptly. In spite of that, however, many people simply don’t. No one likes to be ignored and people take it personally when they are. It’s equally irritating when people reply with a Read Receipt in response to an email but don’t actually reply to the email itself. It’s the digital equivalent of hanging up on an unwanted caller. It tells the recipient, “I know you’re there, but I’m ignoring you – on purpose.”
That’s more than just rude. It’s insulting and it’s also unprofessional. It makes one look like a disorganized, incompetent, insensitive jerk. Not responding tells the other person that they’re not important enough. It reflects poorly upon you and your organization. Few people want to work with or for rude, unprofessional, unreliable people or companies.
Many people claim that they’re too busy and overwhelmed with emails and phone calls to respond. Well guess what? Everyone is busy. That’s nothing more than an excuse (and a poor one at that). Few of us can claim to be as busy as the CEOs of organizations like Ford or Apple, however, truly busy people like Alan Mulally (Ford) and Tim Cook (Apple) manage to answer all of their emails every day.
Mulally is known for answering nearly every email he receives on the same day. In an interview with ABC Cook said that he receives approximately 700 to 800 emails a day “And I read the majority of those every day.” People like Mulally and Cook simply make responding a priority.
If you’re busier than the CEOs of Ford or Apple and can’t reply to a phone call or an email in under 72 hours then you should hire an assistant or take a Time Management course.
Unfortunately there are thousands of companies out there that are filled with rude, unresponsive, disorganized, self-important people. Only 11% of the employers in one survey reported that they consider civility at all when hiring, and those that did investigated it in a cursory fashion.
The ‘tone’ of an organization is usually set at the top and flows down from there. If management or the owners treat others rudely or ignore emails and phone messages then chances are, their employees follow that lead and behave similarly.
There’s no cure or quick fix for it but there are ways to assess your corporate culture and measure the gap between the current and the ‘ideal’ environment that people would prefer. Not hiring people who will end up being a problem is also a good start. There are hundreds of accurate, reliable pre-screening tests that can help employers avoid hiring people who bring negative traits like discourteousness, insubordination, poor temperament and poor people skills to the workplace.
Most companies don’t even know that they have a problem. As yourself the following:
• Do you have a company policy that stipulates how emails and calls should be handled?
• Is it monitored or enforced?
• Do you know how many inquiries or requests to your company go unanswered?
• Have you ever asked your customers how long it takes to get a response from your employees?
Are you screening your applicants to identify their skills and avoid hiring other people’s rejects?
If not, then maybe you should be.