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See Inside January/February 2012

Workplace Rudeness Has a Ripple Effect

An unpleasant employee can spread stress far beyond the office



Kyle T. Webster

If you think that nasty co-worker is creating problems for you alone, think again. His rudeness may have a ripple effect that extends as far as your spouse’s workplace. A recent study at Baylor University found that working with horrible colleagues can generate far-reaching stress that follows you home, causing unhappiness for your spouse and family and ultimately affecting your partner’s job. The study was published in August in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

Study author Merideth J. Ferguson, a psy­chologist and an assistant professor of management at Baylor, used statistical software to analyze the relation between employee reports of co-worker rudeness and reports by the employee’s partner of home and work life. Not surprisingly, she found that exposure to rudeness created stress for both partner and family. She also found a direct correlation between the rudeness that the employee experienced and stress at the partner’s workplace.

Keeping workplace stress outside the home can be difficult, especially when it is chronic, Ferguson says. Being treated unkindly by a colleague can cause loss of self-esteem, anxiety and depression, which underminesyour happiness outside of work.

“Some people can successfully address that issue by being mindful of where they are and what they are doing,” Ferguson says. To do that, she suggests focusing strictly on family and friends when at home and devoting your full attention to work when you are at the office. Talking to a counselor or psychologist about the stress or learning stress-management tech­niques (such as taking strategic breaks) can help, too.

This article was originally published with the title "Ripples of Rudeness."

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