We have all experienced it, rude sneers at work. There is little that is more draining. And not only that, but they are highly contagious and can ruin an entire company culture. So take a deep breath, count to three and think about what you are saying!
"When we humans feel like we are under attack, our brains function in such a manner that we want to respond to like with like. A single careless word, which in reality might not have had bad intent, can therefore be blown way out of proportion," says Trevor Foulk, a behavioural researcher at University of Florida.
This is not about explosive arguments or spiteful fits of rage, but rather about those unnecessary, rude comments that we sometimes throw out, frequently when we are stressed and a deadline is approaching. Those times when, after the fact, we wish that we had instead kept our mouths shut and said nothing.
Foulk's research also shows something very interesting – you do not even need to be the object of the rude behaviour for the effect to spread. If the company culture is such that there is a built-in jargon of interacting with one another using rude jokes, it is easy for you to find yourself doing the same thing. And this affects colleagues, but in reality customers as well.
"With this kind of culture it is difficult in the end to distinguish between what is honest praise or just ironic sarcasm. People become unsure of themselves and afraid to say what they are really thinking, which affects both their desire to work and their creativity," continues Trevor Foulk.
Just like it is important for a company to have a designed and functional workplace, it is also important for the company to create a good social environment. A journey that starts with how we address one another, for which all companies should have an explicit policy. Kindness and generosity are not just a given, they also give back to the organisation. Words can destroy – or build.