Workplace behaviour should be a bit better than the jungle

That rudeness in the workplace has a detrimental effect on employees goes without saying. Studies on workplace management consistently indicate that rudeness can turn the victim into a helpless wreck. According to a 2019 Harvard Business Review report people who experience workplace rudeness suffer from mental and physical health problems, and are more likely to burn out and quit their jobs.

And sometimes this rudeness is not as blatant as being shouted at across a crowded office space. Bad manners in the workplace can also take the form of interrupting and excluding people. A friend of mine who is a nurse said her biggest bugbear came in the form of a boss who would never look at her when he spoke to her. “I felt I should be honoured that he would talk to me in the first place, let alone look me in the eye,” she said.

After working from home for several years, when I went back to working in an office I personally felt the awful impact of being consistently ignored. This exclusion took the form of meetings involving everyone else on the floor, except for me. I was told that because I was working for a separate entity within the business my attendance wasn’t necessary, but by missing out on the meetings I also missed out on other wide-ranging agenda items, as well as a general sense of belonging. Management even went so far as to withhold daily information sheets from me which meant that I had to spend more time on information research that was freely given to other staff members. I was also excluded by the majority of staff who treated me in a detached and cold manner.

I was clearly not wanted. In fact I was as welcome as Pepé Le Pew.  Unbeknownst to me the entity I was working for was about to close down, and in the meantime I was considered a waste of space.

I’m not without social skills. I used my charm to engage other staff, including the manager. I used to think my warm open manner would disarm people, melt the frost, but I was thoroughly beaten. Some of the radical behaviour I engaged in included saying good morning and good night to people. I even brought in cake to share. But in truth it was like trying to defrost an iceberg with a single match. I worked late at night to make up for the lack of research summaries. But when I was told I must have a problem if I couldn’t get the job done within regular hours, I knew I was beaten. Complaints to higher management and anyone else who listened went unheeded. My stomach would knot in anxiety as soon as I walked into the office each morning and I eventually left.

What amazed me was that the staff behaviour towards me was like that of children in a school ground. I was unpopular and unwanted and not one employee dared to break away from the pack to help me, in case they too, caught the ire of management.

Of course, we’re supposed to be grown up at work. If we see someone in the pack being mistreated or ignored or having their food stolen, it behoves us to step in and treat the outcast in a kind manner.  I think in my case, it was very much a matter of the fish rotting from the head down. Consequently no one had the courage to step up to me and simply say good morning. We go on at children about being kind to each other, yet I wonder how many parents are actually aware of their workplace behaviour?  

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