Do you work in a rude or hostile environment?

Rudeness often goes under the radar. Although the researchers observed that bullying and harassment in the workplace are often well documented—acts of rudeness, that often border on bullying, are rarely reported.

The most common catalyst for co-workers acting rudely is imitating the behavior of their colleagues.The study found that people who behave rudely oftentimes experience a type of ‘lowest common denominator’ social support, which makes them less afraid of negative reactions or repercussions for their rude behavior by managers and colleagues. This creates a climate in which rudeness can spiral out of control and contaminate the entire workplace.

  • Equanimity. When someone’s rudeness upsets you, count to ten, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself: “Is it really worth losing my cool over this?”
  • Size Up the Grievances. Is it a waste of your emotional energy to let this get under your skin? Or does the rudeness cross the line and need to be addressed face-to-face with equanimity?
  • Empathize With the Rude Person. Don’t take rudeness personally. Maybe the rude person is just having a bad day and taking it out on the world? Oftentimes, you can break the cycle of rudeness by empathizing with the root of someone’s cantankerous behavior as a sign that he or she is unhappy, and be kind.
  • Lead by Example. Rudeness begets rudeness and is contagious. i.e. If you speak rudely to a waiter, don’t be surprised if you get the same treatment in return.
  • Let It Roll Off Your Back. If you can’t come up with a witty joke or laugh it off… just shrug your shoulders, let it go, and walk away.


Obviously, when someone’s rudeness crosses the line and becomes bullying or harassment, you must be a proactive “whistleblower” and alert others to the details of your hostile work environment. Sometimes being ‘polite’ is not an appropriate response to disrespectful treatment.

When dealing with rude people, always stay even-keel and use common sense. Trust your gut instincts and intellect when deciding whether to let rudeness roll of your back in an attempt to create an upward spiral of more empathy and kindness by “not fighting back.” In some instances, we all need to put our foot down and make it clear, in the spirit of ‘ferocious equanimity,’ that we won’t tolerate rude or insulting behavior anymore.