Rudeness at work - how to deal with this growing issue

Working alongside a colleague with a challenging personality is an obstacle that the majority of employers and employees have to contend with at some point, and dealing with issues arising from workplace disputes can often use up valuable man hours.

However, new research has suggested that dealing with rude co-workers on a regular basis can have more of a profound impact on the working environment than management teams may originally believe. A study from scientists at the University of Florida found that impolite conduct has the power to spread throughout any workplace, even to employees not involved in a particular interaction. Researchers found that rudeness is more noticeable among workers in those environments where this type of behaviour is common, which can lead to some individuals perceiving certain situations negatively - even if they do not have the grounds to do so.

While the study was limited in its size, previous investigations have suggested rudeness can have a significant impact on morale, therefore resulting in businesses wasting otherwise productive time worrying about incidents that have taken place, and leaving workers feeling less motivated to perform well.

From a legal perspective, dealing with a rude employee who does not conduct his or herself professionally can be extremely testing for a business, and there comes a point when action must be taken if their behaviour does not improve. Take a look at our top tips for dealing with conflict in the workplace below.

Taking care of disputes

Disputes in the workplace can take a number of forms, each varying in severity and the wider impact they have. It could be an individual with a particular grievance, a growing issue between an employee and a manager, or an argument between two co-workers, for example. However, no matter the type of dispute, it is likely it will get in the way of work and make employees less productive as a result.

Finding a way to resolve an issue at the earliest stage possible will save your business time, money and needless stress - and doing so could stop minor disputes from turning into a bigger problem.

Examples of issues that can cause conflict between individuals include:

  • Unfair or inappropriate treatment
  • Ineffective management techniques
  • Poor communication
  • Unclear job roles
  • Bullying/harassment
  • A change in job role/increased workload
  • A poor working environment
  • When issues from the past go unresolved

Minimising conflict

While some conflicts are often unavoidable, there are steps employers can take to ensure disputes are kept to a minimum, and can be easily resolved when they do arise. We have outlined some of these below.

  • Encourage employees to openly express their feelings, without causing offense
  • Provide appropriate training to managers so they can handle potentially difficult conversations
  • Allow workers to voice their opinions in an open environment
  • Listen to the opinions of staff members
  • Establish clear dispute and grievance procedures for dealing with conflict, including writing mediation into contracts of employment
  • Consider outside help from a solicitor if necessary

Resolving issues formally

Resolving disputes can be difficult, and no manager really likes having tough conversations with their employees. However, it is essential that you are sensitive during these stages. We have outlined some tips below.

  • Listen to individual opinions and try to recognise underlying causes of stress
  • Try to help employees see the problems in a different light by reinterpreting what they are saying
  • Lead the conversation in a calm and measured way to put other people at ease

In cases where a matter can not be resolved informally, the following suggestions may help

  • Seek advice from an outside source, such as a solicitor or external mediator
  • Ensure you have a record of recent incidents, including dates and times, plus a description of what happened
  • Keep copies of emails, letters and meeting notes that could help your case in the future