After you’ve rolled your eyes and let out a sigh of frustration the next time a colleague does or says something rude, consider this; could it be their apathetic and arrogant attitude? Is it a generational divide?  Could it be their lack of workplace experience? Or maybe cultural differences? While these are not excuses for being rude, they could explain it and help to reduce our annoyance levels.

Learning how a boss or coworker ticks is one of the quickest ways to help you work around them. For example, here are a few personality traits that can have an effect on how a person communicates:

rude at work

Apathy and Arrogance: People who possess these traits have always existed and, unfortunately, always will. You know the type. They feel entitled to their attitude by virtue of who they are, who their parents told them they were, or their “I-don’t-give-a-damn-about-anyone-but-me” outlook. These can be the most frustrating people to deal with.

Generational Divides: While this is a sweeping generalization, past generations were more controlled about their conduct in the workplace. Fewer electronics meant people interacted directly. Society as a whole embraced a common standard, agreeing on what and wasn’t acceptable behavior.

[bctt tweet=”Have we as a society become less concerned about how we conduct ourselves? Is a common standard of behavior out of date? ” “Is it healthy to allow employees to express themselves freely? username=”rosalindatweets”]

Workplace Experience: Someone who has never had a job, or worked in one having little interaction with others, or who comes from a family business may not know what is considered acceptable behavior or perhaps has a different definition. That’s when it would be helpful to have a seasoned colleague act as a mentor. It’s also beneficial for a company to have a clearly stated code of conduct.

Cultural Differences: During one of my presentations on Workplace Communication, a participant talked about a rude coworker. His attitude and speech were curt and condescending whenever he spoke to her—not at all how he spoke to his male coworkers. Broaching a subject that may involve sex, race, religion or other cultural differences can be delicate. If you are experiencing something like this, I urge you to seek advice. Start with your immediate boss, unless, of course, they are the subject of contention. In that case, go directly to human resources.

Want to Get Along? Here’s 6 Ways You Can Be Less Rude in at Work

rude at work

  1. If your legs are moving, put your phone away. Watch where you’re going as you’re walking in the parking lot, the path outside work, the hallway, and as you enter and exit the restroom. It’s not the world’s job to step to the side to avoid running into you.
  2. Don’t expect everyone to start from the beginning when you show up late or step into the middle of a conversation. Take a seat, be quiet and listen.
  3. Think about your hygiene. Bathe. Put on clean clothes. Don’t pick at your toes when you wear flip-flops (I’ve seen this more times than I care to think about!). Stop picking your teeth in front of your coworkers, and please, stop licking your fingers.
  4. Stop using the tired line, “I’m too busy,” as an excuse when you fail to refill the copy paper, or don’t make a new pot of coffee, or renege when it’s your turn to work late.
  5. Is your signature comeback or response sarcasm or mockery? I appreciate witty sarcasm. However, the workplace isn’t the place for it. Sometimes people rely on a style of communication out of habit, because they are uncomfortable, nervous or have nothing to say. You’re better to remain silent, or smile and nod, than to risk insulting someone and alienating coworkers.
  6. Avoid chattering, “yeah, yeah, yeah,” or looking at your phone because you’re suddenly bored with the conversation. If you get stuck with a coworker who is going on and on about whatever, and you’ve listened a reasonable amount of time, end the conversation politely. Here’s one way: “Collette, I’m sorry to cut you off, but I’ve got to get back to work.” She can’t argue with that.

Have we as a society become less concerned about how we conduct ourselves? Is a common standard of behavior out of date or impossible? Does today’s “anything goes” attitude have an impact in the workplace?  Do we have the right to expect a coworker to treat us the way we want to be treated?


Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, Workplace Civility, Soft Skills, Business Etiquette Expert, Media Source, and author of “Don’t Burp in the Boardroom.”

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