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Why is rudeness on the rise?

Rude behavior is contagious, and right now we have a pandemic.

HOUSTON — A lot of us have had a tough couple of years. Between COVID-19, inflation and divisive politics, it seems like everyone is on edge.

New research published in the Harvard Business Review shows that we may be taking it out on each other.

A survey of 2,000 people across 25 industries by a professor at Georgetown University, found that 73% of workers said it was not unusual for customers to behave badly, while 66% said bad customer behavior is more common than it was five years ago.

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So, what’s going on? While the research points a finger at stress related to the pandemic, politics and personal finances, that is not the only trigger. A connection to community helps us all stay on our best behavior. Lockdowns and working from home took away some of that stabilizing influence. Meanwhile, technology and social media have made it easier to be mean without facing social consequences, all while feeding us other examples of bad behavior.

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That exposure can be a problem because the research shows rudeness is contagious. It spreads quickly and anyone can be a carrier. The cure can be complicated, requiring the receiver of the rudeness to practice empathy, all while setting clear consequences for the giver if that bad behavior continues.

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