How to Deal with Rude Coworkers

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Have you ever worked with someone who is consistently rude, passive-aggressive, offensive, or malicious? Incivility at work is increasingly common and on the rise. Rude coworkers, along with bullies and abusive employees, contribute to a toxic work environment.

Image by Androfal from Pixabay

What does workplace rudeness look like? According to Wikipedia, rudeness is “a display of disrespect by not complying with the social norms or etiquette of a group or culture.”

Examples of Rude Behavior at Work

  • Insulting or using derogatory language
  • Taking credit for someone else’s work
  • Asking inappropriate questions
  • Being consistently late and/or not calling to notify coworkers when running late
  • Leaving work early on a regular basis
  • Microwaving food with a strong or unpleasant odor
  • Interrupting or speaking over someone
  • Texting during a meeting or taking/making personal calls in a shared space
  • Sending passive-aggressive emails
  • Playing music or being noisy in a shared space
  • Eating a coworker’s food (or using the last of something and not replacing it)
  • Leaving messes
  • Borrowing something and not returning it
  • Wearing strong (or excessive) perfume/cologne

The consequences of workplace rudeness are widespread, including decreased motivation and productivity, increased distress, and demoralization. One study found that being around rude coworkers increases stress levels and negatively impacts outside relationships (long after the workday ends). Another study found that victims of workplace incivility can become mentally fatigued; in turn, they are more likely to be rude to their coworkers, spreading the incivility. Additionally, we are more prone to make mistakes when subjected to rudeness.

In 2018, researchers identified four types of employees who are responsible for a toxic work environmentomitters, slippers, retaliators, and serial transgressors. They are counterproductive to a healthy workplace.

  • Omitters: These individuals lack the capacity to effectively self-regulate their actions. They unintentionally breach rules and policies.
  • Slippers: These are employees who occasionally engage in single acts of counterproductive work behavior, such as rudeness, eating someone else’s lunch, etc.
  • Retaliators: These are individuals who deliberately act in ways that are harmful to the organization (i.e., bullying, stealing office supplies).
  • Serial Transgressors: These employees engage in a wide array of counterproductive behaviors, such as undermining a manager’s authority or not following safety protocols.

All four of the above identified types can be rude, offensive, and/or malicious at work. Ideally, a manager reduces counterproductive behaviors (or removes the offender), but that doesn’t always happen, especially if the manager is ineffective (or is themselves the offender).


The following are tips for dealing with rude coworkers.

10 Strategies for Dealing with Rude Coworkers

1. Practice daily self-care. When running on empty, your ability to exercise self-control is diminished.

2. If possible, don’t engage with rude coworkers when you’re in a mentally bad space. Wait until you’re in a better mood; this increases the likelihood of having a productive conversation. If the conversation can’t wait, ask a trusted colleague to be present to provide support.

3. If the rudeness takes place in the form of interrupting or speaking over you, politely point it out as it is happening. Ask your coworker not to do it, and explain how the behavior impacts you. (Your request carries more weight with the added explanation.) For example, say “I lose my train of thought when you interrupt” or “I feel disrespected when you speak over me.” Speak up every time the behavior happens. (If you set a boundary, and then don’t adhere to it, it becomes worthless.)

4. Meditate. Meditation promotes mental health, reduces stress levels, generates kindness, and enhances self-awareness.

5. Don’t gossip about rude colleagues. This only contributes to a toxic climate. Instead of focusing on a solution, you’re adding to the problem.

6. When dealing with rude emails, either outright or passive (i.e., not answering a question, ignoring a request, using boldface or all caps, etc.), API! Assume Positive Intent. An email’s tone is easily misinterpreted. Also, before sending your reply, have a trusted colleague proofread the email. (And only reply if necessary; if you don’t need to respond, don’t!)

If possible, delete the original offensive email from your inbox to avoid rereading it and experiencing the anger or hurt all over again; find a way to detach. Lastly, forward outright rude or offensive emails to your supervisor. Share your interpretation and ask for suggestions. To avoid sending a potentially rude email, provide a disclaimer, such as “I wrote this at 5 AM!” or use emojis and punctuation to convey emotion. (Sometimes, a smiley face makes all the difference.)

7. Seek training on dealing with difficult people and/or reach out to your EAP (employee assistance program) for resources.

8. Keep a gratitude journal. One study found that practicing gratitude at work increased employee attitudes and wellbeing. Employees reported engaging in fewer rude, gossiping, and ostracizing behaviors.

9. Report rude coworkers to your manager or supervisor. If you don’t feel comfortable with this (or if your supervisor is the offender), speak to your manager’s manager.

If concerned it will be perceived as tattling, say that it’s something you would want to know if you were in their position. Explain that you thought it over carefully, and concluded it was important enough to bring to them. (You’ll be viewed as someone who wants to help, not someone who is tattling on a coworker for selfish motives.) Also, be sure to provide specific examples of the offensive behavior and how it affected you. Don’t complain; be as objective as possible. Finally, ask for their advice; this demonstrates that not only are you humble, you’re solution-focused.

10. Request to meet with the offender (in private), and openly share how their behavior impacts you. Use “I” statements, avoid accusing, and don’t assume malicious intent. Also, approach the conversation with lowered expectations; you can’t know how your coworker will react. They may become angry, indignant, anxious, resentful, or withdrawn. They might shout, belittle you, minimize, or deny any offense. They may refuse to talk, and walk away.

Alternately, you might be pleasantly surprised at how the conversation unfolds. You may learn that your peer is going through a tough divorce or was recently diagnosed with cancer. (There could be a reason behind their “bad” behavior; hurt people hurt people.) They could even be unaware of their offensiveness. (For example, someone might not realize their tone is condescending.) At the end of the day, while the outcome may not be the one you hoped for, you at least did your part.


“Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”

Eric Hoffer

In sum, the harmful effects of workplace rudeness are far-reaching. Incivility at work can negatively impact productivity, motivation, emotional health, and relationships. Rude behavior is also contagious; to avoid spreading incivility, practice regular self-care, including gratitude and meditation, and maintain self-awareness.


Resources for Finding Happiness

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This is a list of websites, books, and free online courses for finding happiness.

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”

Lucille Ball

WEBSITES

Authentic Happiness | A University of Pennsylvania website developed by the Positive Psychology Center with resources including readings, videos, research, questionnaires, and more

Center for Healthy Minds | A University of Wisconsin-Madison website with a mission to “cultivate well-being and relieve suffering through a scientific understanding of the mind”

Feeling Good | A David D. Burns website with free articles, assessments, podcasts, and more

The Greater Good Science Center | Free toolkits, articles, quizzes, courses, and more from the University of Berkely

Gretchin Rubin | Happiness resources from “one of today’s most influential and thought-provoking observers of happiness and human nature”

The Happiness Trap | Free resources from Russ Harris

International Positive Psychology Association | A professional membership organization dedicated to promoting the science of positive psychology

Positive Psychology | A science-based positive psychology platform with articles, trainings, and more

Pursuit of Happiness | A nonprofit site dedicated to providing articles, quizzes, quotes, courses, and more

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. | Resources for wellbeing

Thnx4 | An online gratitute journal

Zen Habits | A blog for implementing zen practices into daily life

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

BOOKS

Disclaimer: This section contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It (David Niven)


Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment


Feeling Great: The Revolutionary New Treatment for Depression and Anxiety (David D. Burns)


Flourish (Martin Seligman)


The Happiness Advantage (Shawn Achor)


The Happiness Hypothesis (Jonathan Haidt)


The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT (Russ Harris)


Hardwiring Happiness (Rick Hanson)


The How of Happiness (Sonja Lyubomirsky)


How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything: Yes, Anything (Albert Ellis)


No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering (Thich Nhat Hanh)


Year of Yes (Shonda Rhimes)


“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”

Martha Washington

FREE PDF WORKBOOKS


For additional printable workbooks, see Free Printable PDF Workbooks & Manuals – Mind ReMake Project.


“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Charles M. Shulz

FREE ONLINE COURSES


Free Coloring Pages for Adults

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Coloring can significantly improve your mental health and wellbeing. Research indicates that coloring reduces anxiety symptoms, enhances mindfulness, improves mood, and reduces stress. Coloring may also serve as a tool for self-reflection and self-awareness.

Image by A_Different_Perspective from Pixabay

This is a list of printable coloring books and free coloring pages for adults.


Free Coloring Pages for Adults

  1. Therapeutic Coloring Book

A 35-page PDF coloring book from Rec Therapy Today. Most of the coloring sheets are images of animals, including a panda, a peacock, a pegasus, a dolphin, and more!

Art to be art must soothe.

Mahatma Gandhi

2. Relaxing Patterns Coloring Book

Another PDF coloring book from Rec Therapy Today (53 pages). The coloring pages consist of swirls, shapes, flowers, and other designs.

3. Coloring Pages for Adults (from Faber-Castell)

A modest collection of printable coloring sheets. Color a bird mandala or an enchanted fairy! There are also several holiday coloring pages.

4. Adult Coloring Book for Mindfulness and Relaxation

A 51-page PDF coloring book with 31 mandala designs from the site Healing from Burnout. The coloring book includes 8 bonus templates for creating your own designs!

5. Stay Well, Stay Inspired

A 16-page coloring book with uplifting quotes and writing prompts from the American Library Association.

6. Coloring Craze Books

A collection of coloring books from Coloring Craze. The books aren’t free, but you can download free sample coloring pages. Books include Motivational Quotes & Phrases, 30 Day of the Dead Coloring Pages, and Stress Relieving & Relaxing Patterns series.

7. #ColorOurCollections

A collection of free coloring books from libraries and other cultural institutions from around the world. Download and print coloring sheets from the New York Academy of Medicine Library, the Getty Research Institute, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and many more!

8. Louise Lawler

Photographer Louise Lawler worked with children’s book illustrator Jon Buller to create this unique 12-page coloring book. Each page is a black-and-white version of one of her photographs of places where art is displayed.

9. A Mathematical Coloring Book

A 38-page coloring book by Marshall Hampton with mathematical models and geometric structures (such as the Sierpinski triangle).

10. Monday Mandala

An ad-free site with printable mandala coloring pages. You can also sign up for their email to receive free coloring sheets in your inbox!

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.

Thomas Merton

11. Adult Coloring Pages (from Crayola)

A small collection of printable coloring sheets. Choose from designs such as “Art with Edge Sugar Skulls,” “Lennon and McCartney Yellow Submarine,” or “InSPIRALed.”

12. Coloring Castle

Free coloring sheets, including mandalas. Additional categories include holidays, animals, food, nature, space, sports, etc. Great for kids too!

13. Super Coloring

Printable coloring books and sheets. You can download coloring books like “Forest Animals,” “Zentangle Horses,” “Beautiful Women Portraits,” and “Floral Fantasy” (among others) or print coloring pages (including color-by-number!) from a variety of categories (mammals, fruits, fantasy, stories, space, etc.)

14. Just Color

Printable coloring pages for adults. Categories include: mandalas & art therapy, nature, travels, art, history & stories, and special events.

15. The Public Domain Review Coloring Book for Diversion, Entertainment, and Relaxation in Times of Self-Isolation, Vol. 1

Free downloadable coloring book (from the Public Domain Review site) with 20 images from a wide range of artists, including Hokusai, Albrecht Dürer, Harry Clarke, Virginia Frances Sterrett, Jessie M. King, and Aubrey Beardsley.


For more free resources, visit Free Printables.


References

  • Babouchkina, A., & Robbins, S. J. (2015). Reducing negative mood through mandala creation: A randomized controlled trial. Art Therapy, 32(1), 34-39.
  • Bell, C. E., & Robbins, S. J. (2007). Effect of art production on negative mood: A randomized, controlled trial. Art Therapy24(2), 71-75.
  • Curry, N. A., & Kasser, T. (2005). Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety? Art Therapy, 22(2), 81-85.
  • Eaton J., & Tieber, C. (2017). The effects of coloring on anxiety, mood, and perseverance. Art Therapy, 34(1), 42-46.
  • Henderson, P., Rosen, D., & Mascaro, N. (2007). Empirical study on the healing nature of mandalas. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 1(3), 148–154.
  • Muthard, C., & Gilbertson, R. (2016). Stress management in young adults: Implications of mandala coloring on self-reported negative affect and psychophysiological response. Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research21(1), 16-28.
  • Small, S. R. (2006). Anxiety reduction: Expanding previous research on mandala coloring. The Undergraduate Journal of Psychology19(1), 15-21.
  • van der Vennet, R., & Serice, S. (2012). Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety? A replication study. Art Therapy, 29(2), 87-92.