In the UK, Tony Blair in 2004 asserted that lack of respect was one of the top problems facing the UK for the next decade across all walks of life. New research by Christine Porath (Georgetown University) and Amir Erez (University of Florida) seems to confirm this as an increasing international problem which impacts severely not just on society, but on organisational effectiveness also – especially creativity.
They looked at various aspects of the effects of an uncivil culture, but one of the most interesting findings was on the effects on creativity and innovation.
The strength and consistency of the findings on Creativity were extremely significant. They found that even with a one time, relatively low intensity incident, participants who had been treated rudely were not able to perform as well on cognitive tests. Participants lost task focus and performed 33% less well on creative tasks. This is a very significant finding.
Why is creativity impaired as a result of rudeness? In the past, it was believed that creativity came as a bolt of insight, however it is now widely accepted that creativity requires focussed concentration and juggling of ideas. When rudeness and aggression is experienced, it appears to rob us of cognitive resources, decreasing attention and overloading working memory, thereby reducing creativity.
The negative effects on creativity are enhanced when an act of rudeness is delivered by an authority figure, such as a manager. Also, not only were also significant effects on fellow workers, who witnessed the incidents, there were effects on those who were only told about them. Productivity was affected right across the board and sometimes become the pervasive communication house style, with perverse effects on the business.
The cost of rudeness is difficult to fully quantify, People suffer and retaliate in myriads of ways: 94 percent of targets of rudeness get even with their offenders. 88 percent of these also get even with their organisations.
Rudeness appears to prime dysfunctional behaviour and aggressive thoughts and can poison the organisational culture in multiple ways and seems to inhibit creativity and cause people to make more errors at a time when it is most needed – when the pressure is on!