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Last updateWed, 25 Jul 2018 12am







    Monday, July 23, 2018-9:43:07A.M.






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OPINION: The bottom line? Be nice

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — It’s time to dip into the anthropology file and find out what scientists are learning about us. And I found that two studies, widely separated in place and time, essentially carry the same message.

The first was conducted by researchers at Lund University in Sweden, who surveyed nearly 6,000 people on the social climate in their workplace. Their findings? Their studies show that being subjected to rudeness is a major reason for dissatisfaction at work and that unpleasant behavior spreads if nothing is done about it.

Rudeness in this context refers to something that goes under the radar for what is prohibited and that in some way violates the norm for mutual respect. It can refer to petty behavior like excluding someone from information and cooperation, or “forgetting” to invite someone to a communal event. It can also refer to taking credit for the work of others, spreading rumors, sending malicious e-mails or not giving praise to subordinates.

The researchers say that while bullying in the workplace is quite a well-documented phenomenon, rudeness that risks turning into bullying is not. Their studies show that the most common example of acting rudely is imitating the behavior of colleagues. And 75 percent of the survey respondents said they’d been subjected to rudeness at least once or twice in the past year.

The psychologists say that an important and disturbing find from their studies is that those who behave rudely in the workplace experience stronger social support, which probably makes them less afraid of negative reactions to their behavior from managers and colleagues.

And as people often imitate the behavior of others, there’s a risk that rudeness becomes a vicious cycle with considerable consequences for the entire workplace. Previous research points to mental illness, reduced job satisfaction, staff members who work less efficiently or seek jobs elsewhere, reduced loyalty and more conflicts.

And what do the researchers say can be done to address unpleasant behavior that is a little unclear and hard to put your finger on? They think that the solution is training for staff and managers. When people become aware of the actual consequences of rudeness, it is often an eye-opener. And, of course, most people don’t want to be involved in making the workplace worse.

Don’t make things personal

And to further reinforce this theme, Canadian researchers from the University of British Columbia have some words of wisdom for you. The next time you make a complaint to your utility or cable company, don’t get personal.

They’ve found that what you say to customer service employees can determine the quality of service you receive. For example, personally targeting employees by saying, “Your product is garbage” instead of “This product is garbage,” can trigger negative responses from service employees.

The scientists say it’s been proven that customer service quality suffers when customers are rude or aggressive to employees, but their research is one of the first to pinpoint the specific words service employees hear from customers that can undermine the quality of customer service.

The researchers analyzed 36 hours of calls and over 100,000 words between a Canadian call center’s customers and employees through transcript and computerized text analysis. They found that more than 80 percent of the calls contained aggressive customer language or interruptions. When customers were not aggressive toward employees, fewer than 5 percent of the calls had customer service problems, such as an employee making a blunt comment or using a raised voice.

When customers targeted their aggression using second person pronouns (e.g. you, your) and interrupted the employee, however, customer service worsened in more than 35 percent of the calls. The researchers also found that these effects were significantly reduced when customers used positive words like “great” and “fine,” suggesting that customers might be able to help employees provide better service by using more positive words.

In general, the researchers say, when customers use aggressive words or phrases to personally target customer service employees, or when they interrupt the person they are talking to; the employee’s negative reaction is much stronger.

Based on these findings, the study authors say customers can get better service from call center employees through their choice of language and ability to follow conversation rules. Mixing positive language into the conversation can also lessen some stress that service employees experience on the job and result in better customer service.

Remember: You’re dealing with human beings

They say if customers change their language so that it’s less about the employee and more about the product or problem in question, they can improve the quality of the customer service they get. Employees can handle a lot, but when aggressive language and interruptions happen together and they’re combined with minimal positive language from the customer, employees get to the point where customer service quality suffers. Customers need to remember that they’re dealing with human beings.

And I think that last line says it all.

Cruise on over to The Deep website at to learn more about the benefits of being nice and many other topics. Enjoy!