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Rudeness at work 'leads to more mistakes'

Rudeness at work can lead to mistakes, experts said today.

If you are rude to colleagues, they are rude to you or you witness rudeness, mistakes are far more likely to occur, studies have shown.

Psychology professor Rhona Flin said being the victim of rudeness can impact on how people perform tasks.

Human attention "is powerfully driven by emotion", she said.

In one study, students who were insulted by a professor on the way to the test performed worse on a series of memory tasks than others who had not been spoken to rudely.


"This reaction is probably caused by the emotional arousal caused by the rudeness, which resulted in a switchover of cognitive capacity to deal with the required emotional processing, or it may, more simply, be caused by distraction," Prof Flin said.

In other research, a student who was late for a group experiment apologised, but was told by the person in charge: "What is it with you? You arrive late, you are irresponsible, look at you, how do you expect to hold down a job in the real world?"

The level of rudeness was not extreme and the comment was said at normal volume.

However, students who witnessed the exchange went on to perform more poorly on tasks than a group which had not witnessed rudeness.