Americans Are So Stressed They Don't Even Realize They're Being Rude to Their Coworkers

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By Shana Lebowitz

Chances are you think you're perfectly friendly to your officemates.

Yet it's possible that you're a total jerk.

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A growing body of research suggests that many people have a distorted view of their own behavior and therefore aren't aware when they're acting rude at work.According to Christine Porath, Ph.D., a professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, that's likely because they're so stressed and overwhelmed that they don't have the mental bandwidth to consider other people's hurt feelings.

"People are so focused on the burdens or the potential stressors that they're trying to manage just to survive," Porath said, and they don't "have the energy to think, 'How could I do this better?'"

So when a coworker stops by to hand in a project, they don't realize that grunting while staring at the computer screen is not an appropriate response.

"Incivility often grows out of ignorance, not malice," Porath wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed.

If you ask people why they act uncivilly, the majority will tell you they're overloaded or don't have time to be nice. But in reality, being nice doesn't take a whole lot of time or effort — a simple smile in the hallway or "thank you" when someone submits that project will generally suffice. Porath says it's more about being mindful enough to recognize how your actions will affect others.

"People lack self-awareness," Porath told Business Insider. The major issue behind workplace incivility is "people not understanding how they're coming across."

Over the course of her research, Porath said she encountered multiple leaders who were shocked when they received feedback that they were acting rudely. "They had no idea they were being perceived that way," she said.

So how can you find out if you're the source of incivility in your office? One solution is to regularly request feedback from your managers, coworkers, and direct reports. It doesn't have to be formal — a casual conversation about your performance and your attitude can be helpful, too.

Regardless of what you uncover, it's worth making a concerted effort to be more aware of other people's experiences at work. If you're feeling frazzled, it's likely that your coworkers are, too — and acting unkind toward each other is only going to make the situation worse.

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