If you can't say something nice...

…it really might be better to say nothing. If your boss likes to tick people off in public, he or she could be damaging more than morale. Research suggests that witnessing rudeness in the workplace could lead to mistakes and poor performance. An editorial in the British Medical Journal highlights research which showed that people who had witnessed a rude exchange performed more poorly in tasks they were set afterwards. In a study carried out at the University of Southern California, students who were insulted by a professor on the way to the test performed worse in memory tasks than others who had not been spoken to rudely. In another, students who had witnessed a rude interaction went on to perform more poorly on tasks than a control group which had not. And it's not just the boss who needs to think twice before taking out a bad mood on a member of staff. Rudeness by a peer or colleague had just as negative an effect as unpleasant behaviour from an authority figure. It's unclear whether the increase in mistakes is caused by the emotional arousal of witnessing conflict, or simple distraction. The BMJ highlights the implications for surgical teams, where errors can have especially grave consequences. But even if your job doesn't involve life or death decisions, it's probably worth taking a deep breath and a walk around the block if you think you might be about to let rip!

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