Catching Rudeness Is Like Catching a Cold: The Contagion Effects of Low-Intensity Negative Behaviors
In this article we offer a new perspective to the study of negative behavioral contagion in organizations. In 3 studies, we investigate the contagion effect of rudeness and the cognitive mechanism that explains this effect. Study 1 results show that low-intensity negative behaviors like rudeness can be contagious, and that this contagion effect can occur based on single episodes, that anybody can be a carrier, and that this contagion effect has second-order consequences for future interaction partners. In Studies 2 and 3 we explore in the laboratory the cognitive mechanism that underlies the negative behavioral contagion effect observed in Study 1. Specifically, we show that rudeness activates a semantic network of related concepts in individuals' minds, and that this activation influences individual's hostile behaviors. In sum, in these 3 studies we show that just like the common cold, common negative behaviors can spread easily and have significant consequences for people in organizations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).