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Does Rudeness Really Matter? The Effects of Rudeness on Task Performance and Helpfulness

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DOES RUDENESS REALLY MATTER? THE EFFECTS OF
RUDENESS ON TASK PERFORMANCE AND HELPFULNESS
CHRISTINE L. PORATH
University of Southern California
AMIR EREZ
University of Florida
In three experimental studies, we provided an empirical test of how rudeness affects
task performance and helpfulness. Different forms of rudeness—rudeness instigated by
a direct authority figure, rudeness delivered by a third party, and imagined rudeness—
converged to produce the same effects. Results from these studies showed that rude-
ness reduced performance on routine tasks as well as on creative tasks. We also found
that rude behavior decreased helpfulness. We examined the processes that mediated
the rudeness-performance relationship and found evidence that disruption to cognitive
processes fully mediated that relationship.
In the last decade, investigations of rudeness in
the workplace have generated a substantial number
of studies that greatly advanced the organizational
literature. Rudeness can be defined as insensitive
or disrespectful behavior enacted by a person that
displays a lack of regard for others. Rude behaviors
are sometimes referred to as uncivil behaviors. For
example, our definition of rudeness is similar to the
way Cortina and her associates (Cortina, Magley,
Williams, & Langhout, 2001; Lim & Cortina, 2005)
defined and operationalized incivility. However,
Andersson and Pearson (1999) reserved the term
“incivility” for rudeness that occurs with ambigu-
ous intentionality. Because the perceived inten-
tionality of various types of aggression is often un-
clear, and people often use “rudeness” to describe
others’ uncivil behavior without implying the ag-
gressive acts were unintentional, we use “rude-
ness.” The central finding of the relevant body of
research has been that rude behaviors have detri-
mental effects on a variety of important organiza-
tional outcomes. For example, several researchers
have found that rude behaviors are linked to em-
ployees’ retaliatory behaviors (Bies & Tripp, 1996,
2001, 2002, 2005; Bies, Tripp, & Kramer, 1997;
Skarlicki & Folger, 1997), counterproductive be-
haviors (Duffy, Ganster, & Pagon, 2002), and with-
drawal of leader support (Tyler & Blader, 2000).
Notwithstanding these achievements, it is appar-
ent that some potential key outcomes of rudeness
have been largely overlooked in the organizational
literature. For example, we could not locate any
research that investigates how rude behaviors in-
fluence victims’ task performance. In fact, most
published articles that investigate rudeness out-
comes explore perpetrators’ and victims’ self-re-
ported attitudes and well-being rather than their
functioning and behavior. Research that does in-
vestigate how aggressiveness influences behaviors
such as organizational citizenship behaviors (Tep-
per, 2000; Zellars, Tepper, & Duffy, 2002) has fo-
cused on sustained abusive supervision rather than
on one-time insensitive behaviors such as display-
ing rudeness or disrespect.
In an effort to bridge this gap, we investigate how
rudeness enacted by others affects individuals’ task
performance and helpfulness. More specifically,
we explore how objective performance on complex
cognitive tasks (i.e., creative and flexible tasks) and
helpfulness are influenced by indirect rudeness
(e.g., when people overhear someone speaking
rudely) as well as by direct rudeness (e.g., when
people confront rudeness personally). We also in-
vestigate some of the processes that potentially me-
diate this relationship, such as victims’ negative
moods, their desire for revenge, and their ability to
give cognitive attention to a task.
Whereas the effects of severely aggressive behav-
iors, such as violence, on victims’ performance
seem obvious (i.e., violence may cause injuries),
the effects of rude acts may not be that apparent. In
fact, there are some reasons to believe that rudeness
may not strongly affect performance. For example,
We would like to thank Bradley Chapin, Laura Er-
skine, Lia Evans, Erin Fluegge, A. J. Nagaraj, Christine
Pearson, Mark Porath, Michael Porath, Garett Sleichter,
and Pauline Schilpzand for their assistance with this
research. We’d also like to thank Debra Shapiro and three
anonymous reviewers.
Academy of Management Journal
2007, Vol. 50, No. 5, 1181–1197.
1181
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research has shown that people specifically distort
information in a self-serving and positive direction
(see Taylor & Brown, 1988) and that they therefore
regularly discount small negative events. Often, in
making sense of a situation, victims may also at-
tribute at least partial blame to the situation; for
example, they may think “He was rude because of
the stress of the deadline.” In turn, “explaining
away” the actions of a perpetrator may reduce the
negative consequences associated with his/her
rude behavior (Shaw, Wild, & Colquitt, 2003). In-
deed, these may be some of the reasons why re-
searchers and managers seem to remain skeptical
about the effects of relatively minor aggressive acts
such as rudeness on individual functioning.
At the same time, there are several reasons to
believe that rudeness has a detrimental effect on
performance. For example, recent studies have sug-
gested that targets of rudeness report psychological
distress (Cortina et al., 2001) and negative emo-
tional effects (Pearson & Porath, 2005). Negative
emotions and attitudes may in turn affect individ-
uals’ functioning and performance in a variety of
ways (Ellis, Moore, Varner, & Ottaway, 1997; Ellis,
Varner, Becker, & Ottaway, 1995; Judge, Thoresen,
Bono, & Patton, 2001). Evoking negative emotions
is not the only way rudeness may reduce perfor-
mance, though. After experiencing a rude act, an
individual may replay the act in her or his mind,
assess how legitimate the instigator’s actions were,
and think about the consequences of various re-
sponses (Porath, Overbeck, & Pearson, in press). As
the person does so, task-focused cognitive re-
sources may be reduced, lowering performance.
Thus, although we could not find research that
directly shows that rudeness affects performance,
theoretical work and some indirect empirical find-
ings suggest that it may. In the next sections, we
elaborate on this likelihood, hypothesizing why
acts of rudeness may influence various forms of
individual performance. We then describe three
studies that were designed to test these hypotheses.
RUDENESS AND TASK PERFORMANCE
There are several reasons why victims’ task per-
formance may suffer following rudeness. Perhaps
the most obvious way is based on the desire for
revenge. The victims’ belief that the perpetrators
willingly violated moral codes of behavior may
prompt a deontic response (i.e., a reaction to a
violation of norms such as fairness, accountability,
and justice [Folger, 2001]). Deontic responses vary
from mere emotional reactions to an event to emo-
tional reactions accompanied by behaviors aimed
at restoring justice (Cropanzano, Goldman, &
Folger, 2003). Retaliating may fulfill the targets’
need to reaffirm a damaged identity, to restore jus-
tice, or to deter future identity threats (e.g., Aquino,
Tripp, & Bies, 2001; Baumeister, Smart, & Boden,
1996; Felson, 1982; Gilligan, 1996; McLean Parks,
1997; Tedeschi & Felson, 1994; Tripp & Bies, 1997;
Tripp, Bies, & Aquino, 2002). In fact, unfair treat-
ment has been found to be associated with retalia-
tory actions such as theft (Greenberg, 1990, 1993)
and vandalism (Fisher & Baron, 1982). Although
we are not aware of any studies that have directly
investigated the path from rude behaviors through
retaliation to reduced performance, it is a likely
way for victims to get even. Thus, people who
experience rude acts in a task setting can strike
back by making conscious decisions not to allocate
their resources toward the required tasks. Indeed,
employees often admit that after experiencing
rudeness, they may withhold effort and decrease
commitment (Pearson & Porath, 2005).
Rude behaviors are also very likely to cause a
variety of negative emotions (Pearson & Porath,
2005), and these emotions should be incompatible
with task performance. In their affective events the-
ory, Weiss and Cropanzano (1996) argued that
events on the job influence work behaviors mainly
through affective reactions. Of these events, how-
ever, negative events should be especially influen-
tial. Indeed, Miner, Glomb, and Hulin (2005) found
that the relationship between negative events and
mood was about five times stronger than that be-
tween positive events and mood. According to
Weiss and Cropanzano (1996), negative emotions
affect performance because they serve as signals
that something in the environment is problematic.
As a result, people invest extensive cognitive re-
sources appraising their situation, a process that is
disruptive to work.
Although no direct evidence shows that events
on the job that involve rudeness affect performance
through negative emotions, some indirect evidence
to that effect exists. For example, Ellis and his
colleagues found that, compared to those in neutral
moods, individuals induced with negative affect
exhibited more selective processing (Varner & Ellis,
1998), did not learn and recall as well (Ellis et al.,
1997), and were impaired in their abilities to com-
prehend and use prior knowledge (Ellis et al.,
1995). This reduction in cognitive functioning may
be especially pronounced for emotions that involve
a high degree of arousal. The work of Zillmann
(1979, 1983, 1988, 1993) showed that “hot emo-
tions” such as anger, caused by provocations, led
not only to enhanced retaliatory behaviors but also
to reduced cognitive functioning. For example,
Zillmann, Bryant, Cantor, and Day (1975) showed
1182 OctoberAcademy of Management Journal
that at a high level of arousal (caused by strenuous
exercise combined with experimenter provoca-
tion), participants were not likely to pay attention
to mitigating messages (i.e., “He is under stress”).
As a result, angry participants engaged in a retalia-
tory behavior whether a mitigating message was
presented or not. In contrast, when participants
were at a low level of arousal (no exercise), the
same provocation from the experimenter did not
cause retaliatory behavior when accompanied by a
mitigating message. Accordingly, Zillmann (1988)
concluded that “hot emotions” may narrow atten-
tion and inhibit cognition. In line with this re-
search, we predict that when rude behaviors cause
negative emotions, they lead to performance
decrements.
However, even if rudeness does not cause emo-
tional or retaliatory reactions, it may still have neg-
ative effects on performance by disrupting cogni-
tive processes. According to cognitive theories of
attention (e.g., Kahneman, 1973), individuals pos-
sess limited attentional resources that they allocate
to and withdraw from various activities. Perfor-
mance on a task depends on the extent to which
this limited attentional capacity is devoted to the
specific task (Kahneman, 1973). Expanding on this
concept of limited cognitive capacity, Kanfer and
Ackerman (1989) developed the integrated re-
source allocation model, an attempt to explain the
process by which individuals allocate their atten-
tional resources to a task. During task engagement,
individuals may decide to allocate their cognitive
resources to on- or off-task activities. Resources
allocated to off-task activities, such as cognitions
about an event and emotional processing, nega-
tively affect task performance (Kanfer & Ackerman,
1989). Indeed, in a study of military trainees, Kan-
fer and Ackerman found that those with poorer
performance reported higher levels of off-task,
emotion-laden cognitions (i.e., anger, feelings of
unhappiness) than did the trainees with better
performance.
It is consistent with the resource allocation
model that after victims experience a rude interac-
tion, their attentional resources may be directed
away from on-task activities and allocated to off-
task activities. For example, after a rude incident
victims may try to restore their well-being and
sense of right by reinterpreting the event or relaxing
their normative standards of what constitutes ap-
propriate behavior. Victims can do that by assign-
ing blame to the situation (e.g., “We are under a
strict deadline”) or by trying to find justifications
for the perpetrator’s behavior (e.g., “She is under a
lot of stress”). Victims of rude acts may also just
replay the acts in their minds, trying to understand
the events. Note that although these thoughts are
neutral in their hedonic tone and are not particu-
larly arousing, they require attention. Thus, in just
appraising rudeness, victims are distracted from
tasks at hand. This distraction reduces task-focused
cognitive resources and may affect their perfor-
mance (Kane & Montgomery, 1998; Montgomery,
Kane, & Vance, 2004). This effect should be espe-
cially likely when task performance requires en-
hanced cognitive resources, as does creative and
flexible performance.
At the core of many old theories of creativity lies
the concept of illumination, in which the solution
to a problem comes to the thinker spontaneously,
in “a sudden insight” (Wallas, 1926). However, cur-
rent accounts of creativity suggest instead that this
sudden emergence of a solution actually requires
extensive cognitive attention and effort. For exam-
ple, Boden (1994) suggested that creativity requires
an extensive memory search and may cause a major
working memory overload. Flexibility also requires
extensive cognitive resources, because to change
the course of action or produce diverse ideas, indi-
viduals must simultaneously “hold in their heads”
both old and new information: They need to re-
trieve the old information from long-term memory
and compare it to the new information that is
stored momentarily in working memory (Baddeley
& Hitch, 1974). The demands of performing two
tasks together often introduce new demands for
coordination and avoidance of interference (Ey-
senck & Keane, 2003). Thus, thoughts about a rude
act may not only steal cognitive resources from a
task, decrease attention, and potentially overload
working memory with distracting thoughts, but
may also disrupt tasks that require coordination of
ideas. As a result, exposure to rude behaviors may
disrupt the production of diverse ideas and the
creative process.
Importantly, some scholars have argued that peo-
ple who feel negative emotions can be more, not
less, creative (George & Zhou, 2002). Accordingly,
rude behaviors that cause negative emotions may
actually enhance and not reduce creativity. How-
ever, the evidence for these effects is currently
quite weak. For example, in their 2002 study
George and Zhou found a null correlation (r.03)
between negative affect and creativity. These au-
thors did hypothesize and find a three-way inter-
action between negative affect, role recognition,
and rewards and creativity. However, three-way
interactions are notoriously difficult to replicate
and are therefore suspected by many researchers
(Alexander & DeShon, 1994; Judge, 2007). More-
over, these results are not compatible with theory
and existing data. For example, even researchers
2007 1183Porath and Erez
(i.e., Forgas, 2002; Schwarz & Clore, 1996) who
have strongly argued that people in negative moods
“think better” have consistently hypothesized and
found that positive and not negative affect leads to
creativity. According to these researchers, negative
affect leads to systematic processing. However, this
type of processing is counter to what creativity
requires (Fredrickson, 1998; Isen, 2000). Thus, fol-
lowing the majority of research, we predict that
exposure to rude behaviors that causes negative
emotions leads to lower levels of creativity.
The rude behaviors that may have a negative
influence on task performance and creativity are
not limited to direct insults. Both experiencing di-
rect rudeness and experiencing indirect rudeness
should cause the same retaliatory effects, emotional
effects, and disruption to focused attention. As a
result, direct as well as indirect behaviors should
negatively affect task performance. For example, a
victim’s hearing derogatory remarks about a group
he or she belongs to (e.g., a group based on gender
or national origin) may cause anger and a desire to
strike back even if the perpetrator did not specifi-
cally direct the comment to the victim (Rodriguez
Mosquera, Manstead, & Fischer, 2002). Similarly,
individuals who overhear an insult about an insti-
tution they identify with (e.g., an alma mater) may
contemplate the reasons for this attack, which dis-
rupts the cognitive attention devoted to a task at
hand. Thus,
Hypothesis 1. Targets of direct and indirect
rudeness perform less well on cognitively com-
plex, creative, and flexible tasks than their
counterparts who do not experience rudeness.
Hypothesis 2a. Negative affect mediates the
relationship between rudeness and task
performance.
Hypothesis 2b. A desire to strike back mediates
the relationship between rudeness and task
performance.
Hypothesis 2c. Disruption of cognitive pro-
cesses such as memory-recall mediates the re-
lationship between rudeness and task
performance.
RUDENESS AND HELPFULNESS
People help others for a variety of reasons. For
example, individuals may help those who benefit
them, those who are kind to them, or those with
whom they feel a connection (Anderson & Wil-
liams, 1996; Mossholder, Settoon, & Henagan,
2005; Settoon & Mossholder, 2002). Individuals
may also help others because helping is the right
thing to do (e.g., helping a coworker to meet a
deadline). We believe that rudeness directly dimin-
ishes some of these antecedents of helpfulness and
thus reduces helping behaviors. First, helpfulness
depends to a certain extent on the norm of reciproc-
ity by which people help those who benefit them
(cf. Becker, 1956; Blau, 1964; Festinger, 1950;
Gouldner, 1960). Because rudeness may undermine
reciprocity (i.e., the offender is not beneficial and is
unkind), people who are being mistreated may not
help those who mistreat them. Second, although
being helpful is societally valued and considered
“the right thing to do,” individuals may not feel
obligated to help those who mistreat them or those
deemed responsible for allowing mistreatment
(e.g., Heider, 1958; Parsons, 1951). In fact, the norm
of reciprocity may even dictate that people retaliate
against those who have abused them in order to
restore justice. Indeed, theory suggests that targets
may retaliate in several ways, including withdraw-
ing helpfulness (cf. Andersson & Pearson, 1999).
Because helping is an individual discretionary
behavior that is not formally required, targets of
rudeness can get even by withholding actions that
benefit perpetrators. Targets may not only reduce
help to those who abused them but may also reduce
help to those associated with the abusers, or even
those unrelated to the abuse. For example, Tepper
(2000) and Zellars et al. (2002) found that abused
subordinates reported that they might reduce or-
ganizational commitment, although their organiza-
tion was not directly responsible for the abuse.
Although Tepper and Zellars et al. investigated the
influence of sustained displays of hostile behaviors
on subordinates, and we test the influence of one-
time rudeness, we make a similar prediction: rude-
ness will also affect parties that did not instigate
the aggressive act. A target may also withhold help
after experiencing rude behavior as a result of dis-
placed aggression (cf. Denson, Pederson, & Miller,
2006; Hoobler & Brass, 2006; Marcus-Newhall, Ped-
ersen, & Miller, 2006). That is, the target may ex-
hibit aggression by withholding help because of
frustration or anger caused by the rudeness—even
though the person requesting help had nothing to
do with the incident. Moreover, emotional re-
sponses to provoking situations are sometimes de-
layed or transferred to other situations, and they
direct people’s behavior without the people being
conscious of the behavioral shaping (cf. Zillmann,
1979). Therefore, a target may very well be unaware
that he or she is displacing aggression by being
unhelpful. Thus, we hypothesize:
Hypothesis 3. Targets of rudeness are less
likely to be helpful after experiencing direct or
1184 OctoberAcademy of Management Journal
indirect rudeness than those who do not expe-
rience rudeness.
METHODOLOGY OVERVIEW
This article presents the results of three studies.
In Study 1, we investigated how rude behavior
enacted by an authority figure influences perfor-
mance. In Study 2, we tested how a third party’s
rude behavior influenced performance. In Study 3,
we asked participants to think about an incident
involving rude behavior and measured how “just
thinking” about rudeness influences performance.
By triangulating the results obtained with three
different methods of exposing people to rude be-
haviors, we could better ascertain the validity of
our conclusions. Our main purpose was to investi-
gate whether or not rudeness affects performance,
but we also investigated some of the mediating
processes that may explain rudeness-performance
relationships. Study 1 examined whether negative
mood mediates the relationship between rudeness
and performance. Study 2 examined whether the
desire for revenge mediates this relationship. Study
3 examined the hypothesis that rude behaviors re-
duce performance via disruption to cognitive pro-
cesses such as memory-recall.
STUDY 1
Participants and Procedures
Participants. Students enrolled in a required
management course at a large western university
were asked to participate in a laboratory study
aimed at investigating the personality correlates of
task performance. Participation was voluntary, and
those who participated received extra course
credit. Participants were 98 undergraduate stu-
dents ranging from 19 to 25 years of age, with a
median age of 21. Of the sample, 54 percent were
male, 46 percent were white, and 30 percent were
Asian.
Procedures. Participants were randomly as-
signed to one of the two experimental conditions,
rudeness and control, and the laboratory sessions
took about one hour to complete. Upon a partici-
pant’s arriving at the lab, an experimenter told him
or her a cover story that the study was about the
link between personality and performance. The ex-
perimenter then asked the participant to answer a
personality questionnaire
1
that took about ten min-
utes to complete. This questionnaire was a “filler
task” intended to give a confederate of the experi-
menter’s enough time to show up late to the exper-
imental session. About six minutes after the start of
the experiment, the confederate arrived at the lab
and said, “I am really sorry that I am late. My class
across campus was not released on time.” The ex-
perimenter then told him (in a neutral tone) that it
was too late, that he would not be able to partici-
pate in the experiment, and that he would have to
leave. As soon as the confederate had left the room,
the experimenter introduced the rudeness manip-
ulation (described below).
When the participant had completed the person-
ality questionnaire, the experimenter explained
again that the purpose of the study was to investi-
gate the link between personality and performance
and that the participant would therefore perform
two tasks. The experimenter then handed the par-
ticipant the first task, which consisted of ten ana-
grams (purposely scrambled words) that the partic-
ipant had ten minutes to solve. Upon completion of
the task, he or she was asked to complete the sec-
ond task, which was to write down as many uses
for a brick as possible in five minutes. Upon com-
pletion of the second task, the participant answered
a questionnaire about the experiment that included
manipulation checks. He or she was subsequently
debriefed, thanked, and released.
Manipulation. Immediately after dismissing the
late-arriving confederate (as described above), the
experimenter did one of two possible things. When
a participant was in the control condition, the ex-
perimenter said nothing. When a participant was
assigned to the rudeness condition, however, the
experimenter said: “What is it with you undergrads
here at XXX [university name]? You always arrive
late; you’re not professional. I conducted this type
of study at other universities, and I can tell you that
students here at XXX leave a lot to be desired as
participants.” This rudeness display was designed
to be abstract and general and not specifically di-
rected toward the participant. Accordingly, the ex-
perimenter delivered the rude statement indirectly,
using a low voice (i.e., not louder than normal) and
not looking directly at the participant.
1
The personality measures used as fillers were the
following: the “Big Five” personality traits using Sauci-
er’s (1994) “mini-markers” measure. Core self-evalua-
tions was measured using a scale developed by Judge,
Erez, Bono, and Thoresen (2003). Rosenberg’s (1965) ten-
item self-esteem scale was used to measure self-esteem.
Generalized self-efficacy was measured with a ten-item
scale developed by Judge, Locke, Durham, and Kluger
(1998). Narcissism was measured with the Narcissistic
Personality Inventory Scale (Raskin & Hall, 1979). Coef-
ficient alpha reliability estimates for all these scales
ranged from .83 to .91.
2007 1185Porath and Erez
Measures of Endogenous Variables
Task performance. As described above, perfor-
mance on two tasks was measured. The ten ana-
grams constituting the first task have been used in
previous studies (e.g., Erez & Isen, 2002) and shown
to be moderately difficult. The number of anagrams
correctly solved in ten minutes was one measure of
task performance here. The second task, writing
down uses for a brick, is a brainstorming task com-
monly used in creativity studies as a dependent
measure of creativity (Frick, Guilford, Christensen,
& Merrifeld, 1959; Guilford, 1975). The number of
brick uses produced in five minutes was our sec-
ond measure of task performance.
Creativity. Three graduate assistants who were
blind to the experimental conditions indepen-
dently rated the creativity of the brick uses partic-
ipants produced. The “high” (coded 6 or 7) and
“low” (1 or 2) portions of the scales were anchored
with examples taken from a pilot study that inves-
tigated creative solutions for the brick problem.
Examples of anchors in the high portion were
“hang it from a wall in the museum and call it
abstract art,” and “sell it on e-Bay.” The lower end
of the scale was anchored with examples such as
“use it as a door stop.” Values for interrater reli-
ability (intraclass correlation coefficients) sug-
gested that aggregation over raters was appropriate:
ICC(1) was .78, and ICC(2) was .92.
Flexibility. The diversity of a research partici-
pant’s uses for a brick may be different from the
creativity of these solutions. For example, one can
produce creative solutions that are all related to
using a brick as a building material. Alternatively,
one can produce noncreative solutions in diverse
categories, such as using the brick to build or as a
weapon. Thus, as have previous researchers (Frick
et al., 1959; Guilford, 1975), we also rated the brick
uses for flexibility (i.e., varied categories). The same
three judges who rated creativity rated responses
for flexibility on a scale ranging from 1, “zero vari-
ety,” to 7, “many distinct categories.” For example,
a rating of 1 indicated answers like “to build a
house, to make buildings,” whereas a rating of 7
had items like “use as a building block, paper
weight, piece for interior design, weapon to hurt
someone, and to break a window to get your keys.”
Interrater reliability again justified aggregation over
raters (ICC[1] .82, ICC[2] .93).
Helpfulness. To assess participants’ helpfulness,
while giving participants the brainstorming (brick)
task described above, the experimenter knocked
over a jar with ten pencils that was on his desk.
Helpfulness was measured by whether participants
picked any pencils up and by the number of pencils
they picked up.
Negative affect. Negative affect of participants
was measured with the negative affect subscale of
the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS;
Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988), a ten-item mea-
sure of an individual’s experienced negative (e.g.,
upset, distressed) emotional states. As Watson et al.
(1988) recommended, we measured “state negative
affect” (NA) by using short-term instructions (that
is, “Indicate to what extent you feel this way right
now”). The negative affect measure, which ap-
peared at the end of the personality questionnaire,
was answered by all participants after the rude
behavior manipulation had been introduced. The
coefficient alpha reliability estimate was .86.
STUDY 1 RESULTS
To determine whether our experimental manip-
ulations created the intended conditions for the
study, we conducted a one-way analysis of vari-
ance (ANOVA) with the rude behavior manipula-
tion as the independent variable. For the depen-
dent variable, participants rated their agreement
with the items “The experimenter refrained from
improper remarks and comments” and “The exper-
imenter treated me with respect” (1, “strongly dis-
agree,” to 7, “strongly agree”). The first item was
taken from Cortina et al.’s (2001) incivility mea-
sure, and the second item was taken from Porath,
Shapiro, and Duffy’s (2004) incivility measure. The
coefficient alpha reliability estimate for the two
items was .79, and we therefore combined them to
form one scale. A comparison of mean responses
showed lower agreement with these items among
participants in the exposure to rudeness condition
(¯
x4.63, s.d. 1.48) than among participants in
the control condition (¯
x5.70, s.d. 1.07), and
these differences were significant (F[1, 94] 16.62,
p.01). Thus, those in the rudeness condition
were clearly less satisfied with the treatment that
they had received from the experimenter.
Table 1 provides means, standard deviations,
and correlations among the Study 1 variables. We
tested the influence of rude behaviors on task per-
formance using four indicators: the number of
anagrams solved, the number of uses produced
for brick, the creativity of the brick uses, and the
flexibility of the brick uses. We tested our hy-
potheses using multivariate analysis of variance
(MANOVA). The overall model representing the
influence of rudeness on the five dependent vari-
ables was significant (multivariate F[5, 88] 17.96,
p.01,
2
.51). Table 2 presents these results,
which show that participants in the rudeness con-
1186 OctoberAcademy of Management Journal
dition did not perform as well as those in the con-
trol condition on solving the ten anagrams. Those
that experienced rudeness also produced signifi-
cantly fewer uses for brick, and their uses were
rated significantly lower for creativity and flexibil-
ity than the uses produced by those in the control
condition. Thus, overall the results show that rude
behavior significantly reduced performance on four
measures of task performance, supporting Hypoth-
esis 1. As can be seen in Table 2, ANOVA results
with rudeness as the independent variable and neg-
ative affect as the dependent variable revealed that
those in the rudeness condition also reported
greater negative affect than those in the control
condition.
Consistently with Hypothesis 3, those exposed to
rudeness also tended to be less helpful to the ex-
perimenter. As shown in Table 2, the mean number
of pencils that those in the neutral condition
helped the experimenter pick up was close to eight,
but individuals in the rudeness condition picked
up on average only two pencils. In fact, in compar-
ison with those in the neutral condition, of whom
89.8 percent helped the experimenter pick up the
pencils, only 35.5 percent of the rudeness-exposed
participants helped the experimenter (
2
29.89,
p.01). Because men are less likely to feel guilty
or anxious regarding reciprocal aggression than
women (Eagly & Steffen, 1986; Harris & Knight-
Bohnhoff, 1996) and women are more likely to feel
that they should master anger and aggression in the
service of “being nice” (Hochschild, 1983), we
tested the relationship between gender, rudeness
exposure, and helping behavior. The results of a
logistic regression analysis with helping versus not
helping as the dependent variable and rudeness,
gender, and the interaction between rudeness and
gender as independent variables showed that expo-
sure to rudeness significantly influenced helping.
The odds ratio was 9.0 (p.01), suggesting that
people in the neutral condition were generally nine
times more likely to help than those in the rudeness
condition. Gender and the interaction between gen-
der and rudeness were not statistically significant.
To test whether negative affect mediated the re-
lationship between rudeness and the measures of
task performance, we used the Sobel (1982) test for
mediation. Because the Sobel test imposes distri-
butional assumptions that often cannot be satisfied
in small samples, we used a bootstrapping ap-
proach (see Preacher & Hayes, 2004). In bootstrap-
ping, a random sample is drawn from a data set
TABLE 2
Task Performance and Helpfulness as a Function of Rudeness Exposure in Study 1
a
Variables
Control Condition Rudeness Condition
FMean s.d. Mean s.d.
1. Number of anagrams solved 5.04 2.14 3.78 2.08 8.40**
2. Number of uses produced for a brick 11.82 7.42 8.51 4.10 6.97**
3. Rated creativity for the brick uses 2.73 1.35 2.11 1.13 5.83*
4. Rated flexibility for the brick uses 3.85 1.31 3.14 1.14 7.78**
5. Helpfulness 7.92 4.04 2.07 3.30 58.53**
6. Negative affect 1.47 0.63 1.77 0.80 4.29*
a
n98 (53, neutral condition; 45, rudeness exposure condition).
*p.05
** p.01
TABLE 1
Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations among Study 1 Variables
a
Variables Mean s.d. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1. Manipulated rudeness exposure 0.46 0.50
2. Number of anagrams solved 4.43 2.18 .29
3. Number of uses produced for a brick 10.32 6.27 .27 .21
4. Rated creativity for the brick uses 2.48 1.31 .26 .03 .45 (.92)
5. Rated flexibility for the brick uses 3.51 1.25 .28 .12 .32 .19 (.93)
6. Helpfulness 5.12 4.71 .62 .14 .11 .02 .18
7. Negative affect 1.61 0.72 .21 .21 .05 .07 .13 .05 (.86)
a
n98. Reliabilities are on the diagonal in parentheses. Correlations above .19 are significant at p.05. Correlations greater than .25
are significant at p.01.
2007 1187Porath and Erez
multiple times. In each random sample drawn, di-
rect and indirect effects and their standard errors
are estimated. Thus, on the basis of 3,000 random
samples, we estimated the direct and indirect ef-
fects of rudeness through negative affect on each of
the four performance variables. Results of using the
Sobel test to assess such mediation were not signif-
icant (anagram performance, Z⫽⫺0.26, n.s.; brick
performance, Z0.31, n.s.; brick creativity, Z
0.01, n.s.; and brick flexibility, Z.10, n.s.).
Thus, Hypothesis 2a was not supported.
STUDY 2
Participants and Procedures
Participants. Students enrolled in a required
management course at a large western university
were asked to participate in a laboratory study
aimed at investigating the personality correlates of
task performance. Participants were 82 undergrad-
uates, ranging in age from 19 to 36 years and having
a median age of 21; 45 percent were female, 41
percent were white, and 49 percent were Asian.
Procedures. As in Study 1, each session had a
single participant. An experimenter informed each
participant that the purpose of the study was to
investigate personality as a correlate of task perfor-
mance; provided a short questionnaire consisting
mainly of mood items; explained the anagram task
and the brainstorming (brick) task used in Study 1;
instructed the participant to do these tasks, starting
with the anagram task; and ultimately thanked and
debriefed the participants. A difference between
Study 1 and Study 2 was that the experimenter
dropped ten books rather than ten pencils (as in the
previous study) while administering the second task.
A second difference between this study and the
first was that here a confederate outside the exper-
imental laboratory enacted the rudeness manipula-
tion. This was accomplished as follows: Partici-
pants initially received instructions to go to a
certain office in the Management Department for
the experiment. When a participant arrived at the
supposed experimental room, he or she encoun-
tered a half-open door to a room in which the
confederate was sitting behind a desk. On the door
was a small sign saying that the experiment would
actually take place in a different room and giving
directions to that room. The sign was positioned in
such a way that participants could easily miss it—it
was off center, and several other signs with differ-
ent announcements were also on the door. As ex-
pected, all of the participants missed the sign and
entered the room to ask the confederate (who did
not appear to be especially busy) if this was where
the experiment was to take place. The confederate’s
reply constituted the rudeness manipulation (de-
scribed below). Following this reply, the confeder-
ate gave the participants instructions on how to get
to the experimental room.
When the participant arrived at the experimental
room, he or she was greeted by the experimenter,
who said, “Sorry we had to change the rooms. I
hope it was easy for you to find this room and that
the professor who was sitting in room XXX gave
you instructions on how to get here.” The experi-
menter then proceeded with the session, as de-
scribed above under Study 1.
Manipulation. When participants arrived at the
initially scheduled experimental room, where they
found the confederate (as described above), the lat-
ter did one of two things: She told the participants
assigned to the control condition that the room had
changed and gave them directions to the experi-
mental room. In contrast, the confederate delivered
the following statement to the participants in the
rudeness condition: “Can’t you read? There is a
sign on the door that tells you that the experiment
will be in room YYY. But you didn’t even bother to
look at the door, did you? Instead, you preferred to
disturb me and ask for directions when you can
clearly see that I am busy. I am not a secretary here,
I am a busy professor.” The rudeness manipulation
was specifically designed to occur outside of the
laboratory and to be delivered by a third party who
was seemingly unrelated to the experiment.
Measures of Endogenous Variables
Task performance. As in Study 1, we assessed
task performance as the number of anagrams cor-
rectly solved and as the number of uses for a brick
that participants named in five minutes.
Creativity. The uses participants produced for
brick were rated for creativity on the same scale
used in Study 1 by three graduate assistants who
were blind to the experimental conditions. Aggre-
gation over raters was appropriate (ICC[1] .80;
ICC[2] .92).
Flexibility. The uses participants produced for a
brick were rated for flexibility on the same scale
used in Study 1 by the same graduate assistants
who rated creativity. Again, aggregation was appro-
priate (ICC[1] .81; ICC[2] .93).
Helpfulness. To assess participants’ helpfulness,
while giving them the brainstorming (brick) task,
the experimenter dropped ten books. Helpfulness
was measured as whether participants picked up
any books and by the number they picked up.
Desire for revenge. Desire for revenge was mea-
sured by asking participants to state their agree-
1188 OctoberAcademy of Management Journal
ment with three questions (1, “not at all,” to 7,
“very much” ): “I did not perform up to my capacity
because I didn’t want to help,” “I was not moti-
vated to do the tasks because of the way I was
treated,” and “I would like the experiment to fail
because of the way I was treated” (
.89).
Negative affect. As in Study 1, negative affect
of participants was measured with the negative
affect subscale of the PANAS (Watson et al., 1988;
.86).
STUDY 2 RESULTS
To determine whether our rudeness manipula-
tion created the intended experimental conditions,
we conducted an ANOVA with rudeness exposure
as the independent variable. For the dependent
variable, participants indicated their agreement
with two items: “The professor refrained from im-
proper remarks and comments” and “The professor
treated me with respect” (1, “strongly disagree,” 7,
“strongly agree”). The two items (
.84) were
combined to form one scale. A comparison of
means showed a lower agreement with these items
among participants exposed to rudeness ( ¯
x3.68,
s.d. 2.11) than among participants in the control
condition (¯
x4.97, s.d. 1.86), and these mean
differences were significant (F[1, 71] 7.29, p
.01). Thus, as in Study 1, it seems that those in the
rudeness condition were less satisfied with the
treatment that they received.
Table 3 gives means, standard deviations, and
correlations among the Study 2 variables. Here
again, we tested our hypotheses using MANOVA
for the five dependent variables of performance and
helpfulness. The overall model representing the
influence of rudeness on the five dependent vari-
ables was significant (multivariate F[5, 75] 13.29.
p.01,
2
.47). Table 4 presents the results of
effect of rudeness on each dependent variable and
shows that experiencing rude behavior from some-
one outside of the experimental session affected
participants’ performance. Those exposed to rude-
ness did not perform as well as the controls on the
anagrams, produced fewer uses for brick, and were
rated as less creative and less flexible on their brick
uses than were those in the control condition.
Thus, Hypothesis 1 was supported. As can be seen
in Table 4, a one-way ANOVA revealed that those
in the rudeness condition also reported greater de-
sire for revenge than those in the control condition.
In contrast, ANOVA results showed that those in
the rudeness condition did not report higher nega-
tive affect than those in the control condition.
Although the perpetrator of rude behavior in this
study was not the experimenter, participants in the
control condition helped the experimenter pick up
more books (¯
x3.98, s.d. 3.04) than did those
who were treated in a rude way by the confederate
(¯
x0.62, s.d. 1.40). Indeed, 72.5 percent of those
in the neutral condition picked up the books, and
only 23.8 percent of those in the rudeness condi-
tion helped the experimenter (
2
19.48, p.01).
As in Study 1, we tested whether gender interacted
with rudeness to influence helping behavior. Logis-
tic regression analysis suggested an odds ratio of
8.87 (p.01), indicating that people in the neutral
condition were generally nine times more likely to
help than were those in the rudeness condition.
Gender and the interaction between gender and
rudeness did not significantly affect helping.
Because the rudeness manipulation was not re-
lated to negative affect, we did not test the latter as
a mediator. However, to test whether the desire for
revenge mediated the relationship between rude-
ness and the measures of task performance, we
used the bootstrapping approach to the Sobel test
for mediation suitable for small samples. As in
Study 1, we used 3,000 random samples drawn
from the data set to estimate the direct and indirect
effects from rudeness through desire for revenge to
the four performance indicators. Using the Sobel
TABLE 3
Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations among Study 2 Variables
a
Variables Mean s.d. 12345678
1. Manipulated rudeness exposure 0.51 0.50
2. Number of anagrams solved 4.20 2.28 .44
3. Number of uses produced for a brick 8.85 3.88 .51 .37
4. Rated creativity for the brick uses 2.60 1.51 .24 .12 .47 (.92)
5. Rated flexibility for the brick uses 4.01 1.44 .34 .24 .61 .53 (.93)
6. Helpfulness 2.26 2.88 .59 .44 .42 .09 .17
7. Negative affect 1.86 0.85 .15 .15 .04 .11 .08 .03 (.86)
8. Desire for revenge 2.16 1.59 .25 .25 .30 .24 .03 .27 .28 (.89)
a
n82. Reliabilities are on the diagonal in parentheses. Correlations above .21 are significant at p.05. Correlations greater than .30
are significant at p.01.
2007 1189Porath and Erez
test, we found that a desire for revenge did not
significantly mediate the relationship between ex-
posure to rudeness and performance (anagram per-
formance, Z1.08, n.s.; brick performance, Z
1.24, n.s.; brick creativity, Z⫽⫺1.19, n.s.; and
brick flexibility, Z0.43, n.s.). Thus, Hypothesis
2b was not supported.
STUDY 3
This study was specifically designed to test Hy-
pothesis 2c, which states that rudeness disrupts
cognitive processes such as memory-recall.
Participants and Procedures
Participants. Students enrolled in a required
management course at a large southeastern univer-
sity were asked to participate in a laboratory study
aimed at investigating the personality correlates of
task performance. Participation was voluntary, and
those who participated received extra course
credit. Participants were 98 undergraduates whose
age ranged from 18 to 32 years, with a median 20
years. Of the sample, 54 percent were male, and 67
percent were white.
Procedures. Participants attended the experi-
mental session in groups of five or six. At the be-
ginning of the study, the experimenter told the
students that they would participate in two short
studies and that the purpose of the first study was
to create an inventory of “college life events” to be
used in future studies exploring how students re-
spond to different situations in college. The stu-
dents were told that they would elaborate and ex-
tend college life scenarios that students in a
previous study had identified and briefly de-
scribed. In adopting this scenario-extending ma-
nipulation, which has been used in previous stud-
ies to induce both positive and negative affect
(Bless, Clore, Schwartz, Golisano, Rabe, & Wolk,
1996), we assumed that even imagining a situation
in which a perpetrator was rude would lead to
reduction in the cognitive resources devoted to
a task.
The students were also told that the purpose of
the second study was to investigate the link be-
tween personality and performance on several cog-
TABLE 4
Task Performance and Helpfulness as a Function of Exposure to Rudeness in Study 2
a
Variables
Control Condition Rudeness Condition
FMean s.d. Mean s.d.
1. Number of anagrams solved 5.18 2.15 3.21 1.97 18.43**
2. Number of uses produced for a brick 11.00 3.20 6.95 3.45 29.88**
3. Rated creativity for the brick uses 2.97 1.64 2.26 1.31 4.72*
4. Rated flexibility for the brick uses 4.51 1.42 3.55 1.32 10.08**
5. Helpfulness 4.08 3.01 0.62 1.40 44.98**
6. Negative affect 1.99 0.91 1.73 0.78 1.89
7. Desire for revenge 1.74 1.28 2.54 1.75 4.69*
a
n82 (40, neutral condition; 42, rudeness exposure condition).
*p.05
** p.01
TABLE 5
Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations among Study 3 Variables
a
Variables Mean s.d. 1234567
1. Manipulated rudeness 0.49 0.50
2. Number of anagrams solved 5.32 2.32 .31
3. Number of uses produced for a brick 9.52 3.79 .29 .43
4. Rated creativity for the brick uses 3.26 1.21 .21 .04 .34 (.89)
5. Rated flexibility for the brick uses 3.81 1.24 .21 .06 .37 .64 (.88)
6. Negative affect 1.49 0.52 .08 .09 .16 .08 .05 (.84)
7. Memory-recall 12.15 2.63 .35 .41 .52 .22 .33 .12
a
n98. Reliabilities are on the diagonal in parentheses. Correlations above .20 are significant at p.05. Correlations greater than .28
are significant at p.01.
1190 OctoberAcademy of Management Journal
nitive tasks. At the beginning of the session, partic-
ipants received a list of 15 “paired-associate”
words (e.g., “tall-bone,” “plan-leaf”) and were
given five minutes to memorize them. They were
specifically instructed that at the end of the exper-
imental session they would be given one of the
words from a pair and would be asked to recall the
other word. After five minutes, the experimenter
randomly gave each participant a printed para-
graph four to six lines long about one of four sce-
narios. Two of these portrayed the rude behavior
situations described in Studies 1 and 2. These sce-
narios were validated in Studies 1 and 2 as involv-
ing rudeness that influenced task performance and
helpfulness. The other two scenarios described the
neutral situations (control conditions) in these
studies. The participants were asked to imagine
that the incident described in their paragraph had
happened to them, and each participant had ten
minutes to write a short story elaborating on what
exactly had happened. Following this exercise,
they were asked to answer several questions about
the incident. After these questions had been an-
swered, the experimenter explained that they had
completed the first part of the study and would
now begin the second part, the personality-perfor-
mance study. Participants were given a short per-
sonality questionnaire consisting mainly of mood
items, followed by the anagram and brick tasks
described in the previous studies. When they had
completed these tasks, they were given a list that
included one of each of the paired-associate words
and were asked to recall the other word. At the end
of this task, they were debriefed, thanked, and
released.
Manipulation. Rudeness was manipulated by
asking participants to write short stories elaborat-
ing and extending a scenario that described a rude
incident. They were specifically instructed to imag-
ine that this rude incident had happened to them.
This manipulation was designed to specifically test
the effect of “just thinking” about rudeness. In con-
trast, participants in the control condition were
instructed to imagine that one of the neutral/con-
trol scenarios had happened to them and to write a
story elaborating and extending it.
Measures of Endogenous Variables
Task performance. As in Studies 1 and 2, we
assessed task performance as the number of ana-
grams correctly solved and the number of uses for a
brick generated in five minutes.
Creativity. The uses for a brick that participants
produced were rated for creativity on the same
scale used in Studies 1 and 2 by three graduate
assistants who were blind to the experimental con-
ditions. Aggregation over raters was appropriate
(ICC[1] .73, ICC[2] .89).
Flexibility. The uses for a brick participants
produced were rated for flexibility on the same
scale used in Studies 1 and 2 by the same graduate
assistants who rated creativity. Interrater reliabil-
ity again justified aggregation (ICC[1] .70;
ICC[2] .88).
Memory-recall. The paired-associate word task
described above is commonly used by cognitive
psychologists to test disruption of memory, atten-
tion, and other cognitive processes (i.e., working
memory capacity) (see Ashcraft, 1989; Eysenck &
Keane, 2003). For example, the paired-associate
task is used to test for retroactive interference,
whereby events occurring after the memorization
interfere with the recall of the information learned.
Negative affect. As in Study 1, participants’
negative affect was measured with the negative af-
fect subscale of the PANAS (Watson et al., 1988;
.84).
STUDY 3 RESULTS
Because there were no significant differences be-
tween the two neutral scenarios with regard to any
of the dependent variables, these conditions were
combined. The same was true with regard to the
two rude behavior scenarios, and therefore these
two were also combined. To determine whether our
rudeness manipulation created the intended exper-
imental conditions, we conducted an ANOVA with
the rudeness manipulation as the independent
variable. For the dependent variable, participants
indicated their agreement (1, “strongly disagree,” to
7, ”strongly agree”) with two statements: “The per-
son in the scenario was offensive” and “The person
in this scenario intended to offend me.” We com-
bined these two items into a scale (
.84). A
comparison of the means showed stronger agree-
ment among participants in the rudeness condition
(¯
x4.44, s.d. 1.71) than among control group
participants (¯
x2.34, s.d. 1.65), and differences
in means were significant (F[1, 97] 38.09, p
.01). Thus, the results confirmed the expected ma-
nipulation effect.
We tested our hypothesis that rudeness would
affect performance using a MANOVA for the four
dependent variables, controlling for negative affect.
The overall model representing the influence of
rudeness on the four dependent variables was sig-
nificant (multivariate F[4, 89] 4.24. p.01,
2
.16). Table 6 presents the results of the MANOVA
comparing the performance indicators of partici-
pants in the experimental and control conditions.
2007 1191Porath and Erez
Thinking about encountering rude behavior af-
fected participants’ performance: Those in the
rudeness condition did not perform as well as the
controls on the anagrams assignment, produced
fewer uses for a brick, and were rated as less cre-
ative and less flexible on their brick uses. Thus,
Hypothesis 1 was supported. As can be seen in
Table 6, a one-way ANOVA revealed that those
in the rudeness condition also performed signifi-
cantly more poorly on the memory-recall task than
those in the control condition. In contrast, as in
Study 2, the results of a one-way ANOVA showed
the rudeness manipulation was not related to
participants’ negative affect. Thus, here again we
did not test the mediation effect of negative af-
fect on the relationship between rudeness and
performance.
To test whether a disruption in cognitive pro-
cesses (i.e., memory-recall) mediated the rudeness-
performance relationship, we again used the boot-
strapping approach to the Sobel test for mediation.
Table 7 shows that when we regressed the four task
performance measures on rudeness, all of the coef-
ficients were significant. Similarly, regressing the
memory-recall (i.e., paired-associate recall) mea-
sure on rudeness produced a significant coefficient
(b⫽⫺1.85, p.01). When the measure of memory-
recall was entered into the regression, all of the task
performance coefficients dropped to an insignificant
level. In contrast, in three of the four regressions, the
coefficient of memory-recall remained significant,
and only in the case of creativity was the memory-
recall coefficient insignificant. Indeed, the Sobel test
indicated that memory-recall significantly mediated
the relationship between rudeness and task perfor-
mance for anagram performance, brick performance,
and flexibility, supporting Hypothesis 2c.
DISCUSSION
Taken together, our three studies investigating
the objective consequences of both direct and indi-
rect experiences of rudeness lead us to conclude
that rudeness is harmful to task performance. More
specifically, even one-time incidents of rudeness
(quite different from Tepper’s [2000] and Zellars et
TABLE 6
Task Performance as a Function of Exposure to Rudeness in Study 3
a
Variables
Control Condition Rudeness Condition
FMean s.d. Mean s.d.
1. Number of anagrams solved 5.96 2.06 4.47 2.28 11.00**
2. Number of uses produce for a brick 10.49 3.75 8.36 3.37 8.36**
3. Rated creativity for the brick uses 3.52 1.26 3.01 1.12 4.33*
4. Rated flexibility for the brick uses 4.07 1.25 3.55 1.19 4.25*
5. Negative affect 1.53 0.57 1.45 0.47 0.60
6. Memory-recall 13.06 2.56 11.02 2.37 13.79**
a
n94 (47, neutral condition; 47, exposure to rudeness condition).
*p.05
** p.01
TABLE 7
Results of Hierarchical Regression Analysis, Study 3
a
Variables
Anagrams Task Brick Task Creativity Flexibility
bs.e. bs.e. bs.e. bs.e.
Direct and total effects
Rudeness manipulation 1.44** .44 2.20** .74 0.51* .25 0.52* .04*
Rudeness controlling for memory-recall 0.88 .45 0.95 .18 0.37 .26 0.26 .26
Memory-recall controlling for rudeness 0.30** .09 0.68** .13 0.07 .05 0.14** .05
Indirect effect
Rudeness through memory-recall 0.58* .26 1.27** .43 0.13 .10 0.26 .13
Sobel test (Z)2.50* 2.96** 1.34 2.18*
a
Tabled values are unstandardized regression coefficients.
*p.05
** p.01
1192 OctoberAcademy of Management Journal
al.’s [2002] sustained abusive supervision, which
reduced OCBs) not only reduce helpfulness, but
also affect people’s objective cognitive functioning
and creativity. Our studies showed that an act of
rudeness on the part of an authority figure (the
experimenter in Study 1) and by a third party (the
confederate in Study 2) affected participants’ task
performance, creativity, flexibility, and helpful-
ness. We also found that just imagining a rude
incident reduced routine as well as creative and
flexible performance. In Study 1, the rudeness was
not directed toward the participants in particular
and was subtle enough that they could have
brushed it off easily. In Study 2, the rudeness was
directed toward the participants, but it was seem-
ingly unrelated to the experimental session. And in
Study 3, participants merely imagined the rude-
ness. Thus, our operationalizations of rudeness
were quite conservative. The robust effects that we
found in these studies are all the more impressive
in showing that even one-time incidents of expo-
sure to rudeness may have serious consequences
for objective performance on cognitive tasks (see
Prentice & Miller, 1992).
Other studies on rude behaviors have also shown
that they have harmful consequences, but these
studies have generally relied on survey and self-
report data. Survey data, however, have several
notable limitations. For example, self-report ques-
tions require introspection, which has long been
known to be a problematic method of investigation
(see Isen & Hastorf, 1982). Similarly, self-report
questions may interfere with the ecological validity
of a study. Moreover, they are sensitive to re-
searcher effects, and individuals answering the
questions can sometimes guess the purpose of a
study and answer accordingly (see Isen & Erez,
2007). These issues do not negate the value of sur-
vey studies on rudeness, but they do suggest that
results from these studies would benefit from cross-
validation with objective behavioral measures.
Thus, from a methodological perspective, our stud-
ies confirmed that rudeness has serious conse-
quences. From a practical perspective, these results
show that even if individuals in a workplace report
that rudeness is “not a problem” (as they may, for
example, in organizations where it is acceptable
behavior), rudeness may still have detrimental con-
sequences. That is, even if people do not report the
toll that rudeness is taking on them, are not inten-
tionally “getting even,” and are not even aware that
rudeness affects them, they may still exhibit cogni-
tive losses.
Our studies also extend previous research by pro-
viding insight into why individual task perfor-
mance, creativity, and flexibility may suffer follow-
ing exposure to rudeness. Although the vast
majority of research on aggression focuses on how a
desire to retaliate explains individuals’ responses
to antisocial behavior (e.g., Aquino et al., 2001; Bies
& Tripp, 2005; Skarlicki & Folger, 1997), the desire
to strike back cannot explain some of our results. In
Study 2, a person apparently unrelated to the ex-
periment (a stranger whom participants encoun-
tered on the way to the study) was rude to partici-
pants. Though participants had no reason to harm
the experimenter or to retaliate against him, their
task performance seemed to suffer. Using a design
with such a third-party perpetrator shows that de-
sire for retaliation cannot solely explain the strong
effect of rudeness on cognitive performance. In-
deed, the desire to strike back was not a successful
mediator in our study. Our studies’ results also did
not support the other process that some researchers
have suggested—mediation by negative affect of the
relationship between a negative event such as rude-
ness and performance (see Weiss & Cropanzano,
1996). In fact, in Studies 2 and 3 the rudeness
manipulation was not even related to participants’
reported negative affect. The null results that we
found with desire to strike back and negative affect
as mediators could be due to the fact that we mea-
sured these variables with self-report measures.
Thus, the absence of significant findings for the
mediators could be an example of the poor corre-
spondence between what people show (a reduction
in performance) and what they think they know or
feel (Bandura, 1971). However, it could also indi-
cate that other processes may be more prominent in
explaining the relationship between rudeness and
performance.
In Study 3, we found that cognitive processes
such as memory-recall are important explanatory
variables for the consequences of rudeness. This
variable, which has not been considered in previ-
ous research, seems to be a new explanation for
how and why rudeness is detrimental to perfor-
mance. Although it is not clear from our study what
kind of interference to working memory rudeness
presents, it is clear that some disruption occurred.
It is likely that after experiencing rude behavior,
people engage in thought processes to try to make
sense of the event. Whether they are considering
responses, trying to “explain away” the rude behav-
ior, or just ruminating about it, it is clear that these
processes take cognitive resources from a task at
hand. Future research might investigate what kind
of interference to cognitive processes rudeness pre-
sents. Does rudeness create a “bottleneck” in pro-
cessing information? Does ruminating about rude-
ness proactively interfere with other thoughts or
with their coordination? Researchers may want to
2007 1193Porath and Erez
consider these and other questions in an effort to
understand the powerful influence of rudeness on
the mind.
Finally, extending previous research, our find-
ings allow us to conclude that rudeness has a spill-
over effect. In our studies, rudeness influenced not
only helpfulness to the perpetrator (Study 1) but
also to the experimenter, who did not do any harm
to participants (Study 2). The conclusion that rude
behavior may not be contained within the perpe-
trator-target dyad and that it affects helping behav-
iors is theoretically and practically significant be-
cause it implies that rude behavior can harm
innocent bystanders. However, more research is
needed to support this conclusion. Researchers
should consider the spillover effects of employee-
to-employee rudeness on customers, suppliers, and
other stakeholders, as discussed by Pearson and
Porath (2004). Like other research findings, our
finding also raises more questions than it answers.
For example, do witnesses of rudeness also de-
crease their task performance, creativity, flexibility,
and helpfulness? Research might also consider the
longer-term effects of rudeness, since our studies
focused on relatively short-term effects. We do not
know the extent to which these effects would last.
Limitations and Future Research Needs
Despite the multiple converging operations we
used in our three studies, this research is not with-
out limitations. For example, our findings may
have limited generalizability to organizations. We
conducted this research with college students, who
differ in some significant ways from employees; for
example, they do not receive salaries for good per-
formance. This may not be a critical limitation, in
view of accumulating evidence supporting the gen-
eralizability of research findings obtained in con-
trived settings over many psychological domains
(Anderson, Lindsay, & Bushman, 1999; Locke,
1986). Nevertheless, our findings should be repli-
cated in an organizational setting.
Second, although randomized assignment to the
experimental treatment conditions makes it highly
unlikely that differences in people’s cognitive abil-
ity or in task complexity can explain our findings
regarding cognitive disruption, future research
could control for these variables. The randomized
design of our studies also makes it unlikely that any
of the personality traits measured to assist with the
cover story for Study 1 and Study 2 could be related
to the manipulations. Indeed, none of the person-
ality measures were significantly related to the
rudeness manipulation or to any of the dependent
variables.
Another limitation of our study is that we con-
sidered a small number of potentially mediating
processes (negative affect, a desire to strike back,
and disruption to cognitive processes), and nega-
tive affect and desire to strike back were measured
using self-reports. Assessing other processes (e.g.,
sense-making) could have led to increased insight.
However, given the number of tasks participants
needed to complete in the laboratory session, we
needed to balance comprehensiveness with com-
plexity. Therefore, we assessed what we believed to
be the most relevant processes. However, future
research should investigate other processes that
could explain the influence of rudeness on perfor-
mance, preferably with behavioral measures.
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Christine L. Porath (cporath@marshall.usc.edu)isanas-
sistant professor of management and organizational be-
havior at the Marshall School of Business, University of
Southern California. She received her Ph.D. from the
Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research interests include
incivility, self-management, thriving at work, and pro-
moting positive work environments.
Amir Erez (amir.erez@cba.ufl.edu) is an associate profes-
sor of management at the Warrington College of Business
Administration at the University of Florida. He received
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2007 1197Porath and Erez
... Krings et al. 2015) and increased negative affect (e.g. Porath and Erez 2007),the evidence is less clear when effects on performance are considered. Recent work has focussed on the question of performance by outlining different underlying mechanisms that may take effect when humans are exposed to social stress (Sauer et al. 2019). ...
... In the research literature, there are examples for both forms of extra-role behaviour. 'Spontaneous reactions' may be assessed by means of an experimenter dropping a stack of books in front of a participant (Porath and Erez 2007) while 'considered responses' refer to an experimenter requesting a participant to pre-test materials that is to be employed in a future study (Sherrod and Downs 1974). It appears to be important to make this distinction between the two forms of extra-role behaviour because they may differ with regard to sensitivity. ...
... To measure extra-role behaviour, we used a slightly adapted version of a task used by Porath and Erez (2007). In this task, the experimenter (here: a confederate) deliberately drops the ten pens next to the participant, pretending that she dropped them accidently. ...
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In simulation-based education, there is growing interest in the effects of emotions on learning from simulation sessions. The perception that emotions have an important impact on performance and learning is supported by the literature. Emotions are pervasive: at any given moment, individuals are in one emotional state or another. Emotions are also powerful: they guide ongoing cognitive processes in order to direct attention, memory and judgment towards addressing the stimulus that triggers the emotion. This occurs in a predictable way. The purpose of this paper is to present a narrative overview of the research on emotions, cognitive processes and learning, in order to inform the simulation community of the potential role of emotions during simulation-based education.
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Purpose Challenges with acculturation in organizations may make employees an easy target of workplace incivility and awareness of what constitutes uncivil behaviors at work can influence the association between acculturation and incivility. The current study examined the links between acculturation, incivility and tested mentor holding behavior as a moderator. Design/methodology/approach Survey data including responses to incivility vignettes were collected from 163 full-time first- and second-generation immigrant employees in the southeastern United States. The data were analyzed through moderated hierarchical regression analysis. Findings The results indicated that those experiencing separation or marginalization in trying to acculturate into the dominant culture reported experiencing uncivil behaviors from supervisors and coworkers. Also, one's awareness of incivility moderated the positive relationship between experience of separation and experiences of incivility, such that this relationship was stronger for those who had higher awareness of what constitutes uncivil behavior. Additionally, the effect of marginalization on reported incivility was dampened with higher levels of mentor holding behavior. Originality/value This study’s findings extend the application of the selective incivility theory beyond the minoritized categories of race and gender to the immigrants struggling with acculturation in organizations. Also, our study lends support to widening the theoretical lens for mentoring to include relational systems theory.
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This study examined the effect of customer incivility and employee incivility on depersonalization as well as the mediation role of forgiveness in the effects of customer incivility and employee incivility on depersonalization. The study was conducted with 352 employees of five-star hotels in Antalya, Turkey. The results show that customer incivility and employee incivility increase hotel employees’ depersonalization while forgiveness partially mediates the impact of customer incivility and employee incivility on depersonalization. These findings indicate that hotel managers should encourage employees’ tendency to forgive, increase managerial support and training for employees, and learning about different cultures.
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Purpose Although the importance of teamwork competencies and effective conflict management in entrepreneurship education is recognised, we have limited knowledge of how these factors interact to influence performance in entrepreneurial teams. This research explores teamwork competencies as a predictor of entrepreneurial team performance and the moderating effect of emerging cognitive and interpersonal team conflict as levers in entrepreneurship learning. Design/methodology/approach A time-lagged survey method was used to collect data from 49 teams (156 individuals) of undergraduate students in an experiential new venture creation course. A predictive model of entrepreneurial team performance through hierarchical regression analyses and moderated-moderation analyses was tested. Findings Results reveal that teamwork competencies have a significant and direct influence on entrepreneurial team performance and that intragroup conflict strengthens that relationship when high levels of cognitive conflict and low levels of interpersonal conflict emerge. Practical implications The findings have implications for the design of entrepreneurial training programs, which will benefit from interventions aimed at teamwork competency development that incorporate strategies promoting constructive cognitive conflict while preventing the emergence of interpersonal conflict. Originality/value This study is a step forward in entrepreneurship education research from the perspective of social and interpersonal processes by identifying the patterns of intra-team conflict that lead to more effective entrepreneurial teams and more productive use of teamwork competencies in a learning-by-doing entrepreneurial context.
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Purpose: The purpose of the current study was to examine the impact of workplace incivility on knowledge hiding behavior. The study also empirically analyzed the moderating effect of psychological entitlement between workplace incivility and knowledge hiding behavior. Design/Methodology/Approach: The study utilized a cross-sectional survey design to collect the data using a structured questionnaire. The participants were selected using convenience sampling. A total of 465 academicians participated in the study belonging to Pakistan's different higher education institutions. Findings: The findings revealed that workplace incivility positively impacts knowledge hiding behavior. Moreover, psychological entitlement moderated the relationship between workplace incivility and knowledge hiding behavior. Implications/Originality/Value: The current study highlighted the examination of the antecedent of knowledge hiding behavior. The personality disposition has been studied as a moderator between incivility and knowledge hiding. This study disclosed how psychological entitlement could change a person's tendency to share knowledge with peers.
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Using a mood-as-input model, the authors identified conditions under which negative moods are positively related, and positive moods are negatively related, to creative performance. Among a sample of workers in an organizational unit charged with developing creative designs and manufacturing techniques, the authors hypothesized and found that negative moods were positively related to creative performance when perceived recognition and rewards for creative performance and clarity of feelings (a metamood process) were high. The authors also hypothesized and found that positive moods were negatively related to creative performance when perceived recognition and rewards for creativity and clarity of feelings were high.
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This study investigated the relationships between blame, victim and offender status, and the pursuit of revenge or reconciliation after a personal offense. Results from a sample of 141 government agency employees showed that blame is positively related to revenge and negatively related to reconciliation. In addition, victim-offender relative status moderated the relation between blame and revenge such that victims who blamed sought revenge more often when the offender's status was lower than their own. The victims' own absolute hierarchical status also moderated this relation such that lower, not higher, status employees who blamed sought revenge more often.
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Emotional processes influence a wide range of mental and physical systems, which makes them difficult to understand from a single perspective. In this special issue of the Review of General Psychology, contributing authors present 4 articles that draw from several areas within psychology in the service of understanding a topic relevant to emotion. In this overview, the authors argue that the long neglect of the scientific study of complex processes such as emotion might be linked, in part, to the fractionation of the field into specialized subdisciplines. Just as emotions were of central concern in the early years of psychology (which was a generalist's era), as psychology moves toward more integration in the late 20th century broad phenomena such as emotions are once again central interests. The 4 articles of this special issue are briefly reviewed as exemplars of an integrated approach to understanding emotional phenomena.
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The authors tested whether happy moods increase, and sad moods decrease, reliance on general knowledge structures. Participants in happy, neutral, or sad moods listened to a "going-out-for-dinner" story. Happy participants made more intrusion errors in recognition than did sad participants, with neutral mood participants falling in between (Experiments 1 and 2), Happy participants outperformed sad ones when they performed a secondary task while listening to the story (Experiment 2), but only when the amount of script-inconsistent information was small (Experiment 3 ). This pattern of findings indicates higher reliance on general knowledge structures under happy rather than sad moods. It is incompatible with the assumption that happy moods decrease either cognitive capacity or processing motivation in general, which would predict impaired secondary-task performance.