How much does “rude” cost?

It turns out it can cost you your life. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal referenced a study from Israel where researchers either said two rude comments to the care team or they made two neutral comments. The teams that received the rude comments…”made significantly more diagnostic errors (e.g., not recognizing bowel perforation) and treatment errors (e.g., improperly ventilating the baby). Analysis of videotapes showed that reduced collaboration and communication (like information sharing and help-seeking) accounted for the inferior performance”.

Then there was this passage in a book Emotional Agility, “In one study, a group of nurses were asked to keep a daily log of their mood, work hassles, and the overall emotional “climate” of their team. The logs, which covered a three-week period, showed that any one nurse’s mood on any given day, whether bad or good, was significantly predicted by the moods of the other nurses on the team. What was astonishing was that this emotional contagion occurred even when the moods that were affecting the influencing had nothing to do with work, and even though the nurses were spending only a few hours of the workday with one another”.

You are contagious. When you show up and you are in a mood, (good or bad) your colleagues and team will pick up on it and they will be more than aware of it. Their moods will reflect yours. And it can spiral quickly.

Imagine, you are at your desk you’ve taken a couple of sips from your morning coffee and the boss blows through. You were excited about the conversation she had agreed to have with you about a new project this morning and when you go to present your case, she is head down and waving you off. “Not right now, I am too busy,” she says. What happens to your mood? Be honest.  Now what happens when your colleague comes in just a few minutes later and wants to connect and share his newest success with you?

Chances are a little bit of the dismissive feeling you got from your manager is passed along to your colleague. Because you want to just get over your feelings and move on. It takes emotional awareness to be aware that we have been affected and then to shift that mood.

A study from ESADE a business school in Spain demonstrated that they could identify what the authors called transformational leaders by their ability to regulate not only their own moods but also the moods of those around them.

Some things we can do are:

  1. Become aware when your emotions are hijacked. You will normally feel it as discomfort somewhere in your body.
  2. Decide if you want to roll with the mood or shift it.
  3. Find some place to go stretch and yawn for 60 seconds It reduces stress and anxiety.
  4. Drink a cool glass of water it can improve your mood. We are after all, made up in large part by water.
  5. Take a few deep calming breaths.
  6. Then ask yourself what outcome do you want from this situation? Then move towards that.

If you would like to learn more about how communication can help your teams align, engage and execute please send me an email at

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