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Can witnessing rudeness make you less creative?

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In three experimental studies, we found that witnessing rudeness enacted by an authority figure (Studies 1 and 3) and a peer (Study 2) reduced observers’ performance on routine tasks as well as creative tasks. In all three studies we also found that witnessing rudeness decreased citizenship behaviors and increased dysfunctional ideation. Negative affect mediated the relationships between witnessing rudeness and performance. The results of Study 3 show that competition with the victim over scarce resources moderated the relationship between observing rudeness and performance. Witnesses that were in a competition with the victim felt less negative affect in observing his mistreatment and their performance decreased to a lesser extent than observers of rudeness enacted against a non-competitive victim. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Source: “Overlooked but not untouched: How rudeness reduces onlookers’ performance on routine and creative tasks” from Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Volume 109, Issue 1, May 2009, Pages 29-44

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About Eric Barker