Rudeness on the job is the worst. We now use the phrase “hostile work environment” to describe deliberate discourteousness or impoliteness that negatively affects an employee’s ability to do their job. Experiencing this at work has driven many workers to become part of the Great Resignation, but two University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School professors have participated in research that finds rudeness decreases when we’re thinking creatively at work.
Trevor Foulk, Vijaya Venkataramani, and Smith School research assistant Rujiao Cao, find that when employees think creatively, they are less likely to be rude to co-workers or to feel like their colleagues are being rude to them. Foulk, Associate Professor of Management & Organization at Smith says, “creativity requires us to share ideas, feel comfortable qualifying or clarifying the ideas of others, saying things that might be pointless. All of this is more easily done with people we feel close with, so when we are in a creative mindset, it causes us to feel more socially close to our co-workers.”
The research shows that creativity has its most positive effects when employees work in supportive environments because in those cases, workers tend to experience “good” creativity – the kind where ideas are supported and built upon, rather than criticized and torn down. Foulk says, “creativity is a social process, one that involves give and take with co-workers, but that give and take is not always positive.” Does this mean people who don’t feel close to each other can’t be creative together? “Certainly not,” says Foulk, “but it helps. People that hate each other create amazing things together all the time, just less than people that really like each other. It seems like there are lots of examples of incredibly innovative and creative (music) bands who (whose members) couldn’t stand each other. It can happen, it’s just less common, especially in work settings.”
The study also finds that working creatively with a co-worker can make us more sympathetic or empathetic toward that person. We very rarely do creative things in isolation, so the process of creating a shared thing builds up that sense of closeness with each other, that’s likely to result in increased empathy and sympathy.
Read More: Thinking outside the box helps build social connections: The role of creative mindsets in reducing daily rudeness, published in the journal, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
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