Bitchy, Crazy, Mean: Incivility on the Rise, and Not Just at Work

By , Columnist

According to a new study presented recently to the American Psychological Association, rudeness is on the rise at work. Eighty-six percent of a test group of 289 white collar workers reported “incivility” in the office. Should we be surprised?

The authors of the study give a bunch of psychological reasons for this, many of them I agree with: more layoffs=more work=more stress=less patience. I think lack of sleep due to stress and an extra ramping up of caffeine to keep going at light speed may be blameworthy, as well.

But while I’m climbing up on my soapbox, why not pause to take a broader look at our current cultural environment. Do you see what I’m seeing?

The worst of this nasty behavior is being played out on the world stage, with microphones, cameras, and Twitters to capture every word. Public figures not liking each other - not new. But what is new is the level of offensive, hateful language these opponents are using to describe one another in the media. Racial slurs, sexist remarks, and various other insensitive and downright ridiculous statements are flying around and being “retracted” or apologized for later on.

Well, I’m sorry, but as any 12-year-old familiar with texting or instant messaging knows, “undo” and “delete” only work in writing; in the real world, you can’t “undo” your mouth.

Speaking of kids, for months we’ve seen all sorts of campaigns and media attention focusing on the effects of bullying. The thing is, though, while youth can bring a particular sharpness to social criticism that can lead to insecurity, even as adults, I don’t think kids have always been the same kind of cruel as they are now. Generations of kids are now being inculcated with the mentality that what goes through your head is supposed to come out of your mouth (or out through your fingers, thank you, social media), no matter how inappropriate or hurtful it might be.

No one is thinking before they speak, and that’s being passed on to members of our society who can’t defend themselves or let it roll off their backs because they’re young and haven’t had the time to learn how—hell, I’m 23 and I’m still learning how to deal with people and their runaway mouths every day—but it’s hurting them worse that it will ever hurt the rest of us.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned (and at 23, that would be funny), but whether you’re at work in the Capitol, in a cube in a small office, or in your high school’s library, I’m a fan of this thing called a brain-to-mouth filter. You know, that ol’ mental contraption that makes you bite your tongue when bad, bad things start to come out of your mouth? It’s worth dusting off and trying out, believe me, and I think the example for how to use it should start at the top.

America’s brain-to-mouth filter might be a little rusty, but I think a little forethought, a dash of decency, and a smidgen of shut-the-front-door might be just the WD-40 it needs to bring us back from the edge of all verbal hell breaking loose.

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Emmie Scott is an English major-turned-marketing exec, with a passion for writing, humor, sharing knowledge, and "pink drinks." After hours, she started Are Toe Rings Professional Attire?, a blog for college grads and twenty-somethings looking to find their way through that daunting labyrinth called…

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