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Guilt is a good thing for workers who are rude, researchers say

Photo: Wong Yu Liang/gettyimages

Gainesville, FL — A sense of guilt can help employees be better co-workers after they’ve been rude at work, results of a recent study suggest.

Researchers from the University of Florida and Texas A&M University conducted three studies involving 107 participants. They tracked the workers’ daily workplace habits and encouraged them to recall times they acted rudely to a co-worker.

The participants who reported shouting at or excluding colleagues at work felt guilty and were more likely to vent at home in the evening. The next day, however, “they put their head down, worked harder and were less likely to be rude again, seemingly in an effort to repair their relationships and reputation,” a UF press release states.

Further, the researchers saw no significant difference in the feelings of guilt based on who the recipient of the rude behavior was, whether they were a superior, peer or subordinate.

“When you’re being uncivil, it comes back to hurt you as well,” study co-author Daniel Kim, a doctoral student at UF, said in the release. “But we can take solace in this idea that people have opportunities to correct their behavior by working harder, apologizing and being more polite.”

The study was published online in the Journal of Business Ethics.

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