With more employees working from home, the use of emails to communicate with coworkers has increased. What has also increased is the number of passive aggressive rude messages, which in turn is causing a rise in anxiety, sleeplessness, and loss of productivity.
Two studies led by a University of Illinois Chicago researcher show that dealing with rude emails at work can create lingering stress and take a toll on your well-being and family life.
In the first study, researchers surveyed 233 working employees in the U.S. about their impolite email experiences and collected their appraisals. In the second study, researchers conducted a diary study to examine the spillover effects of email rudeness on well-being, including employees' trouble falling and staying asleep.
Researchers asked participants to either upload or describe a rude e-mail encounter they had experienced recently and to report their reactions to it. Based on the content and description of the exchange, the researchers classified two distinct forms of rude emails.
Participants regarded active rudeness as emotionally charged, and they reported a great deal of ambiguity and uncertainty about passive rudeness. Derogatory remarks—active rudeness—often suggests to the recipient that the sender has mistreated him or her. The "silent treatment"—or passive email rudeness—leaves people hanging and struggling with uncertainty, making it difficult to know whether the receiver simply forgot to answer the email or actually intended to ignore it.
The research, published by the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, found that impolite emails can have a negative effect on work responsibilities and productivity and is even linked to insomnia at night, which further relates to negative emotions the next morning. Passive email rudeness may create problems for employees' sleep, which further puts them in a negative emotional state the next morning, thus creating a vicious cycle. Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. "Enlighten-Success and Productivity-Respect-Boundaries-Strategies Checklist" www.forbes.com (Sep. 26, 2020).