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Rudeness at work causes mistakes, says psychologist

7 July 2010

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If someone is rude to you at work or if you witness rudeness you are more likely to make mistakes, according to research published in this week’s British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Rhona Flin, Professor of Applied Psychology at the University of Aberdeen, believes that the link between rudeness and mistakes is particularly concerning in healthcare settings, where it can pose a threat to patient safety and quality of care.

Research suggests that, in confined areas, even watching rudeness that occurs between colleagues might impair team members’ thinking skills.

Rudeness at work is not uncommon, says Professor Flin. In a survey of 391 NHS operating theatre staff, 66% of respondents said they had “received aggressive behaviour” from nurses and 53% from surgeons during the previous six months.

Disagreements between surgeons and theatre nurses were reported by 63% of respondents, and disagreements between theatre nurses and ward nurses were reported by 58%. The main source of this problem was the management of the operating list.

Professor Flin says: “People concerned with patient safety should note that civility between workers may have more benefits than just a harmonious atmosphere.”


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