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Open Access Publications from the University of California

e-Rudeness at Work: The Impact of Rude Email on Employee Performance

  • Author(s): McCarthy, Kimberly Anne
  • Advisor(s): Pearce, Jone L
  • et al.

Existing research on rudeness has primarily focused on explaining it in face-to-face encounters, and has neglected examining its impact through other mediums. This dissertation addresses this gap in the literature by introducing the new construct of e-Rudeness, defined here as workplace email behavior perceived by an email recipient as insensitive, disrespectful, and a violation of norms for mutual respect within an organization. First, a new measure of e-Rudeness was derived from interview data and validated on an independent sample of employees. Next, the results of two experimental studies showed that exposure to e-Rudeness reduced individual task performance beyond that of face-to-face rudeness, and that exposure to e-Rudeness resulted in lower performance evaluations for third-parties through a mechanism introduced here as e-Rudeness contagion. Taken together, these three studies comprise an empirically grounded understanding of rudeness in the context of email at work, highlight some preliminary distinctions between it and face-to-face rudeness, and reveal the potential risk that rude email poses for employees.

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