"I didn't research this, but, as I remember it, starting in the late '80s or early '90s, a movement swept through nearly every youth organization and elementary school contending that competition was not healthy for children. Scores were no longer kept. Championships were either not held or, regardless of who won, everyone got a prize or a trophy because, as we've heard many times: everyone's special. Well, if we're all winners and all special, we'll be much more sensitive to anyone who implies that we're not, which could very well equate to 'rude behavior.' ...
"I would love to see the results of this research according to age. I contend that if the results were quantified according to those who were already in the workforce in 1998 and those who entered the workforce after 1998, the statistical difference would be very clear."
This was the email that made me think of my former manager. I would be shocked if she had been rude to the team member who tended to cry, so I've always felt that my colleague was just overly sensitive.
However, you could make the case that rudeness is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. I'm guessing that former colleague felt she had been treated shabbily by the manager, which led to her tears.
Some behavior is so obviously obnoxious that almost any person would feel mistreated as a result of it. But I'm willing to accept there may be a gray area here. After all, everyone is different, and, as Mark pointed out, we may not all see the Golden Rule the same way.
What do you think? Is the workplace really a ruder place now than it was 10 or 15 years ago? Have we all become overly sensitive and too quick to take offense? Or are the survey results due to some combination of these two factors?
Send me your ideas, and I'll mention some of them when I revisit this topic in a future column.
In the meantime, even if you think people are too sensitive nowadays, I still believe it never hurts to keep that Golden Rule in mind. A little kindness can go a long way.
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