Employee engagement is down. Employee satisfaction is down. Overall happiness in the US is down (and has been declining since 2005).

The number of mind-numbing and scream-laden reality TV shows is up (yet fading – there is good news!). Videos of people yelling, screaming, insulting each other and in general being the worst human beings in the world seem to be the most shared things on Facebook. By the way – is it coincidence that the great-grandmas of Reality TV – Real Housewives of the OC started in 2006 – right about the time our happiness score started dropping. FTR – I do blame them for almost all the rudeness in the world. And stupidity. And churlish behavior.

But reality TV by itself isn’t the only force multiplier on rudeness and negativity in the world. I also blame the internet, bloggers, tweeters and our mainstream media. The truth is that you can’t get anyone to pay attention to anything unless there is something negative and off-putting in the headline or the content.

And it’s a disease… spreading and affecting us all.

From a post on Psychology Today:

Rudeness is running rampant, while nobody seems to care and it appears that technology is the cause. Has common decency taken a back seat to “whatever”?

And it’s affecting you whether you know it or not. A recent study highlighted on the Huffington Post showed that impolite behavior has the power to spread throughout the workplace, even to employees not involved in a given interaction. And like the old story of going home and kicking the dog – it crosses the boundaries of the office space as workers carry that negative disposition home with them.

“When you experience rudeness, it makes rudeness more noticeable,” said the study’s lead researcher, doctoral student Trevor Foulk, in a statement. “You’ll see more rudeness even if it’s not there.”

But more interesting to me is that this seems to be a self-reinforcing activity. If you see rude, you assume it is “normal” and accept it. The more you see and experience rudeness (in life and at work) the more it negatively impacts you and your feelings and then according to this author people aren’t mean for the sport of it, or because they are against you; people are mean to cope. They are rude to make themselves feel better.

Think about that for a minute. The ruder our lives are, the more we see that as “normal” behavior and the more that makes us upset and in order to cope the ruder we are.

It’s madness!

It is time to focus on being kind. Time to stop being mean and snarky and dismissive. I realize that may kill a lot of blogs since many of them make a living pointing out all that is wrong with the world and the people running it.

It is this exact problem that I am focusing a lot of energy lately. I want the environment I work in, live in and socialize in to be positive and supportive. But it might be harder to do than we think.

If we have this kind of “negative” feedback loop constantly forcing us into negative thoughts and actions it will take a lot of work to stem the tide and begin creating positive spaces. From a work perspective – understand that snark and negativity may get initial attention but it does nothing to make things better.


So let me paraphrase a widely circulated parable (and attributed to more people than you can shake a stick at…)

One evening an grandfather told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My son, the battle is between two spirits inside us all.

“One spirit is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority.

“The other spirit is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which spirit wins?”

The grandfather replied, “The one you feed”

So… let’s starve the evil and feed the good.