Can Bad Manners Kill?

The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork.

Oscar Wilde’s amusing observation highlights the negative impact of bad manners. We all know bad manners are toxic. New research now shows that bad manners can kill. In the study, when doctors spoke rudely to their staff, both accuracy and performance suffered. The medical teams exposed to bad behavior and nasty comments demonstrated poorer diagnostic and procedural performance than those who were not exposed to incivility. As the lead researchers commented:

Relatively benign forms of incivility among medical staff members — simple rudeness — have robust implications on medical team collaboration processes and thus on their performance as a team.

Rudeness undermines people’s ability to think clearly and make good decisions. It steals confidence and weakens motivation.

I vividly remember working with a senior physician who always barked at the team. We all hated working with her and she certainly did not inspire hard work or optimal performance. Her harsh words and non-stop criticism made us lazy and passive aggressive. While I don’t think our behavior killed anyone, we definitely were not at our best when working with her.

Next time you are looking for a doctor, pay attention to his or her manners. It may be the difference between life and death.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman