Congested spaces incite rude behaviour

by 17 Aug 2012

It’s often the little things that cause the most irritation. Maybe someone needlessly pushed in front of you in a queue? Or perhaps a colleague in the lift idly watched you hurry towards the closing doors, without so much a flinch. These annoyances may at first seem trivial, but a new report has found this is what’s getting our goat in 2012.

Before indignation ensues over the pettiness of modern office workers, it seems we’re hard-wired to be more annoyed by behaviour in congested spaces. According to the authors of Incivility: The Rude Stranger in Everyday Life, 61% of rude incidents are the accidental consequence of a large flow of people trying to pass through the same area at the same time, whether in cars or on foot.

In the Australian-based study, 25% of recent reported incidents of rudeness consisted of people who “pushed in front of me”. Other incidents involved those who “blocked my way” and “swerved in front of me”.

The findings give credence to anyone who has thought that a seemingly disproportionate amount of rudeness occurs in the office lift. The latest survey by CareerBuilder pinpointed the most unusual and annoying behaviours workers have witnessed on the journey between floors as:

  • Talking on a phone
  • Not holding the door open when others are running to get in the lift. (Incidentally, 16% of workers admitted to purposely closing doors when they saw someone approaching.)
  • Standing too close when there is plenty of room
  • Squeezing into an already crowded lift
  • Not stepping off the elevator to let other people out
  • Holding the doors open for an extended period of time while waiting for someone else to get on
  • Cutting in line to get in the lift when other people have been waiting longer
  • Taking the lift to go up one or two floors instead of using the stairs
  • Pushing the wrong button, so the lift stops at more floors
  • Facing away from the doors, instead of toward the door like everyone else

Elevator etiquette aside, a number of workers also reported less-than-ordinary experiences while in transit. The following are real-life examples of the weirdest behaviours observed in office lifts:

  • Changing a baby’s nappy
  • Flossing teeth
  • Clipping fingernails
  • Fist fighting
  • Showing someone a rash and asking for a diagnosis
  • Moving the entire contents of a co-worker’s office into the lift, including the desk
  • A woman with her arms full of papers using her head to keep the doors from closing on her
  • Dancing throughout the ride