Why you need to be rude to get ahead at work

Want to get ahead at work? Try being really, really rude.

What if I told you that there is one reason – or at least more major reason – that you’re not getting what you want out of your career?

I realise it sounds a bit like I’m trying to convince you to join a cult, but honestly as far as I can see, it’s true.

I believe that the major thing that holds you back in a work capacity (assuming you’re not a surgeon who is afraid of blood or an acrobat who hates heights) is a fear of being rude.

Rude is a bad word, right? If someone calls you rude, it’s an insult. As children we get told off for being rude.

But actually, in the right context, and used in the right way, being rude isn’t just acceptable, it’s important.

Here’s how to embrace the power of rude in the workplace.


A really easy place to start using the power of rude is in meetings, because it’s where you’re exposed to the largest number of people in one fell swoop.

Now I’m not suggesting you stride in, light a cigarette, sip from your hip flask and call your boss a tosser. But there’s a way of talking during a meeting that might feel rude, but is actually going to help people to see you as powerful.

If someone starts talking while you’re finishing your point, or just straight up interrupts you, even if you have very nearly finished, keep talking. If they don’t stop straight away (which they usually will), give them a genuine smile and say ‘Do you mind if I finish my point?’.

Allowing people to talk over you might not feel like a big deal, but you’re effectively allowing them to tell a room full of your co-workers that their words are worth more than yours.

Another small but powerful change is to say thank you, rather than sorry. So if you’re struggling to get your laptop to work for a Zoom meeting, try ‘thank you so much for waiting’ when you eventually get online, rather than ‘so sorry I’m late.’

Saying ‘thank you’ makes you seem gracious and under control. ‘Sorry’ – while important in many contexts – is an admission of fault, which for a small error isn’t necessary.

Pay rises and promotions

The best way to get a pay rise or a promotion is to ask for it.

I know. No one likes doing that. But if you don’t do it, then with the way that inflation works, after a year of working on the same salary you’re basically earning marginally less than you were when you started.

It’s easy to avoid asking for a raise because you feel lucky to have a job, especially in a post-Covid world when unemployment is extra frightening.

But you deserve to be properly remunerated for your work, and you shouldn’t have to feel grateful to be employed. You provide a service to them, not the other way around.

Asking over email might feel easier (or more ‘polite’) but it’s far harder to say no to someone in person – so asking for a formal meeting is your best bet at getting what you want.

Also, consider this something akin to a debate. Don’t apologise for asking – arrive with evidence as to why you should get your raise. Prove your track record and sing your own praises.


On the topic of praise-singing, during a time when lots of us are either working from home or have worked from home for a few months, it’s never been more important to toot your own horn.

It’s painfully unBritish to tell your line manager how well you’ve been doing and how much success you’ve had, but it’s also absolutely bloody essential, doubly so while we’re all working remotely.

Why not send your boss a bi-monthly update about all the great stuff you’ve done? Or write down some of the feedback you’ve had from clients and pass it on? It might feel like bragging or showing off, but if you want success, you need to ditch that worry ASAP.


The way that you communicate with people in writing is important, especially while we’re all distancing in the office and doing a lot of our interaction via things like Teams or Slack. It’s never been more important not to undermine yourself in your writing.

Lots of us (and research shows that women are particularly susceptible to this) will open an email asking for something perfectly reasonable by saying, ‘I was just wondering if there was any chance that you might be able to have a quick look’, and then say things like ‘So sorry for bothering you’.

This kind of language makes you seem like you lack conviction. You can download an email plug-in which will underline the words most often used to soften emails, such as ‘just’, ‘sorry’ and ‘quick’. Install it. Even if you don’t delete all of them, it will at least make you aware of how often you do it.

The kind of rudeness that I’m talking about here could just as easily be described as being assertive, or direct.

But it feels rude when you do it, which is why I feel it’s so important to describe it as ‘the power of rude’.

The Power of Rude by Rebecca Reid is out now, published by Trapeze.

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