We've had some questions asking if something is rude. In the first question linked, the behavior in question is someone else's; knowing whether it's rude doesn't help the asker at all. The second question asks if the "point-of-view character"'s action was rude, which is a little closer to the asker, but I still wonder if these questions belong.

Questions of the form "should I do X?" are on-topic, but are assessments of anybody's rudeness?


Generally it seems when you're asking

  • Is it rude to do X?

You really mean

  • Is it a bad idea to do X?

We're about practical problems. If the best thing to do in a given situation is interpreted as rude, it's much more helpful to know what you should do vs "will people like me if I do X".

A problem I noted in the Leaving Early question is that the majority of answers seem to agree almost entirely on what you should do (yeah, leave early, with these caveats), and the difference in most answers is just how rude they find the action as it was (presumably) undertaken. The difference is was really just how and how much they chose to berate the person leaving early or the interviewer, which doesn't really help anyone (but unfortunately is the sort of popular bikesheddery people enjoy).

The practical advice in most of the posts is the same, so the differentiating factor in each post is just exactly how rude they find/assume the behavior to be. That's not really helpful, and what's worse it makes a bunch of practically identical answers superficially different, and turns voting away from "This is a helpful answer" to "I agree with your assessment of the rudeness in this situation".

I would generally discourage "Is X rude" in favor of the "Should I do X?" or "Can I go about doing X successfully?" That's your real question, and there's no room for faffing about with what's rude or not. Maybe you shouldn't do it because it's rude; if that's the case the answers will tell you that. But making the post about rudeness turns it into Bad Subjective territory IMO.

Thus I wouldn't really call it "off topic" but rather "not constructive", in need of some editing to take the focus from subjective, squishy rudeness into more practical matters of what you should really do.

  • Thanks. How should we handle questions like the first one I linked -- is it rude for them to do X? Yeah, maybe yes, maybe no, but what does that have to do with you? (I voted to close.) Aug 30 '12 at 21:25
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    @MonicaCellio I'm on the fence there. It's a common situation, and the answer is a good one. I think the information is useful for job-seekers feeling rejected. I'm not sure how to phrase it much better. "Is it common for...?" doesn't seem especially better than "Is it rude", does it?
    – Rarity
    Aug 30 '12 at 21:52
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    a better phrasing would be "should I infer anything if a potential job doesn't call me back"; that's a practical question with a real answer and the accepted answer basically answers that question anyway.
    – KutuluMike
    Aug 31 '12 at 14:21

I agree with Rarity, this is most likely not constructive rather than off topic.

If you are asking if the action of another is rude or not - what are you going to do with the answers? If you have been put out or offended by this, then to you, it's rude. But knowing that doesn't help you deal with the situation, and most likely the question is just an opportunity to vent.

If you are asking about a planned (or past) action on your own behalf - again, rudeness is subjective. You may well have an idea whether the others involved did find it rude. But having others confirm that they would also have done doesn't really help. The constructive question is how to handle that situation differently.

So here are some example questions as I see it:

Constructive questions

  • "This is what happened. I personally found this rude. Is this just a cultural issue? If so, how should I interpret it?"
  • "This is what happened. I personally found this rude. How should I react or what should I do?"
  • "This is what I'm considering doing. I'm worried this might be seen as rude. Are there better approaches to achieve the same end?"

Not constructive questions

  • "This is what happened. I personally found this rude. Do you agree?"
  • "This is what happened. Is this rude?"
  • "This is what I'm considering doing. Is this rude?"
  • "This is what happened. I personally found this rude. Is it acceptable to be equally rude in return, because this is what I'm considering doing?"

In all the constructive ones, the question of rudeness is incidental; it probably wouldn't even appear in the question title. In all the non constructive ones, there is likely to have been an element of venting or ranting.

Perhaps we need a "vent/rant" category for closing questions?

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    I'd like to nominate these examples for inclusion in the FAQ. Well-done. Sep 2 '12 at 1:55

I would like to point out, that just because a question does not directly relate to the asker, does NOT mean it is unfit for this site.
Workplace.SE is meant to be a repository of knowledge, and that linked question is quite obviously something that needed to be brought up. 168 'upvotes' and 50K+ views (brought our visitors/day up from about 800 to 970+) clearly indicates that it is a question quite a few people online are looking to have answered.
Now, as for the general question format itself, I see absolutely no problem with it, as long as it is relating to the workplace environment. You can claim it is asking for opinions and such...but it really isn't. There are certain standards that are accepted as being normal for workplace behavior, and inquiring if a certain action goes against them is a perfectly valid action.
Perhaps, instead of talking about closing questions like this, it would be better to edit them slightly? Even that should not be needed, but if some action must be taken, it should ONLY be that.

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    No. I have no issue with the question in question, but please don't confuse popularity with usefulness, lots of views say absolutely nothing at all about the usefulness, overall quality and topicality of the question. Just a few hours ago I wrote this short novel that (partly) discusses popularity, I think you'll find it interesting. If it's too long for you, the short version is: Getting views on mostly pointless questions is quite easy, popularity is a worthless metric, let's discuss the actual merits of the question instead.
    – yannis
    Aug 31 '12 at 15:24
  • I simply thought that the question you referenced was a perfectly valid one, and one that absolutely belonged here. it's incredible popularity shows that the issue it discusses is one that quite a few people all over the web are trying to find an answer for it.
    – acolyte
    Aug 31 '12 at 20:12
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    It's incredible popularity shows that it was shared on Reddit and Hacker News, and that's about it ;) We have better questions that never got the attention that one got. I'm not saying it's not a good or valid question, but it could have gone unnoticed if not shared all over the internet.
    – yannis
    Aug 31 '12 at 20:15
  • @YannisRizos ahh, i did not know it had been shared on reddit. I thought the traffic was mostly just from searches. my mistake.
    – acolyte
    Sep 1 '12 at 6:41

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