Talent Development Centre

Swearing at Work? What’s the Big @#$%* Deal?

Swearing at Work? What's the Big @#$%* Deal?

Do you curse? Do you swear when you’re mad, use profanity when chatting with friends or drop the odd f-bomb just because? Most people blurt out some sort of foul language occasionally and that’s ok… most of the time. There’s nothing wrong with swearing in a private setting or in a social atmosphere with the right friends, but where do you draw the line?

There are often questions about whether or not profanity is appropriate in professional settings, specifically the workplace. Given those questions, it’s no surprise that there have been a number of studies researching the effects of cursing, and the results differ:

  • A 2012 CareerBuilder study found that 64% of employers think less of an employee who regularly uses curse words and 57% would be less likely to promote that person. On the other side of the coin, 51% of employees said they swear in the office and half of them do so in front of their boss.
  • Another study by researchers at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain revealed that swearing at work can be beneficial because it enables the development of personal relationships within a team. It also acts as a stress relief which has direct effects on health.
  • Wrike also took a look at the perceptions of swearing at work. In 2016, their research discovered that while more than half of respondents swear, 41% found it was too casual and unprofessional, yet 33% would not consider working in an organization where swearing is strictly banned.

It’s clear that there are risks to spicing up your vocabulary in a professional setting but the choice is ultimately yours. Before you get too wild, though, there are some considerations if you want to land an IT contract and keep it:

  • The organization’s culture. As an independent contractor you are your own boss, but it is still mandatory to respect the policies and culture of your clients while on site and interacting with their employees. If the environment is not one that accepts swearing, then you should also choose to set it aside.
  • The context. Swearing can be linked to insults and bullying which must be eliminated from the behaviour of any ethical IT consultant. However, depending on the context of how words are used, it can enhance a message, be encouraging, or lighten the mood. Your job is to consider the context before opening your mouth.
  • The situation. Swearing should be reserved for casual settings around people with whom you have a good relationship. A job interview with a recruiter you just met or a serious client meeting with senior executives you don’t know are not the place to throw in your fancy adjectives.
  • The audience. As noted in the previous point, it’s important to get to know the people around you before becoming too liberal with your potty mouth. But just because you know them does not give you carte blanche. Respect those who prefer a clean conversation. If you’re uncertain of their style, err on the side of caution.
  • The medium. A good rule of thumb is to never write anything that can be taken out of context and used against you. Inappropriate language tops that list. Social media, email and even instant messaging can all come back to bite you in the… , so it’s encouraged not to type any curse words at all.

While we don’t need to provide examples, there is a scale where some words are more accepted than others, while other words should never be muttered. Similarly, because everybody has different cultures, backgrounds and experiences, some words are perceived to be worse by some than they are to others. It is up to you to distinguish and judge what you can say. If you are ever unsure, then its best you find other ways to spice up that conversation and leave the swearing for when you get home.

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