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Swearing In the Workplace

Published: Friday 19th July 2019

While researchers have found that people who use profanity tend to have a higher IQ than those who don’t, that doesn’t mean you should be practicing your swear word vocabulary ahead of your job search. Nevertheless, it is common for workers to use swearing as a coping mechanism or to let off steam with a tirade of swear words. Indeed, for some industries, it’s part and parcel of the culture. Blue-collar industries such as transport, factory work, construction, and mining have always tolerated high levels of swearing. This certainly wouldn’t be the case in the likes of schools, hospitals or customer-facing roles for obvious reasons.

However, there have been cases of employees undergoing disciplinaries or even being fired for swearing. Obviously, in an interview situation, if you’ve dressed smart for the occasion, you should talk smart too in order to demonstrate your communication skills. It goes without saying that cursing at an interview can leave a very negative impression of a candidate.

Businessman angry, shouting and swearing with black background

When swear words become bad words

We’ve all heard swear words in the workplace at one time or another, mostly, as part of the innocuous conversations. But, when cursing is part of a verbal, or physical attack, on another employee, then it’s not okay. Initiating foul language when talking to a manager could also be subject to disciplinary action, depending on company policy, especially if it’s as the result of a disagreement or dispute. Likewise, if a manager swears regularly at an employee, this could be construed as bullying or an attempt at constructive dismissal. It’s when swearing is directed towards someone, instead of being used in general conversation, where problems start and legal issues begin.

As a result of previous legal issues, some companies do have strict policies on bad language in the workplace, so, when starting a new job, it’s worth checking out if your new employer has something in place.

A woman-reception swears with the client of the hotel by phone.


Tips to help you stop cursing

If you feel your swearing has become too much of a personal mannerism, and want to do something about it, there are things that can help. One of the most effective ways is to imagine that a child is standing next to you. By doing this, most people find that they use inflections instead of profane adjectives for emphasis.

It helps to adopt a positive approach to everything you do at work too. This can lighten your mood when approaching a potentially stressful scenario and help you maintain your composure. Practice being patient. When you get frustrated about something, ask yourself ‘does this really matter in the bigger picture of things?

Some claim that swearing jars work, but it can be equally successful to reward yourself for not swearing. Try promising yourself a treat, such as a bar of chocolate, for it making it through a particularly rough day without uttering a single swear word. That way, you’re more likely to repeat the success.

Glass Jar on a white shelf in the workplace. Swear box Concept.

When profanity can be healthy

Swearing is a universal language, used since, humans first spoke, and has been shown to be healthy as a means of stress release. It can humanise a difficult situation, create empathy and foster stronger bonds between team members, but there are situations when it should be avoided at all costs, such as in job interviews, disputes at work, and, above all, when dealing with customers. As with so many things in life, it’s all about the scenario. If in doubt, it’s probably best not to do it!

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