WORKPLACE / MAR. 30, 2014
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Should Profanity Be Acceptable in the Workplace?

Your place of employment might be a hotbed for profanity. However, before you jump on the bandwagon and start dropping F-bombs, you need to recognize the possible consequences of foul language. 

According to a 2012 survey conducted by CareerBuilder, "over half of employers (57 percent) said that they’d be less likely to give someone a promotion who swears on the job." 

Additionally, the survey revealed that 54% of employers believe that profanity "makes employees look less intelligent." For anyone who regularly uses profanity in the workplace, these percentages might come as a shock -- and this isn't the best news for those looking to grow within an organization. 

But, with profanity so widespread in our society, some might question whether its use in the workplace really matters. In all honesty, it depends on the particular company. However, regardless of whether an employer views profanity as acceptable, some feel that foul language and profanity don't mix, and that cursing at work is never acceptable. 

“Profanity triggers a physical reaction in me. I actually sometimes experience it as if I'd been slapped in the face,” says Heath Davis Havlick, a media relations specialist at eQuest in San Ramon, Calif.

Despite the fact that some workers and employers would rather eliminate cursing in the workplace, opinions vary on the issue, with some advocating the use of profanity in professional settings. 

A 2004 study in the Journal of Pragmatics stated "that swearing can increase camaraderie in the workplace, and have a bonding effect among employees."

Dr. Jessica Cashman, a psychotherapist at the Center for Psychology of Women, agrees with this notion. “Because it’s such an emotive form of language, it can be a positive thing if it’s used sparingly, strategically and appropriately.”

Others, however, disagree. 

The truth is, some employers are fed up with foul language, and many have gone as far as establishing a "no-profanity policy" in an effort to clean up the language in their offices. This rule might not stop every incident of profanity. But at least with a policy in place -- and consequences for breaking the policy -- employers can significantly curb the level and/or amount of profanity heard daily.

Some employers have posted "no profanity" signs in different areas of the office, such as in break rooms or near water coolers. It's also important for employers to explain consequences of ignoring this rule. For example, employees might receive two or three warnings; and if the problem continues, employers may consider docking pay or terminating the worker. 

"Cursing in the workplace is really kind of a death wish. It's a one-way ticket to an exit interview," says Steven Raz, co-founder and managing partner at Cornerstone Search Group. 

Charles Pooley, founder of Workfolio, established a no profanity rule at his company in 2009. And although employees are typically caught off guard with these restrictions, he believes the policy promotes civilized, respectful behavior in the workplace. 

“Cursing is a sign of insecurity. You’re using it to be accepted. Some people aspire to being Don Cheadle’s character in House of Lies. I think that’s a terrible role model. I’m super glad I’m the boss and can say, ‘we’re not doing that here.’”

Image Credit [Flickr]

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