Tim Truzy is a rehabilitation counselor, educator, and former dispatcher from North Carolina.
Pros and Cons of Swearing at Work
Although we may be able to tune out the sound of profane language, obscenity is pervasive. From quiet streets all the way to the White House, such words are a part of the speech and culture of almost every segment of the population in the United States and the globe.
However, there are occasions when profanity has no place and can result in undesired consequences. Most religious gatherings and schools frown on muddy vocabulary, and legal courts seldom tolerate such words while in session. Many employers also consider profanity unacceptable.
Nevertheless, cursing has been found to have some benefits at work and in other situations. Primarily, swearing tends to build cohesion among low level workers according to some studies. In addition, taboo words can communicate emotion better than normal phrases or words, often assisting an individual with enduring pain. Coincidentally, context and culture are essential elements in determining when profanity can be uttered. Group familiarity is an essential variable to consider as well before engaging in the use of profane language. If uncertainty emerges, then avoidance of the use of profanity is probably the best choice at work.
As a rehabilitation counselor, I counseled clients on keeping language within the routine boundaries of discussions within the company. Also, I worked with students on how to make better decisions when choosing to express themselves verbally. Indeed, colorful language does have a time, purpose, and place, but at the job site there are many factors involved in whether engaging in the use of profanity is a worthwhile option. Below are eight `reasons I would often cite to people I worked with on why profane language should be curtailed, at the least, or completely avoided when employed.
8 Reasons to Avoid Using Profanity at Work
- Use of Profanity may have an opposite effect – Basically, profane language could make a challenging incident much worse. Employees may feel the need to defend their actions, leading to more conflict. Violence could be the end result.
- Use of profanity makes a statement about the organization or company – If using profane words is habitual within a company, customers may decide not to conduct business with the firm. The business may build a reputation as being disrespectful to the public. Profits can suffer as a result. In general, people prefer to spend money where they do not have to endure insults.
- Use of profanity at the job could lead to disunity - Over indulgence in the use of profanity may impact cooperation. Since the workforce today is diverse, frequently talking with taboo words could offend others. The F-bombs, N-word, and B-word – among others - can create unnecessary tension between employees.
- Frequent profanity can indicate a lack of interpersonal skills and/or Leadership Qualities – When profanity is spoken, your ability to problem solve may be questioned. For example, people may wonder: If this is how you discuss topics, how can you lead negotiations? Can you mediate conflicts? Do you have the mental and emotional tools to be a team leader?
- Promotions can be Jeopardized - People may question your ability to communicate effectively. This could hurt your potential for further career growth.
- Your background may be questioned – People may consider your educational experience lacking because of your word selection. Others may ponder whether you learned to speak from involvement with disreputable individuals. Still, some may consider you unfit for the organization or its goals.
- Constantly engaging in the practice of profanity could lead to termination on a job site – If companies have a zero tolerance for vulgarity, your job could be the victim of your speech. Not to mention, if there is no such policy, coworkers may lobby management for your removal. Swearing as a habit can cost you immensely for this reason.
- Engaging in obscene speech could have a negative impact on those who know you away from the job site – Humans are creatures of habit. Becoming accustomed to cursing at work could spill over into your personal life. This is another important reason to shy away from developing the behavior.
Techniques to Help You Avoid Using Profanity at Work
Inevitably, there will be emotional situations while you are employed. In fact, research from several studies have indicated a rise in the use of profanity in all areas of life over the last several years. Developing coping mechanisms can assist you at those moments when you may feel the urge to curse at work. Like any usable technique, practice is required to master these methods of addressing tense events. Since reacting to stress with profanity required time to learn, these techniques will help you introduce a new way of responding whether at the job or in your personal life.
- Avoid the person or situation which can cause you stress enough to swear – This may be impractical in some cases, but if a certain person brings out the worse in you, discover ways to avoid him/her. For example, if another employee is always discussing subjects which offend you, stay clear of him/her. In another instance, operating a printer or other machinery may create tension for you. Try to do such tasks when no one else is around or see if a coworker is willing to assist you in exchange for your help with duties he/she performs.
- Teach your voice to respond in another manner – One technique is to replace swear words with harmless or silly phrases. For example, I’m fond of saying: Great potato salad! Or maybe: What the chicken sandwich is that? You may also hum quietly a favorite song. For instance, I love to hum a hymn during stressful times.
- Engage in mental strategies - Think about a pleasant place, like a forest, or the comfort of your home. Meditate or pray quietly. Focus on positive events you have coming in the future. The benefit of this approach is your emotional stability is not impacted by the stressful event which could have triggered use of profane language.
- Apply physical techniques – When you have the need to curse, try tapping your finger or foot gently on the floor while keeping the word or phrase to yourself. If possible, move around your work space without drawing coworker’s attention. The benefit of this strategy is that it allows you to deal with the stress while you are working your body. (Some people have told me they tend to get more work done when the boss makes them upset. These people I knew worked in construction, auto repair, and as electricians.) These people turn annoyances into motivators to do physical tasks at work.
- Find a calming place – If possible, you may want to go outside for a few moments to a place like in the photo. Perhaps, there is a space in your office or factory where you can sit back and count to ten to relax. Taking a bath room break to take a breath may help you avoid releasing a volley of words which could only have negative consequences.
Are You in a Toxic Work Environment?
In Conclusion, engaging in and tolerance of constant profanity can be a sign of something more insidious at the business or organization. The work site may be “toxic.” Harsh treatment of coworkers, deceptive behavior, fear, bullying and yelling – all indicators of a workplace which has lost the capacity to conduct day to day activities within a normal range as gauged by other firms and organizations which perform the same functions. Discuss with your human resource director or manager as to whether use of profanity and any number of these factors exist on a regular basis within the company. If so, you may want to evaluate your options and make another choice of employment.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on September 29, 2019:
Thank you, ControlledChaos1, I agree. I appreciate your visit and insightful comment. People do recognize the seriousness of swearing if it is from someone who seldom does it. Respect and admiration.
Don from Tennessee on September 27, 2019:
I'm one of those people who don't use curse words all that much, and when I do, I don't really yell them. One side effect of using profanity when you hardly ever use it... other people know you're serious.
Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on June 28, 2018:
Agreed, Tamara. When I worked with companies and clients on conflict resolution, the first point I made was to try to see the other person's point of view. I think that skill helps a lot.
Tamara Wilhite from Fort Worth, Texas on June 28, 2018:
Profanity can put someone who was previously sympathetic on the offensive because they were offended.
Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on June 28, 2018:
Thank you, Ms. Dora. Respect is lacking in many ways today, especially in speech sometimes. Maybe this will help some people. As always, your comment is valued and appreciated.
Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on June 28, 2018:
Thank you, Manatita. Swearing was strictly forbidden in my household as a child. My dad would often say that anyone who could swear could also choose other words.
I appreciate your comment very much.
Today is a reading day.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 26, 2018:
Great counsel. Even folks who do not swear are negatively impacted. The swear words can be stored in the memory and surface when the victim cannot control his thoughts in old age. This is an area where respect needs to be implemented. Thanks for the reminders.
manatita44 from london on June 24, 2018:
A well written, instructional, positive and very necessary Hub for us in today's world.
I did not grow up swearing. I think I was 63 years old when I first sweared. I was sick and in pain.
Excellent Hub with great advice!
Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on June 24, 2018:
Thank you, Sean.
With the prevalence of this kind of language in the world, people need some guidance on the topic, and I hope my article is beneficial.
You are right, these techniques are useful at any time.
My favorite response is to say something silly because it also has the dual impact of making me laugh, which also relieves tension. My wife is fond of exclaiming, "Raspberry jam!" And we both burst out laughing.
Thank you for commenting.
Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on June 24, 2018:
Another excellent and helpful article on a challenging and significant topic! My Brother, I think that your Golden Heart can help a lot of us. The techniques that you suggest are very helpful, not only for the work environment! Great work my Brother, great work!
God Bless your Serving Heart!