Ever been in a meeting, bored out of your mind, only to suddenly hear someone at the table drop an F-bomb or use some other colorful piece of language?
It usually catches you off guard because there’s an unwritten rule that cursing at work really isn’t a good thing. But what if it isn’t all that bad? Sometimes using bad words adds an emphasis to your story that regular old words just don’t. So, is it really that bad to curse at work?
Keep it formal
As a rule of thumb, don’t curse if you are in a formal setting, such as a staff meeting or interview, or are with colleagues you aren’t very close to. Formality brings a level of professionalism that isn’t conducive to cursing, so avoid it. The more you are being scrutinized, such as when giving a presentation to upper executives, the more you want to pick and choose your words.
So if the stakes are high, don’t cuss. It adds little value to what you are saying and can portray you as someone who is disrespectful or lacks the ability to read their audience. Even if you are a manager and are in the presence of your team, with whom you work with every day, if you aren’t personally close to each of your team members, I would avoid using swear words.
Whether we like it or not, we are constantly being judged by others. Although cursing can be beneficial in some situations, people who aren’t familiar with us will often judge, misinterpret and gossip about our behavior. No need to give the rumor mill unnecessary fodder.
Use to relate and bond
When the group you are with is close to you, and you feel comfortable being yourself around them, then it’s OK to swear now and then. Using bad words can actually bond us closer as a team, if that is an accepted style of communication for the group.
Sometimes using curse words helps us emphasize our feelings and frustrations and can often provide levity in difficult situations. Cursing also brings a sense of casualness that is often needed on teams because it makes us all feel more relateable and human. It’s one of the reasons we like to watch comedians like Kevin Hart, Jim Jeffries, Dave Chappelle and Amy Schumer. Using bad language in the right context can make us laugh and connect with each other.
Don’t curse in anger
A word of caution when it comes to cursing at work when mad: Don’t do it.
Cursing at people or about frustrating things can backfire on you. If you target your bad words at someone or if you decide to just “go off” and let a few fly, the consequences might be severe. This day and age, cursing at work, when mad, can send people into a panic. We all want to feel safe when we go to work and having a manager or hot-headed co-worker shouting out swear words will signal to us to keep our distance.
The next time you get upset and feel the need to curse, grab your closest buddy, the one who knows you well, and vent behind closed doors. We all get mad at work and we all need to let off steam. Unfortunately, cursing when angry can alienate you because people will perceive you as a hot-head and as someone unable to differentiate when it is appropriate to behave in such a manner.
The next time you feel the need to “tell it like it is,” ask yourself two questions: Do I know this audience well enough to curse in front of them? Could this come back to bite me? Don’t risk your reputation and undermine your own authority just to use a couple %$@! words.
So follow this simple rule the next time you start letting your tongue run wild on the job: When in doubt, don’t.