Can #swearing at #work get me fired?

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-7-31-45-pmIn a profession like journalism one tends to become inured to swearing. Tight deadlines, chasing a story, the mad rush to get a quote – are all fodder for a good meltdown. In fact, in journalism — as in advertising — swearing is a rite of passage. It gets you in cliques, builds up your cool quotient and is a bonding tool. But corporate culture is far less forgiving. A recent career-builder survey revealed that 81% of employers believe swearing at work “brings an employee’s professionalism into question”. Image consultant Sheena Agarwal says, “Swearing is not well received by peers leading to disciplinary action.” It also indicates a lack of self-control.

Is swearing BAD?

Donald Trump’s entire presidential campaign was peppered with colourful language. And look where that got him! In a Time article author Melissa Mohr who wrote Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing examined the Trump swearing tactic and wrote: “Trump’s swearing, though, is actually a canny rhetorical strategy.” How? Because studies have shown that people who swear are more likely to be believed. In 2005, a Dutch study found that legal depositions containing swear words were thought to be more credible.

What’s the code

A study found that an average American uses 80-90 cuss words in a day, while 90% of Britons swear. And we all know that north Indians probably use a curse word a minute! But if everyone’s doing it, is it kosher to curse? Salty language is a lot like salt – it’s to everyone’s taste. Agarwal says, “It’s common for people to swear amongst colleagues, which I would let go given that the group in question receives the dialogue in the same spirit.” One study even shows that “judicious” use of swearing can make you more persuasive. Out of the right mouth, it’s a leadership tool.

Cursing has been a popular therapy tool for some time now. It gets rid of all negative emotions. But at the workplace, it won’t earn you respect, solve disagreements or get you promoted. In workplace swearing, context is everything. Most workplaces are as bothered about offending tender ears, as about creating a harmonious and productive working environment. What’s not acceptable is racist or sexist language. An occasional F-word can be pardoned, a mindset won’t be excused. A rule of thumb: Swearing at an actual human is riskier than swearing at the computer hanging.

I Swear

How to swear without getting fired

Choose your audience

Swear with like-minded people – a swear gets taken in the right spirit.

Swear at something, not someone

Better to swear at something like a printer or chair, than the new intern.

Not all swearing is equal

There’s banter, and there’s angry cussing. Women are judged more harshly for swearing.

Use in crisis

When you drop hot coffee on yourself or your hand gets caught in the door.

Know the office

New job? Don’t start dropping cuss words from the day go. Scope the mix and then get into it.

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