Should You Swear at Work? 3 Ways to Tell

Coworkers fistbump over a table filled with laptops while a cartoon speech bubble indicates a swear word with symbols

Today, we are talking about your damn language.

Swearing at work is a hot topic: research shows that people who swear are happier and smarter, but that doesn’t guarantee your boss and coworkers agree, or like to hear swear words in the office.

This is a nuanced topic; swearing about something versus swearing at someone are two very different situations. Don’t ever swear at someone, that is NEVER acceptable. But, it might be ok to swear at your office about things.

Here are our Top Three Ways to Tell If It’s OK to Swear at Work:

Verbal Cues

This one may seem obvious, but listen to those around you, particularly in leadership positions. Do they only swear in anger? Do they only use “light” swears like “damn”? Be particularly thoughtful about the use of any language with religious ties (these can be VERY offensive), plus “heavy” swears like the Big-C-Word and the Big-F-Word. A good rule of thumb is to never be the first person to swear in a conversation when you’re meeting someone for the first time.

Check Your Handbook

As our society becomes more and more cognizant of the prevalence of harassment, HR managers are updating policies to more clearly articulate acceptable language and action. Your company may very well have a clause in their contracts or handbook that prohibit the use of offensive language to ensure employees feel safe in their work environment. Not sure? Check.

Culture Cues

We swear at our office – we do. In fact, when we interview people, we ask them what their favorite swear word is as a part of the conversation. If someone doesn’t have one, or is afraid to say it, it helps us have a conversation about our culture. We don’t make people swear, or expect them to swear, but if they don’t feel comfortable hearing swear words, we might not be the right fit for them. This doesn’t mean we aren’t respectful to each other; one of our Core Values is “Don’t be an Asshole” and our onboarding process includes an overview of our voice that sometimes swears (i.e. Kickass Agency). Observe the existing culture and participate (positively).

Another thing to keep in mind about swearing is your own personal brand. Do you want to be known as someone with a mouth like a sailor? Or, someone who is witty who might occasionally drop an F Bomb if the occasion calls?

It’s up to you, but make sure you are thoughtful about the way your language conveys your identity.

If you are working to identify your company culture and language, or your personal brand, and need assistance, we are here to help. Let’s grab a badass drink and talk about how to take over the damn world.

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