LIFE

When It's Not OK To Swear At Work

Good Golly Gumdrops, This Non-Swearing Palaver Is A Right 'Un

15/08/2016 8:24 AM AEST | Updated August 15, 2016 15:37
Thomas Barwick
Is it ever ok to swear in the workplace?

There's a school of thought that if you want to climb up the career ladder, you need to leave your colourful language in the locker room. In some work places, swearing is the norm. But not everybody finds constantly swearing classy behaviour. In fact, the world is filled with all sorts of twee alternatives to swearing. (Stick that in your pipe and smoke it).

Those of us who find swearing offensive will always react badly to people with foul mouths. But if you're brought up with swearing as normal behaviour, then they most likely won't be alarmed.

Business and leadership consultant Rowdy McLean told The Huffington Post Australia constant swearing is for people who are too lazy to choose another adjective.

"It's all about laziness. The real question is why do people need to swear. A swear word is an adjective or an expression of frustrations. People are consciously choosing a word. There are things you wouldn't do at work, such as wear a bikini or get someone in a head lock. So you need to be very conscious of what's acceptable in a work environment.

"At some work places, such as building sites, it's common to swear. The type of workplace makes a big difference. Swearing on a building site would be acceptable but swearing in an accountancy firm would not be."

FogStock/Erik Palmer
Swearing might be acceptable in some workplaces, but not in others.

Etiquette expert Anna Musson told HuffPost Australia language choices depends very much on the company you keep.

"If in a room of close work colleagues and the culture is to use swear words to relieve stressful situations and everyone does it, it's likely to cause less offence. But here's the rub, you won't know that you've offended someone until you're in front of HR with your written warning," Musson said.

"And it's unlikely your workmates will consider your vast knowledge of profanity impressive."

"If your timing is off and you swear in front of everyone it shows a lack of judgement which will unquestionably flow over to your work decisions. It's unprofessional and shows a lack of personal restraint and self-control. Choose your moments and your audience carefully. Swearing is not suitable all the time, nor with everybody."

A recent study has found using a swear word when you're in physical pain can have a good effect.

A group of people were tested to see how long they could keep their hands in very cold water. Some of them were allowed to repeat a swear word of their choice while they suffered the effects of the freezing water. Afterwards, the participants who cursed reported less pain than the participants who held their tongues.

The people who swore were able to keep their hands in the cold water for 40 seconds longer than the non-swearers.

"That's no excuse to unleash a fiery rant, but most people will forgive a short sharp bad word for a short sharp pain. Habitual offenders however are less likely to receive sympathy," Musson said.

"The simple rules: Don't swear in front of people you don't know or people you know don't swear.

"Etiquette states that a lady doesn't swear and a gentleman doesn't swear in front of ladies, children or company he hasn't met. Personally, I think this still carries weight and we appreciate a generous vocabulary that doesn't require profanity to make a point."

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