EPISODE 3, CUT THE CUSS - or why inappropriate language can undermine your impact


Want to let fly with a juicy swear word? Surveys show this is generally a bad idea, especially if you’re someone who wants to succeed at work.

For example, in one survey, over half of the employers admitted they’d be less likely to promote someone indulging in so-called “salty language.”

A similar proportion declared that it made the person seem “less intelligent.”

Experience suggests that swearing at work can indeed harm your career prospects. Even so, most people at work sometimes swear. The primary triggers are stress from looming deadlines, frustrating meetings, annoying colleagues, and demanding customers.

So, where do you stand on this potentially career-damaging behaviour?

Could your swearing feel right for you?

For example, in some workplaces, such as the metalworking industry, swearing may even be treated with great tolerance, even as a sign of macho resilience?

As one experienced member of that community explained, working there says, he learned words that he never even knew existed!

You can never be sure that your use of crude language may not be treated as a welcome sign of resilience. Instead, it may be quietly undermining your chances of success at work.

Much depends on the culture of your workplace.

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Occasionally expressing your emotions with nasty words might be expected, even tolerated.

What matters is you being alert to the potentially negative impact your dodgy language may have on colleagues, especially if you swear too often or inappropriately.

Another reason why the cuss at work can damage your chances of success is because swearing at a co-worker may only worsen the situation.

Letting fly at a customer could send you hurtling into a violent clash with the organisation’s values. Many, for example, will regard your swearing at a customer as reflecting poorly both on it and on you, their employee.

Incidentally, it’s seldom much fun working with a chronic curser who does it for no reason and only knows variations of the F-word.

As one career expert puts it:

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Swearing may come naturally to you and seem harmless. Yet those on the receiving end may view you as abrasive or with a negative attitude and poor vocabulary.

So the risk is of coming across as uncivil, advocating violence, or using unnecessary verbal aggression. This may seem not to matter in the immediate short term. Yet it may still end up harming your prospects.

What should you do if you feel disrespected and threatened by a colleague swearing?

It can be worth telling them upfront how you feel. You may even need to consider asking for help from others or the HR department.

Occasional casual swearing probably won’t adversely harm business conditions, co-worker relations, customers, or even client care. Yet it may still harm your image, and you may not discover this until too late.

Finally, psychologists argue that cursing can sometimes be a valuable release valve in high-stress workplaces.

One explains: "As long as the employees are swearing, they may not be happy, but they are coping."


• Drop any tendency to use casual swearing to make a point.

• Use alternative words that spare friends and co-workers the tension from your tirades.

• Quite simply: cut the cuss.

TAKE AWAY: Even when profanity at work seems acceptable, it may also suggest negative things about you. You may unwittingly be conveying disrespect and unprofessionalism.

Today’s episode is from the theme: COMMUNICATING FOR SUCCESS