It’s a scenario many of us have found ourselves in. You’ve spent hours working on a project or updating a spreadsheet and then your computer crashes. When you finally get it back on, you’ve lost all your work. It’s infuriating and more than likely, you utter some expletives as you start all over again.
According to recent research from business telecommunications provider, 4Com, UK workers hear 11 swear words a day on average. What’s more, one in ten hear swear words more than 25 times per day.
Middle management such as supervisors and line-managers are the worst offenders for using foul language, followed by entry-level staff and admin staff, such as receptionists, the research found.
Sometimes, profanities escape our lips and it can’t be helped. But is swearing in the workplace ever really OK?
Using bad language in a work environment can come across as unprofessional, or even worse, lead to a disciplinary, but it can depend on your workplace or type of work. If you’re a medical professional, it’s clearly a no-no to swear in front of patients. The same goes for those working in retail or who have customer-facing jobs. However, if you work in a close-knit and casual office environment, it may be more accepted.
Regardless, even if you’re au fait with swearing at work, it’s important to remember that others might not be – and that could lead to problems. If you come across as someone who can’t control their emotions, your boss may take note and prevent you from representing the company at events. A co-worker who finds your language inappropriate may put in a complaint about your behaviour.
Likewise, it’s probably a bad idea to swear at your boss – no matter how angry you feel, or how warranted it might be. It’s also best to avoid using bad language in emails. Not only can it be misconstrued without context, it can be used as evidence against you.
“Swearing is part of our linguistic repertoire. Whether you’re feeling angry, upset or even happy, cuss words are bound to slip out of your mouth every so often – you’re only human,” says Mark Pearcy, head of marketing at 4Com.
“When it comes to the office environment, you should always consider other people’s feelings when using certain words and phrases. If you tend to use swear words when speaking, do people laugh when you do so? Or, do they sneer?
“Either way, it’s important to make sure you’re not making anyone feel uncomfortable as it could harm your position. If you notice people are getting offended, you may want to consider holding your tongue more often.”
Swearing isn’t all bad, however. If you’re close to your co-workers and know they won’t bat an eyelid at the odd curse word, you’re probably on safe territory.
Research has suggested that people who swear often lie less and have higher levels of integrity. Using bad language has also been linked to higher intelligence too, with research published by the Language Sciences journal revealing that people who tend to swear more may in fact have a larger vocabulary than those who avoid profanities.
Studies have shown that cursing might increase the effectiveness and persuasiveness of an argument, which may prove to be beneficial in certain situations. Not only that, swearing can communicate how you feel about a certain subject without explicitly explaining it or resorting to a physical altercation.
“Studies suggest swearing can be beneficial, as the process of swearing is often cathartic, letting out pent up emotion, as well as aiding storytelling or jokes,” says psychotherapist Jo Gee. “Perceptions of those who swear are also more likely to be linked to the words honest and credible.”
“As to why people use them at work, alongside the above reasons, for some, offensive language might be a ‘test’ for the work setting – with employees experiencing a thrill when swearing or using swear words to draw attention to themselves in a busy workplace,” she adds.