Skip to Navigation

I had a request recently from a public sector employee, for help in dealing with offensive bad language at work. She described herself as “normal, with a good sense of humour, and not overly prudish or ‘straight’”, but still she found the constant swearing from some of her colleagues tiresome and at times offensive. She was prompted to seek advice in tackling this because one outburst of invective had been overheard when she was speaking to on the phone to by a colleague, who commented on it. “Imagine if it had been one of our service users who overheard”, said my client.

She had a point, and a question; are we becoming de-sensitised to bad language and confusing reality TV with normality?

There was a time when the boundary between work and social life was clearly defined; the culture of an organisation ensured that unspoken rules about behaviour were picked up by new recruits and only in extreme cases did anyone need to be reprimanded or corrected about inappropriate behaviour like swearing, shouting, insults or open sexual innuendo.

But not any more.

The lines are blurred now, and people are increasingly using the language and behaviour more normally associated with hanging out with their mates in a bar, than sharing exchanges with colleagues in the office.

This is most prevalent in the 25-34 year olds; almost 80% in this group regularly swear, over 70% make up nicknames for colleagues and half think that familiarities like ‘love’ and ‘pet’ are OK at work.

As the people who conducted this survey point out, there is obviously a risk that such behaviour can spill over into bullying and complaints of sexual harassment. But that apart, do we really need to allow our working environment to become contaminated with bad language; the sort that most employees, swearers or not, would never use at home, and certainly shouldn’t at work?

I don’t know how widespread or troublesome this is, which is why I looked for research. You can find the original study I mentioned above here.

If you have a story to tell about swearing in the workplace please LEAVE A COMMENT below. If you want advice, email me, and if it is information on dealing with difficult behaviour of any kind you want, try Difficult People; a Guide to Handling difficult Behaviour.

Latest from the blog

Conflict: Agenda for Managers

Conflict at work

When a dispute between employees becomes visible it usually falls to a manager to intervene but few are confident in doing this so they’ll often ignore the conflict in the hope that it’ll go away, downplay the seriousness of the disagreement, or approach it ineffectively.
Research by OPP charts the costs and benefits of conflict, and a guide from CIPD identifies the behaviours that will help managers recognise and proactively manage disputes at work.

Continue reading

It Was Polite When It Left My Lips

Is it something in the air? How do my carefully chosen words get distorted in the short distance from speaker to listener? I never meant harm. A simple statement of fact, a remark or an observation… Anyway, that’s how I am; what you see is what you get, I can’t change, it’s just how I […]

Continue reading

The Thursday Webinar – Depression and what to do about It

webinar, optimism, depression

When I talk about depression in a dismissive or disrespectful tone, it is because we need to dismiss the ideas that are getting in the way of helping people who suffer from depression.

Continue reading
FREE DOWNLOAD - Get it now.

How to be more Resilient

Get my super-helpful guide '9 Steps to Resilience' absolutely FREE, when you subscribe to my newsletter.

Understand the steps to resilience and you can develop the ability to cope with problems and setbacks with less stress and more confidence.
%d bloggers like this: