Skip to main content

Sick of Potty Mouths in the Workplace

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda,

 I’ve noticed there has been a lot of casual cursing around the office where I work.  I find it offensive and unprofessional and I think other employees do too.  How would you handle this situation?

Signed, Sick of Potty Mouths

What the $#!!*?

A: Dear Sick of Potty Mouths,

There is no doubt that the days of saying fiddlesticks, ding dangit, and whoopee daisies are over.  Today, words used to express frustration are much more blue, crude, raw, and just plain profane.  Unfortunately, cursing in casual conversation is socially acceptable by some and expletives are now standard adjectives, nouns and verbs used in movies, music, and on TV.  But there is one place where the use of four lettered words is still not acceptable, W-O-R-K!

I’m not saying that everyone in the workplace needs to use a prudishly Mary Poppins-like vocabulary and skip around the workplace singing supercalifragilisticexpialidocious... But, letting an f-bomb explode from your mouth in the workplace gives a bad impression, can endanger customer relationships, and be taken as a sign of ignorance, disrespect, hostility, or lack of control. 

Some things to ponder before you break out your best Al Pacino’s Scarface impression during a staff meeting:

1.  It offends more people than you may think.  Many people feel uncomfortable around cursing, but don’t know how to address it with the individual who is offending.  People do overhear your conversations even when you think no one is listening. 

2.  Think of appropriate language at work like adhering to a dress code.  In the same way people that dress for success in a casual environment are perceived to be more professional, those who choose their words carefully and speak well, are perceived to be more professional, educated, and versed with social grace.  Set the example that it’s better to have class than be crass. 

3.  It can be said differently.  Think about the impact of your words on the situation.  Will they be seen as inappropriate?  Will anyone be insulted or embarrassed?  Would your grandma be offended?  Take time to make your point without using a four-letter expletive.

4.  Peppering conversations with ineffective and unimaginative curse words doesn’t make you sound particularly articulate, intelligent, or powerful.  In fact, it is just the opposite.

5.  Swearing isn’t illegal, in general, but the perception of whatever is said can lead to greater damage if it is not kept under control.  It can lead to discrimination, sexual harassment claims, perpetuate a negative workplace environment, and make some people so uncomfortable that they dread being with or around the offender. 

How would I handle this situation?  First, by doing exactly what you are doing - bringing the topic up  as an area of concern and asking that it be addressed.  Second, I would either address the issue directly with the offender or discuss it with the offender’s supervisor.  Cursing in the workplace should be clearly addressed in any employee handbook.   The best way to address it is immediately after the offense occurred.  For example, you might say,  “Do you mind using cleaner language; when you curse it makes me feel uncomfortable.” 

For those of you with potty mouths, consider this before dropping the next F-bomb: if you don’t clean up your language, you might just flush yourself right out of a job.

Signed, Workplace Wonda


Popular posts from this blog

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

         (Packing up my office- Last day is June 3) ‘Sweet, so would I Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing. Good night, good night!   Parting is such sweet sorrow.’   (Act 2, Scene 2) Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet The above scene, from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet , is arguably one of the most famous in American literature.    Juliet uttered the most recognized line, ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow’ to her star-crossed lover, Romeo as they said good night.   What makes that specific line so fascinating is that ‘sweet sorrow’ is an oxymoron.   How can something be both sweet and sorrowful?   In the context of this scene, Juliet is expressing the feeling of sorrow at their parting, but the anticipation of reuniting the next day is so joyful, it is worth the pain of separation. I think this feeling of ‘sweet sorrow’ translates beautifully in many experiences we have throughout our personal and professional lives.   In our personal lives it could be a time whe

HR 2022- More of the Same or New to the Game


Laughter IS the Best Medicine and I Can Prove It

  "There is little success where there is little laughter."- Andrew Carnegie How many times have you heard the saying, “laughter is the best medicine?”  This is a metaphor used over and over again when describing the benefits of laughter.   But guess what?  It’s true—and science backs it up.  In fact, research shows that laughter releases the brain chemical serotonin (a mood stabilizer often lacking in those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression) and endorphins (the feel-chemical in our brain that responds to pain and stress.)  Laughter increases our heart rate, burns calories, improves our focus and reduces the negative effects that stress has on our body and mind. I don’t remember when “joking around” became the norm for me.  Believe it or not, I was an incredibly shy young girl.  Raised with all brothers, I did have to develop different types of defense mechanisms and teasing and joking became one of them.  There was something powerful about laughing my way out of s