Language is one of the biggest contributors to determining office culture. For example, a workplace where the management motivates with threats will be a completely different environment than an office where encouragement is liberally applied. The allowance or forbiddance of swearing is another major indicator of your company’s culture. How does the language in your office reflect your company’s values?

According to a survey from CareerBuilder, swearing in the workplace is a divisive issue with over half of workers (51%) admitting to cursing at work, while the other half chooses to abstain from using foul language around the office. The study goes on to report that, of the workers that swear in the workplace, 95% have no problem cursing in front of their coworkers, but half (49%) will tone it down in front of their boss and not cuss in front of them. Only 13% of workplace swearers are bold enough to curse in front of their senior leaders, and only 7% or workers that curse will admit to dropping F-bombs in front of clients.

When it’s Cool to Swear at Work
Some companies allow and even encourage swearing in the workplace, while other organizations have strict policies about watching what you say. When it comes down to it, the culture of the company will determine what four letter words do or do not come out of worker’s mouths.

A company that values a casual workplace environment and authentic interactions where workers have the freedom to fully express themselves will allow cursing in the workplace. Another major factor is the swearing habits of those in charge. The habits of the leadership are actually more powerful when it comes to shaping company culture than any written policy. Therefore, if the CEO curses like a sailor, then the rest of the workers are sure to follow suit, and the same will be true for executives that have chosen to walk a less obscene path.

When You Should Watch Your Mouth
Just because it may be okay to swear at work, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s appropriate to swear in every conversation (as figured out by the 96% of employees that don’t swear in front of clients). Some people are genuinely offended at swearing and may turn a coworker’s loose lips into an HR issue that could potentially turn into a legal problem.. This is why many companies have “no swearing” policies in place because “it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Words carry a lot of weight and workers may confuse the allowance of swearing and the encouragement to “be authentic” with permission to be mean-spirited towards other employees, or even slander someone’s good name. In cases like this, you can look at the allowance of swearing as a privilege and judge for yourself if your employees can handle this privilege. The privilege to swear assumes that people who curse can do so nicely, and that people who don’t curse are thick skinned enough to handle “the seven words you can never say on TV.”

Language is one of the key reflections of your company’s culture. Therefore, this issue boils down to what kind of culture do you want your company to convey? Do you want your business to be super professional and have the moral fortitude of the Puritans? Or do you want to run a casual ship manned by swearing seamen? The choice is up to you. Share with us in the comments how your company handles the potty mouth issue.

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