Holy shit! Swearing at work boosts morale

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Don’t bother patting your co-workers on the back " a good old “fuck you” will do the job.

A recent study, entitled Swearing at Work and Permissive Leadership Culture: When Anti-Social becomes Social and Incivility is Acceptable, determined swearing at work encourages teamwork and helps employees cope with stress.

The study was lead by Yehuda Baruch, professor of management at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK.

Baruch observed office and warehouse workers at a small British retail enterprise. He discovered “social swearing” defined relationships between co-workers and “annoyance swearing” provided an outlet for tension.

In one instance, Baruch noticed how a senior employee had been “testing” the worthiness of new temporary workers. The senior worker was bragging about his higher workload when one of the temps responded, “Well f""-g get on with it you lazy c"-.”

This retort worked to the temp’s advantage. He was accepted into the employee social group from which he had been previously excluded.

While profanity may be beneficial behind the scenes of a business, Baruch said its something that should stay behind closed doors.

“Certainly in most scenarios, in particular in the presence of customers or senior staff, profanity must be seriously discouraged or banned,” the report read.

Professor Gerard Seijts, associate professor of organizational behaviour at the Richard Ivey School of Business admitted he was guilty of swearing at work, but worried too much cursing could be detrimental.

“A simple ‘damn’ I have no problem with, but if it gets more aggressive, I could see how people would get upset.”

Seijts also wondered if allowing foul language was the best approach to improving the work environment.

“If the issue is building morale, if the issue is reducing stress, I know there are better ways [to accomplish these things].”

Baruch’s study did not necessarily promote swearing in the workplace, but suggested employers promote an official “no swearing” policy while turning a blind eye in appropriate instances.

Dave Skelton, an employee at the Spoke, said profanity can help create a more casual environment, but noted it is important to not be offensive.

Skelton left his job at a construction site partly because of the offensive language used there.

“You’ve got to watch out for derogatory terms,” he noted.

The study highlighted the fragility of allowing swearing in the workplace: “The challenge is to master the ‘art’ of knowing when to turn a blind eye to norms of communication.”

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette