Swearing at work can be- at least in puritanical America- a bit of a touchy area in some workplace cultures.
More libertine Europeans don’t necessarily have the same concern, but here in the Unites States of Jesus, you never know if that dude in the next cube is a bit churchy- or when a muttered expletive when Excel crashes could result in a shrill report to Human Resources. Of course, cops and firefighters probably hear a fair few four-letter words in the course of their days, and from what I see on reality television, the only words people say in kitchens at restaurants (other than nouns that mean “different kinds of food”) appear to be on George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words List.
Usually, if you don’t work for a major swearer, there is often that moment where your boss curses- not at you- and you have a Beavis and Butthead moment of giggling. And even then, sometimes it’s still scary when a stray “f*ck!” slips out on the job- practically an inevitability every time you have to open QuickBooks. But researchers in the UK (again, where it sounds totally fancy when people swear) have found that well-placed swearing in the workplace could lead to a sense of camaraderie and eventually, better work outcomes.
It turns out that cursing like a sailor not only creates a bit of a sense of trust, but also, “taboo words have an emotional impact that replacements cannot equal.” Too f*cking right. An article over at Business Insider cites the study, and quotes a piece in the Harvard Business Review in which a female banker explains how work profanity “granted [the woman] access to the kind of casual gossiping and information-trading upon which deals are sometimes built.” The site excerpts:
“‘Swearing,’ as one senior female attorney told [the woman], ‘gives others, men and women, reciprocal permission to let their hair down and feel comfortable sharing revelations.’ This approach — swearing as an effective social tool that can enhance work relationships and allow women in particular to present an equal-to-men or even crypto-masculine identity — has been documented by psychology and linguistics researchers.”
Of course, you’ve got to play to your audience. Blue language is fairly commonplace in New York workplaces, in my experience- but it would feel totally weird to get hired in Utah and start throwing f-bombs around the place. Are expletives common in your workplace?