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As much as I like to swear, I do admit that I shouldn't do it in the workplace, and I try not to. It slips out every now and then. I have a manager who never swears. Now I think some of us who work for him may look at him as a little strange since he never ever does it.

Although this isn't workplace related, I used to like watching the show "The Ultimate Fighter" (back when the fighters had college educations). Now whenever you watch it, UFC head Dana White incessantly drops the F-bomb and is bleeped out. Although I'm no prude and am not easily offended, the frequency of bleeps makes it seem as if the show is now targeted to the lowest, uncommon denominator.

Daylin Breen

I rarely swear (out loud). However, I think it can be appropriate. That said, it has to fit the "character" of the speaker in order to be effective. Gary Vaynerchuk, for example, pulls it off beautifully. He uses it for appropriate emphasis, not as a comma. It makes him seem more real (I think there is a craving for “real” and "authentic").

If the cursing seems like a gimmick or the speaker is uncomfortable with it, it quickly flips to seeming insincere.

Jason Seiden

"Inappropriate under any circumstances?" " other tools at their disposal.."

People, c'mon... let's not be hasty with those absolute judgments about something as potentially trivial as word choice!

(After all, the more absolute the semantics, the shittier it can feel if you ever have to eat your words.)


Great article! I especially love your Air France example, since there always seem to be situations where it's your only option.

Not so sure about using such forceful language with incompetent employees though... I mean, where is the line when the swearing is used for effect, and when it becomes a torrent of abuse the person feels completely disarmed by? I've had bosses who have felt this an appropriate avenue to teach a lesson, and to be put in that position has been disheartening to say the least! How would you state your company policy to a manager who's crossed the line? "We allow swearing when the staff member's been a true asshole... probably not when they've been a slight asshole."

K Ross

As a professional female, my male colleagues often apologize for their use of swear words. If one has a sense that they should not have used a swear word - they are acknowledging the offensive nature of swearing -
If you want to communicate effectively, don't use swear words. If you want to shock folks into listening to you - choose your words and tone of voice for the desired effect.



Thanks for reiterating the blog post. Did you even read the damn thing? I wonder how many new hits your post generated at your friggin' website?

Guy Farmer

Great insights. I've noticed that anything we can do with swear words can be accomplished without. Maybe we use swear words because we simply have no other tools at our disposal to convey those meanings or emotions.

Other options exist but it's up to us whether we choose to learn them. Each individual ultimately chooses whatever path makes sense to him or her and achieves results based on those behaviors.

Behaviorally, perhaps people use swear words in the workplace because that's the culture that's been set up or encouraged. There's no right or wrong approach but swearing will create a certain atmosphere and not swearing another. It all depends on what the company values.


Words are tools - we tend to use the tools the most that have worked the best for us in the past. My wife often uses the butt end of a screwdriver to drive a nail. Makes me cringe, but she always seems to reach her goal.

"Goodness gracious sakes alive."

That was all the swearing Coach Wooden ever needed. It's just a matter of how you choose to apply your tools.

Bob Sutton


I, of course, think you are fucking brilliant. Thanks for the comment.


Scott Underwood

I can't agree with that first comment.

Unceasing profanity might show you have a bad habit and a limited vocabulary, but never swearing deprives your speech of a small list of rich and effective tools.

Making sweeping judgments about people who use swear words is not sharp thinking itself, and in some circumstances will lead you to underestimate the speaker. (Which might be exactly the effect they seek -- consider the profane, good ol' boy politician who hopes his opponents consider him a dumb hick.)

Following #3, swearing on rare occasions for strategic value, can be an excellent sign of self-control, and I have definitely used it to make a point stronger on occasion.

Bruce Carter

Inappropriate under any circumstances, and a hard habit to break. You lose the moral high ground and all respect by swearing. You make yourself look somewhat dull witted and stupid to have such a poor vocabulary and so little self control.

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