Workers are going to swear, and probably more and more - so why not
allow it or even encourage it if it's of benefit? This is one
conclusion of a study made at a British university.
It says regular use of profanity can express and reinforce
solidarity among staff, enabling them to express feelings such as
frustration, and develop social relationships.
So "using non-conventional and sometimes uncivil language at work"
may have a positive impact, according to researchers at the University
of East Anglia in the eastern English city of Norwich.
Yehuda Baruch, professor of management at the UEA-based Norwich
Business School, and graduate Stuart Jenkins said they looked at the
use of swearing in the workplace from a management point of view.
"Increasingly," Baruch said, "the use of swearing would continue to
rise in the workplace and become more of an issue for leaders and
"The question is - what should we do about it? We offer a model and
some practical advice. Certainly in most scenarios, in particular in
the presence of customers or senior staff, profanity must be seriously
discouraged or banned.
"However, our study suggested that in many cases, taboo language
serves the needs of people for developing and maintaining solidarity,
and as a mechanism to cope with stress. Banning it could backfire.
"Managers need to understand how their staff feel about swearing.
The challenge is to master the art of knowing when to turn a blind eye
to communication that does not meet their own standards."
Baruch said the reasearch had shown employees use swearing on a
continuous basis, but not necessarily in a negative, abusive manner.
"Most of the cases were reported by employees at the lower levels of
the organisational hierarchies and it was clear that executives use
swearing language less frequently.
"The primary issue for management is whether or not to apply a
tolerant leadership culture to the workplace and deliberately allow
Age and gender
Younger managers and professionals were more tolerant in what they
accepted as ethical behaviour, suggesting that age may be a moderator
for the spreading of swearing language to the workplace.
Women also swore more than might traditionally be expected,
especially among themselves, Baruch said.
The results of the study Swearing at work and permissive leadership
culture: when anti-social becomes social and incivility is acceptable,
are published in the current issue of the Leadership and Organization
Development Journal (Vol 28 Issue 6, pages 492-507). - (Sapa-dpa)