Workplace profanity boosts morale

Profanity can boost morale, according to a new British study, published in the current issue of the Leadership and Organization Development Journal, called "Swearing at work and permissive leadership culture: When anti-social becomes social and incivility is acceptable."

Couple of points about this: A) Is that the longest title of a study you've ever heard of or what? and B) If they're counting words muttered under the breath, I have the potential to be the happiest person on the face of the earth.

According to the study, "frequent swearing can reinforce solidarity among staff and enable them to express their feelings, such as frustration, and develop social relationships." I guess until you turn to the person in the cubicle next to you and call her a $%$$#%. Then morale kind of plummets, at least for one person.

And I'm not extremely familiar with British law, but in the U.S. you can bleep your way to the highest realms of good morale...until one person finds it unacceptable and takes you and your potty mouth to court for creating a hostile work environment.

The press release on the study did quote a Professor Yehuda Baruch as saying that abusive and offensive swearing "should be eliminated where it generates greater levels of stress, rather than helping to relieve it." How exactly you're supposed to determine that I'm not sure.

Baruch admitted that finding that "happy medium" is a tough proposition for supervisors. "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."

Really and truly, I don't think if I were the head of a company, I would trust anyone to successfully learn that "art."


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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