Economy got you pulling your hair out, or feeling like you want to scream expletives at work? Well, why not bring on a little swearing at the office? It might be good for you. Now, before you start thinking that I'm some inappropriate CEO, hear me out on this issue. For starters, I've never really had many issues with swear words at home, around friends, and even in the workplace.
I'm not vulgar. I don't scream and swear at people (just don't cut me off on the freeway), I just happen to use a lot of fun adjectives to describe things. I don't do it to be one of the guys, it's just who I am. It's more conversational in nature, only coming out when I'm relaxed around people. You'll know I'm comfortable around you when colorful language emerges in conversation.
I just think that times are changing all over. Before the 60's, men couldn't swear in "mixed company" meaning if men and women were around. Today you can turn on any primetime TV show and hear words worthy of a good mouth-soaping in any 70s home.
Feels fairly normal to me, especially in the culture I've created at VerticalResponse, so off to the Internet I went to find out how people feel about (women in particular) swearing. I found some interesting information. I found that the newly appointed CEO of Yahoo! Carol Bartz is no stranger to a potty mouth. She told her staff at a company meeting that she'd "dropkick to f-ing Mars" anyone who was leaking company info. Bold Carol!
I also found a study that was done by U.K.-based Leadership and Organization Development Journal that showed that "social" swearing can actually relieve stress in the workplace and that swearing can bring people together and add solidarity to a group. This could even make for more productivity in a team. (It is frowned upon to swear in front of customers by the way.)
This study also showed that women assert themselves and swear more than men --especially in "mixed company," to prevent the conversation from being dominated by men. But sadly, the perception is that she has low moral standing. Men, on the other hand, can get more respect when they swear, though they still tend to tone down the use of profanity in front of women.
So I started to think about VerticalResponse, because in general your teams reflect the way you think or act. Our people don't usually go around screaming offensive profanity (unless they had a really bad day), which is disruptive and wouldn't be tolerated. However, I'm never offended when someone drops an F-Bomb into a conversation if that's the way they normally speak.
So should swearing be tolerated at any level? I think it's up to the companies you run and the culture around the company. I don't think swearing makes a woman look stupid or like she has low morals, in the same way I don't think if she refrains, she's stiff and unapproachable. Either way, I think that if she's comfortable in how she communicates and with whom she is interacting: Go girl!
Last updated: May 4, 2009
JANINE POPICK is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and event marketing, online surveys, social media, and direct mail solutions. The company was ranked No. 2,802 on the 2012 Inc. 5000. @janinepopick