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Profanity at Work: Should You Take Disciplinary Actions?

August 15, 2017

One fine day, you walk past a group of employees chatting in the pantry. By accident, you hear someone drop the f-bombs in the conversation. Feeling shocked upon hearing the words, you stop and take a look at the group. While you realise that the offensive language is involved in a casual and non-formal conversation between co-workers, how should you deal with such issue? Should you take disciplinary actions to employees who are caught swearing out loud?

The use of profanity in the workplace is hardly a new thing. Under some stressful and frustrating situations, swearing might be a commonplace for employees. According to CareerBuilder survey, 51 percent employees admit that they swear in the office. Among the majority of these respondents (95 percent) say that they swear in front of their workmates, while 51 percent use bad language in front of the boss. Comparing the gender, the study finds that men (54 percent) are more likely to report cussing at work, rather than their fellow female workers (47 percent).

While some employees might use swearing words only as a mean to interact and get close with each other, CareerBuilder study suggests that bad words leave bad impressions. It reveals that employers tend to think less of an employee who utter profanities at work for couple of reasons. As much as 81 percent employers believe that the use of cursing words will put someone’s professionalism into question. Meanwhile, other employers are more concerned with their lack of control, and lack of maturity by cussing at working environment. Additionally, employers also see that swearing at work makes an employee appear less intelligent.

See: Coping with Stress at Work: How Employers Can Help Spread Positivity

Then the question remains: is swearing really not appropriate for your team? Should you clean up the language used on your office floor? Take a look at the following things to consider when managing profanity at work:

  1.    Weigh the situations

Just like any inappropriate behaviour, there should be a policy regarding to what profane words are acceptable in the workplace. There is difference between mumbling a curse word under your breath and shouting the f-words in front of the customers. Therefore, leaders should consider the audience to whom the profanity is uttered and directed. By weighing the situations, you can address the use of profanity accordingly.

  1.    Consider a ‘no swearing’ policy

Check your employee handbook to see whether or not you have no-swearing policy. If there is one, you should communicate the policy with all employees and enforce it against those who are known for using profanity at work. If there is none, the human resource department might want to consider and set up a new no-swearing policy. Such policy will help you determine further actions to take when profane words are found.

  1.    Lead by example

Be it in terms of work quality, ethics, or behaviour, employees will always look up to the higher-ups. Owing to this reason, it is imperative for leaders to lead by giving good example. For example, if a manager is swearing frequently in the workplace, his employees will believe that it is okay for them to curse as well.

  1.    Implement the rules

To create a swearing-free workplace, you should handle profanity and implement the policy sensibly. There are some different degrees of disciplinary actions to address profanity at work. The most popular methods include verbal and written warning, suspension, and in the worst case, it could be termination of employment.

Read also: Roles Defined, What Next to Increase Employee Engagement?

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