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Survey: WTF is Up with Swearing at Work?

Does swearing at work curse you professionally? A new CareerBuilder survey of more than 2,000 hiring managers and 3,800 workers nationwide sheds light on how employers and employees view cursing in the workplace.

Who’s Got the Biggest Potty Mouth?

Over half of workers (51 percent) admitted to swearing in the office. Of that group, 95 percent said they do so in front of their co-workers, while 51 percent cuss in front of the boss. Only 13 percent of workers who say they use curse words in the office have done it in front of senior leaders and 7 percent have done it in front of their clients. The survey also indicated that men are more likely to swear at work than women – although not by much: 54 percent of men versus 47 percent of women.

Bad Words: What’s the Big F***ing Deal?

According to the survey, 64 percent of employers said that they’d think less of an employee who repeatedly uses curse words, and 57 percent said they’d be less likely to promote someone who swears in the office.

When asked why swearing rubs them the wrong way, employers gave the following reasons:

  • 81 percent say use of curse words brings an employee’s professionalism into question
  • 71 percent are concerned with the lack of control it displays
  • 68 percent believe it shows a lack of maturity
  • 54 percent said swearing at work makes an employee appear less intelligent

When the Boss Goes Blue…

The survey also found that while many employers may think less of an employee who curses too much in the office, one in four employers (25 percent) admitted to swearing at their employees.

But is cussing necessarily a bad thing? A 2011 Forbes article points to evidence that cussing can make bosses appear more relatable, more authoritative or more passionate to their employees. In some cases, the article argues, swearing can even band employees together and help relieve stress. Do you agree?

What’s your take on swearing in the workplace? Is it ever okay and under what circumstances?

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
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