Cursing at Work

Recently, Goldman Sachs banned cursing in emails. Somewhat like surfing porn at work, cursing is not only disturbing to some of your coworkers but is just plain unprofessional.

When we were kids, our parents schooled us on indoor and outdoor voices. We also should be schooled on the workplace voice. That voice is important for more reasons than the possibility of offending your listener but also the possibility of offending anyone within earshot. With so many of us working in “cube farms” and so many people sensitive to the slightest offense, your audience can be much larger and less forgiving than simply the person you are directly addressing.

At one of my recent workplaces, we had a programmer that had no filter on his behavior. If he was having a problem with a program he would progressively move to cursing a blue streak, slamming his keyboard and mouse. Not only was he disruptive to the people around him, he also portrayed a poor developer without control over his emotions. In a customer facing environment where we were consultants on a customer site, he reflected poorly on himself, his consulting company and his managers. Not a good situation.

When I talk about a workplace voice I am suggesting a voice that exudes professionalism that we use all the time when at work or with people we work with or for. That includes functions away from work. If you cannot express yourself without cursing or dropping the “F” bomb; learn. The payback is sometimes intangible at first but it is definitely worth the effort. Conducting yourself as a professional both when it is expected and when it is not will reflect well on you and your managers. When people realize your behavior is a constant it can be a real career builder.

When I was working as a consultant in Charlotte, NC for a large corporation, one of my managers told me he was saddened that he had to let another consultant go because he was still surfing porn after three warnings. My response was that he was lucky to have received three warnings and that he was just plain stupid to have done it at all. Similarly, I think it should go without saying that non-professional language has no place in the workplace.

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