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Swearing at Work is Bleeping Good For You 421

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the now-shut-the-bleep-up-you-bleeping-bleep dept.
coondoggie writes "This is the kind of news that your HR folks don't want to hear, but researchers today said letting workers swear at will in the workplace can benefit employees and employers. The study found regular use of profanity to express and reinforce solidarity among staff, enabling them to express their feelings, such as frustration, and develop social relationships, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UES). Researchers said their aim was to challenge leadership styles and suggest ideas for best practice. "Employees use swearing on a continuous basis, but not necessarily in a negative, abusive manner. Swearing was as a social phenomenon to reflect solidarity and enhance group cohesiveness, or as a psychological phenomenon to release stress, " the study stated." I'm sure the discussion and tags on this story will be completely G Rated ;)
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Swearing at Work is Bleeping Good For You

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:38AM (#21011229)
    Yea, people can communicate withought swearing. But this limits 'how' you communicate.

    Limiting vocabulary impeads what you are really trying to say.

    I can appreciate that some people are offended by some words. That doesn't always mean that the words are inappropriate.
    • by Valdrax (32670) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:49AM (#21011453)
      Limiting vocabulary impeads what you are really trying to say.

      That's "impedes," d---head.
      • by cloricus (691063) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @12:16PM (#21011909)
        One thing that I really cannot stand is people who self censor or are scared to swear when it is socially acceptable (they deleted two days of work, or dropped a log on their foot). If you are going to swear do it, don't cross out letters, don't imply that is what would be there (for example the way they are editing it out of songs now your brain fills it in anyway). If you are not adult enough to brush off those who are so immature that they get offended you need to go back to high school and toughen up a bit.

        I'm still considering if it is wise to see if slashdot has a swear word filter. :P
        • by Valdrax (32670) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @12:56PM (#21012533)
          If you are not adult enough to brush off those who are so immature that they get offended you need to go back to high school and toughen up a bit.

          Like I f---ing care what you think.
          • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @01:53PM (#21013425) Journal

            Like I f---ing care what you think.

            I have tourettes, you fucking insensitive cunt!!!!
        • by Danny Rathjens (8471) <slashdot2.rathjens@org> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @01:31PM (#21013093)
          If you are not adult enough to brush off those who are so immature that they get offended you need to go back to high school and toughen up a bit.

          I don't get offended by people cursing in professional settings. It simply lowers my opinion of them. If you aren't adult enough to control yourself then perhaps *you* should go back to high school and finish maturing. ;)

          As for cursing in the workplace, I think it hurts the atmosphere. It may make the guy who just got off the phone with a dumb customer feel better to vent, but the dozen people who had to listen to his vehemence have all just had their days worsened a bit and everyone is a bit more on edge. We're human; harsh words and conflict make us feel bad. It's a simple formula. There is not much we can do about that.

          That being said, people experiencing bad things together often bond together. I think that is the effect the study is showing.
          I prefer having nice quiet, productive days much more than having my annoying primate instincts triggered by making me feel bad so I'll bond with people that aren't my friends.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I try my best not to swear. It's not because I'm afraid to swear or offend, but rather that I have two small children, aged 1.5 and 3.5. I'd like them to be a little older before they start dropping "motherfuckers". Thus, I try not to swear at work so I won't get into the habit and teach them words they aren't ready for. The older girl can speak rather eloquently about photosynthesis and trigonometry.

          That said, my dad taught me to swear during home renovations. "Fuckbuggerdamnpoo" was my favourite of all ti
    • by mollog (841386) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @12:26PM (#21012083)
      As my pappy says,

      Profanity is the linguistic crutch of a fucking ignoramus.

      Damn right!
      • by paeanblack (191171) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @03:33PM (#21014865)
        Profanity is the linguistic crutch of a fucking ignoramus.

        Profanity is simply a communications tool used to convey emotion directly instead of relying upon the receiver to interpret the words in the appropriate context. They are analogous to smileys used in email and chat; they're an extra communications channel.

        Profanity is not antisocial. The overuse of profanity is antisocial. One can use the word "fifteen" as many times as necessary without diminishing its utility. Fifteen will still equal 15, no matter how many times you say it. On the other hand, the value of the word "fuck" lies in its emotional content. Every time that word is used, that content gets diluted for both the sender and receiver. When overused, the word becomes meaningless.

        Profanity is simply another linguistic tool, and not using all the tools at one's disposal to communicate concisely and precisely is foolish. However, some tools dull faster than others, and the waste of perfectly good profanity through overuse and misuse is naturally offensive.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          One can use the word "fifteen" as many times as necessary without diminishing its utility.

          And it can also be misused and overused. Just think of the words "nine" and "eleven".

          The difference is, 9/11 attaches an emotional impact to meaningless numbers, while overuse of the word "fuck" removes the emotional impact from a word.

          But what does any of this have to do with it being antisocial or not? Seems to me, if it generally has a negative impact, and you reduce the emotional impact, that's a socially good t

    • by Das Modell (969371) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @01:45PM (#21013291)
      What pisses the shit out of me is that telling someone to fuck off is considered rude and unacceptable, but offending someone without the use of swear words is totally a-ok. Someone once gravely insulted me without uttering one swear word, and in response I said "fuck you." Then she acted like I was completely out of line whereas she had done nothing wrong. WHAT THE FUCK?!
      • by Rallion (711805) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @03:19PM (#21014679) Journal
        I agree, the taboo on certain words is ridiculous. Once, during a short stint in a retail position, I had a customer go off on me. Crazy. Huge rant, including phrases like, "you probably can't read," "mental defective," and many others. (In case you're wondering, it ultimately turned out that she had misread a price label.) The crazy (well, craziest) thing is this: as I stood there, somewhat stunned and very much unsure of how to react, a coworker came up and said something like, "Hey, don't you think that was pretty disrespectful and rude?" She responded, "No! I kept my language clean!" I laughed a little.

        Some people say that using 'bad' language is some kind of crutch. As I watch people, I see that it's more common for people use the avoidance of certain words as a justification for (sometimes intense) rudeness.
        • by kklein (900361) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @09:05PM (#21019329)

          I agree wholeheartedly. Profanity is a way for the speaker to let off steam. There is no semantic content to "fuck" when used as an expletive; it is just emphatic.

          I used to work in tech support (for Apple, during the switch to PPC--not a fun time for that company), and the rule was that if the customer swore, we were allowed to terminate the call. I always hated that, because most reps just used that as an excuse to get rid of annoying customer service problems. But the thing is that if you disconnect someone while they're venting, they are just going to get angrier and call back. It makes the problem worse.

          After noticing this trend, I stopped disconnecting customers who were screaming. As long as they weren't personally abusive to me (they almost never were--they were angry at the computer, angry at the company, angry at themselves for not backing up, angry at life, angry at a really shitty day--almost never were they angry at the person on the other end of the line), I let them just go. Just let them get it all out. I took notes whenever something emerged that was actually useful information, but mostly they just wanted to vent. And who doesn't???

          I found that if you let people do this for about 2 minutes, and let them know that you empathized, as a fellow human being, with what they were going through, they would calm down and just be the easiest people to deal with all day. They felt relaxed. They felt like someone who could help them actually listened to them. They were also incredibly polite after that because they knew that the person listening had done them the human kindness of listening, when most people would have just hung up, and that they could not really be angry at them.

          Profanity is very rarely about the listener; it's about the speaker. Sure, we could all walk around quantifying and qualifying our exact feelings in measured, calculated, meaningful lexical choices, but when we want to use profanity is when the idea is not really worth encoding, but we feel a need to express the emotion nonetheless. This is profanity's role in the English language, and most other languages have analogues.

          People who are offended by profanity are weak, small, scheming people, IMO. They don't want to be around anyone who expresses their feelings, because feelings and human interaction embarrass them. As a general rule, I don't trust people who do not swear. They are obviously controlling their output, hiding their feelings. What else are they hiding? When I think back on the people who have been loyal coworkers who treated people with respect and fairness, they are the swearers. I have never been backstabbed by a swearer. It's always, in my experience, the people who don't. Swearing in front of someone is saying "I consider you close enough to expose this part of me." Refraining from doing so says, "You and I are wholly unrelated. You will act upon the information I impart." Granted, it's not like non-swearers are bad people. It's just that I am much more careful in dealing with them.

          (Full disclosure: I swear like a motherfucker, so I may be a bit biased.)

  • by athdemo (1153305) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:38AM (#21011249)
    I mean, ****, why am I always being ****ing censored at work. We're all ****ing adults here, right? ****.
  • Shouldn't that be "University of East Anglia (UEA)" ?
    • It actually is:
      http://www.uea.ac.uk/

      But better to miss the key, than sending a whole university to Abu Dhabi (UAE [wikipedia.org]).

      I have to go back to my flipping work....

  • Take that work-based internet monitor!
  • Actual news release (Score:5, Informative)

    by peipas (809350) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:41AM (#21011309)
    Here's the actual release [uea.ac.uk] from the source, rather than a Network World recap.

    • How many people do you think even read the fucking article? Like hell they're going to read the actual release.
  • by CelticWhisper (601755) <celticwhisper.gmail@com> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:42AM (#21011323)
    Now where the yotz did I put that frakking driver CD? I swear, if this FRELLING printer breaks down one more time, it's getting it right in the mivonks. Useless pile of dren, I knew we should have gone with the 4250.

    Of course, it does have the downside of my coworkers looking at me like I'm insane, but then that really shouldn't come as news to anyone. If they haven't figured out that I'm magra-fahrbot by now, well, I can't be blamed.
  • Fuck yes (Score:5, Funny)

    by slayermet420 (1053520) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:43AM (#21011339) Journal
    It's about motherfucking time the real world caught up with the fucking military.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Way to go dumbass. Now we have to sleep in the office, and if they drill me one more time on workstation disassembly-reassembly, I swear I'm gonna bring down the entire network.

    • by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @01:23PM (#21012977)

      When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can't run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn't fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag. ... As for the types of comments I make, sometimes I just, By God, get carried away with my own eloquence.
      -General George Smith Patton, Jr.
  • by Cornflake917 (515940) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:45AM (#21011375) Homepage
    My office neighbor gets scary when he is having trouble figuring something out on his computer. He swears and bangs the table and it makes me scared. I don't think his behavior is helping anyone :-(
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      And you wouldn't be creeped the fuck out if he suddenly became very quiet instead? Would you rather him stifle it and hold it all tightly in until one very tragic day?
      • He has a wife and two young daughters, I doubt he is going to go Seung-Hui Cho on us any time soon. There is a pretty clear difference between people with anger management issues, and suicidal psychopaths.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by moeinvt (851793)
      Is that you Sandy?
  • I'm sure the discussion and tags on this story will be completely G Rated ;)

    Oh fuck off!
  • Call me sad but.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by clickclickdrone (964164) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:45AM (#21011389)
    Whilst in the right circumstances I can swear as much as the next person, at work and out in public, I don't like hearing it especially when people use it in every sentence without it even needing to be there. I have always considered really strong language to be the 11 on the amp - it's for when you need to get over the fact that something is really extreme i.e. big, massive, humungous, **ing huge.
    Personally I'd find it stress inducing if I was surrounded by people swearing non stop all day. It has it's place and I'm happy with that but I don't want to hear it non stop, it demeans the person talking like that.
    That said, I was sort of impressed by the moron chav who lived in the flat below mine once who managed a 16 word sentence which was all f**k or varients apart from 4 words and it made sense.
  • Yeah, well (Score:5, Funny)

    by NickCatal (865805) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:48AM (#21011433)
    Somehow I don't feel like this allows you to say 'This place is filled with fucking idiots' every 5 seconds

    But at least I can think it
  • maybe initially (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Floritard (1058660) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:50AM (#21011465)
    Wouldn't it lose it's luster if everyone were swearing all the time? I'm all for the unrestricted use of language everywhere, I think it's childish not to be, but wouldn't any positive side effects be related to the fact that being allowed to swear at work is unusual and kind of a privilege? Of course, once everyone got completely used to swearing, we'd all be better off anyway IMH fucking O.
    • If everyone who works in one groups swears around people who they deal with day to day, but are 'polite' to the others (higher levels of management, clients...). The swearing, and accepting of swearing becomes a subtle way of saying, that we are comfortable with each other, and when people get a long together, they usually work well together...

      If that makes any fucking sense...
  • super bowl (Score:5, Funny)

    by Aeron65432 (805385) <agiamba@ g m ail.com> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:51AM (#21011481) Homepage
    Reminds me of my favorite superbowl commercial, [youtube.com] I don't know how many times this got passed around the office.
  • Long time coming (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:53AM (#21011515) Homepage
    Forcing people to behave artificially causes people to not be able to bond and communicate.

    This rather obvious realization has been surfacing over the past few decades. 20 years ago professionals were expected to wear suits and ties to work. Today, most employers I've worked for only require that of sales people, or on certain ocassions. The average employee can wear jeans, at in their cube, swear, and scratch their butt. I think this leads to a more relaxed and more productive work environment.

    Interestingly though, in the 80's, it was socially acceptable to have a drink during lunch. Now it is taboo to drink during work hours at all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      Forcing people to behave artificially causes people to not be able to bond and communicate.

      This rather obvious realization has been surfacing over the past few decades. 20 years ago professionals were expected to wear suits and ties to work. Today, most employers I've worked for only require that of sales people, or on certain ocassions. The average employee can wear jeans, at in their cube, swear, and scratch their butt.

      A nice superficial analysis - but as a counterpoint, I offer the US military.

  • Who the F*** lets pays these asshats to come up with such useless drivel. It makes me wanna $*&*#*# swear. Oh, nevermind, I feel better now.

    In other news: breathing makes you live.

     
  • I think the occasional swear is perfectly fine. It doesn't bother me in the least and I've sworn myself more times than I can count. However, I also think there are many situations where it's inappropriate. I wouldn't do it in front of a client, for example.

    I do believe it can be cathartic. But from personal experience once swearing gets abused, let's say when under stress, it also seems to aggravate the frustration. It's like stewing in anger.

    And it's too easy for this to be turned into a habit. The last t
  • I'm glad that swearing at work is good for you, because swearing at home is illegal [volokh.com].
  • by mihalis (28146) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:59AM (#21011615) Homepage

    I grew up in Britain but now work in America. When I figure I can get away with it, and when the situation calls for it, I sometimes let loose with a well-timed swear word. I can sense that my fully american colleagues are always a little bit shocked, however I also feel it REALLY gets their attention, and thus can be a good thing.

    For example, I told my (then current) boss that the interference from her (then) boss had gotten completely out of hand. The way I phrased it was "I have nearly gotten to the point of just telling him to fuck off". That would be such a flagrant breach of protocol that I'm glad I didn't, however just /mentioning/ the word made the situation crystal clear (mention as oppose to use - it was hypothetical swearing).

    In fact, work is almost the last frontier where swearing is still effective, and so it's the only place where's really still worthwhile. I suppose if I swore at customer support from some vendor it would also have an effect, but I have too much sympathy for what those people put up with.

    Out on the street, or on public transport, however, swearing is just like noise on the signal. Any ten-year old kid can be overheard using "fuck, shit, motherfucker". One of the few words that still has some kick to it, for some reason, is "cunt". I think the most memorable usage was still in the Bridget Jones movie...

  • by rbanzai (596355) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @12:01PM (#21011649)
    I once worked at police department, a very swear-friendly environment. I wound up swearing ALL the time, including around my family. I had to work hard to break this new habit. In the jobs that followed (outside of emergency services) it was obvious that people who swore alot not only seemed unprofessional they appeared to be poor communicators that could not express themselves without obscenities.

    It's not a prohibition on swearing that's keeping people from expressing themselves at work; it's restrictive environments created by management where one doesn't express oneself out of fear of retaliation.

    I enjoy swearing when it's the right time, but work is not the place for it, and swearing is not a workplace communication enhancer; it's a tool of anger, frustration and an inability to express one's full feeling on a subject.
    • Agreed! One time at work, my boss announced the latest stupid rule from his bosses. I just said that that was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard. I didn't need to throw in any "F" words or "S" words. (BTW, my boss agreed with me but avoided actually saying so)

      OTOH, I swear at my home computer frequently.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by skelly33 (891182)
      I think yours is a perfect account of recognition for what may generally be perceived as poor intelligence and/or blatant disrespect on the part of the potty mouth. I swear all the time too: at home, in the office, to friends, to family, you name it. It's become ingrained in me and I'm struggling to root it out. Communication and expression are considered by many to be and art form and a flood of vulgarities just don't come off as terribly artful. Profanity is prolific right down to the lowest common denomi
    • by kryptkpr (180196)
      I enjoy swearing when it's the right time, but work is not the place for it, and swearing is not a workplace communication enhancer; it's a tool of anger, frustration and an inability to express one's full feeling on a subject.

      There is no right or wrong place to swear, but there IS a right or wrong time. Ever been angry or frustrated or unable to express a feeling on a subject, at work?
  • Working in the Navy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Protonk (599901) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @12:04PM (#21011701) Homepage
    One of the best parts of being a sailor was, well...swearing like a sailor. But in the time that I was in, the powers that be decided that it wasn't in the best interest of the navy to have sailors acting like...well, sailors. So no carousing, smoking, swearing, etc. Swearing "wasn't professional" and it didn't reflect the best interests of the Navy. I've even seen a swear jar implemented. No joke.

    And this was on a submarine. No women. Limited cases of sexual harassment.

    Fuck that. You could always tell the fools in the Chief's quarters (think mid level management) by how well they hewed to these rules. If they smoked, drank and swore, they were usually good guys. If they were teetotaling pricks, then they were not to be trusted. This, more than almost any other metric, helped to determine good bosses from bad for us.
  • ...for a former coworker of mine. He had previously worked as a tech rep aboard an aircraft carrier, and the Navy made him leave because the sailors were picking up his language. His health was always just fine.

    rj
  • Fine, just make sure you don't fucking do it in Pennsylvania [liveleak.com] or you may end up in jail.
  • Does it really add anything to call someone a G-D fucking moron instead of just calling them a worthless moron when they are wrecking havoc on you and your team? Personally, I don't think so. In fact, I think it can show a great deal of control over yourself that will make others look up to you at least a little as a leader in a tough environment when you aren't cussing, but others (especially managers) are cussing like sailors. I've had a manager like that before, where we'd be discussing a product or an i
  • I don't think I've ever worked for a company that discouraged profanity. One place I worked a decade back, the installation of a new cluster was routinely referred to as "the clusterfuck project".
  • The study found regular use of profanity to express and reinforce solidarity among staff, enabling them to express their feelings, such as frustration, and develop social relationships, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UES).


    Sounds very much like camaraderie and morale; old military standbys. Perhaps there is a good reason swearing seems to be ingrained in military culture.
  • "regular use of profanity .. among staff, enabling them to express their feelings .. and develop social relationships"

    You mean now the workers can swear back at the managers, as distinct to being swore at. If so then why is it that when I called my 'team leader' a fat bastard, he got me fired. It was like this, I was on the call desk and he happened to cross my field of vision and I sub-vocalized the expletive. Those headphone mikes are so soo sensitive and besides he shouldn't have been listening in on
  • One of my favorite snippets from Red Storm Rising..

    "Let's have an attitude check!"
    "I hate this fucking place!"

    "Let's have a positive attitude check!"
    "I positively hate this fucking place!"

    "Let's have a negative attitude check!"
    "I can't stand this fucking place!"

    "Let's have a short attitude check!"
    "Fuck it!"
  • by suv4x4 (956391) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @12:14PM (#21011887)
    I found that wrecking stuff is a very good way to relieve stress.

    Furthermore, I always thought of punching a client in the face, or nuts, and I think being allowed to do that would definitely help my stress, and the solidarity among me and the rest of the employees.
  • God, I hope this means the end of political correctness. That guy is black, that girl is fat, that secretary is stupid as a bag of hammers, that customer is blind, and the guy who fixes computers at sales office in Jersey is a short little moron, whose dubious parentage must surely include a mongoloid.

    Why yes, I do feel more free for having said that.... oh, btw, that coonass in accounting puts bourbon in his coffee.
  • by dubbayu_d_40 (622643) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @12:33PM (#21012179)
    youtube.com/watch?v=EJJL5dxgVaM
  • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @12:55PM (#21012519)
    ... before I started working here, I used to drink, smoke and swear for no reason at all. Now, thanks to this job, I have a reason.
  • by coaxial (28297) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:18PM (#21015611) Homepage
    On Februrary 26, 2000, on a slashnet IRC interview [slashnet.org], JWZ was asked about how swearing and flaming (specifically with respect to Netscape's Bad Attitude newsgroup and Really Bad Attitude [jwz.org] mailing list) fit within a corporate environment.

    His response has remained with me all these years:

    if you have a "corporate environment", then you've already lost the battle. likewise, if anyone ever refers to you or anyone you work with as "professional", then the coolness has left the building.

For every bloke who makes his mark, there's half a dozen waiting to rub it out. -- Andy Capp

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