Your parents may have taught you not to swear, but did the lesson really last? New research seems to suggest that this is not the case: two-thirds of millennial employees swear at work, while 58% of Generation X and baby boomers are doing it. Which begs the question, is swearing at work really such a bad habit? On the contrary, one could argue that it’s a good thing. Here are 5 reasons why you should swear at work.
To relieve the tension
You’re overwhelmed, deadlines are looming, meetings drag on, and for some reason everything your closest colleague does irritates you.
On days like these, you need to relieve your stress. What’s better: throwing a swear word or doing something you’ll really regret (like arguing)? Sometimes a well-placed swear word can help manage frustration and ease tension in difficult situations.
Swearing activates a “fight or flight” response.which provides a rush of adrenaline and endorphins. This response relieves pain, which is why we tend to swear when we burn ourselves or drop something on our foot. The reaction also makes us feel ready to fight back. So instead of letting a bad work situation get out of hand, throw in a few swears and you’ll feel more confident and ready to tackle the issue head on.
To make you a more reliable leader
When U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters he was trying to figure out “whose ass to kick” after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, commentators congratulated him. By easing some of the tension and swearing, it showed a more humane side to him that people can relate to. It showed that he cared.
Likewise, people in senior positions who swear may be more likely to communicate emotionally with their employees. That doesn’t mean they should move around the office like a drunken sailor played by Joe Pesci. But by occasionally using more colloquial language, especially when warranted, bosses can break down barriers, letting staff see that behind their job title, they are not so different.
Being part of the band
A study by East Anglia University in the United Kingdom found that women swear more when they are around men because they use it as a way to assert themselves in male-dominated conversations. Historically, the theory has been that “blue” language was reserved for men in power, so when women use swear words in the workplace, they exploit this historical precedent, making them look more powerful.
But before you start sprinkling your vocabulary with swear words, keep in mind that it can backfire. Research at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand revealed that women who often cursed were considered to be “lower class”.
To build a stronger team
Swearing can shed light on a situation and make it more humorous. You probably swear in the company of your friends, don’t you? Swearing can mean we’re open, honest, accommodating and fun. It encourages others to reflect your behaviour and attitude.
By swearing around your colleagues, you can establish a more convivial atmosphere and develop a deeper bond with them. By letting yourself go once in a while, you let them know that you feel comfortable enough around them to invite them to do the same. Remember, however, that everyone reacts differently to this. If you are surrounded by members of the management team, for example, or a more conservative colleague, you may want to limit your use of swear words, unless, of course, they drop such a bomb first.
Speak with more power
Sometimes words are just words, but they matter. The more “taboo” a word is, the more impact it can have. And sometimes you have to make an impact.
Swearing can show that we really mean what we say and that we can underline the emotions we feel. Sometimes when you’re having a bad day and you’ve had enough, you need to get the message across. Consider swearing as a particularly sharp tool in your communication toolbox. Use them when you need them, but be very careful not to cut yourself off.