I recently heard someone on the radio say that those who swear at work are less likely to get promoted. I wish I could remember who it was so I could give them credit—wasn’t me—I think it was from some job placement ad. Anyway, I found that idea pretty interesting and since I sometimes the language around the offices make me think I’ve stepped on to the deck of a battleship at war, I figured I might see if there was any truth to the claim.
Turns out, there is.
CBS reports that a CareerBuilder survey (maybe it was a CareerBuilder ad I heard?) suggested 80% of bosses said swearing makes their employees appear unprofessional. Here’s the link, so you can go check it out for yourself. There are a lot of other good quotes there, such as “Swearing reflects weak E.Q., emotional intelligence,” and “swearing can also make you appear less intelligent overall, and unable to express what you really want to say.”
I’ve generally been of that opinion, myself. The English language has thousands of words that carry a wide variety of meanings…why use one that does the above? Meaning, why would you want to use a word that makes you appear less intelligent?
And that makes me immediately think of the stereotypes for Southern rednecks; which today is generally a mulletted (yes, I miss my mullet!), beer guzzling, four by four driving, shotgun toting, SWEARING, white dude. As a Southerner myself, the stereotypes have always bothered me…but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Right or wrong, the ideas exist. So why would one choose to use the same sort of language that’s associated with a negative stereotype?
I dug a bit further and found a business site (I lost the link, sorry. I’m not claiming it as mine, so go look it up yourself!) that claimed “strategic swearing” helped co-workers feel more comfortable and at ease. Of course, I LOL’d when I read that. It also went on to claim that water-cooler swearing was one thing, while swearing in anger and swearing-out someone (like a colleague) was a completely different thing altogether. And I guess that’s where that particular site was trying to draw the line.
When I read work for critique, it isn’t unusual that I attempt to challenge the writer to expand their vocabulary instead of swearing. Granted if they’re writing dialogue for an urban street thug, the low vocabulary is anticipated—but see, there we go again with stereotypes…and the stereotypes of people who aren’t that quick on the update are generally accompanied by swearing.
But it’s certainly something to think about.