Your parents might have taught you not to curse, but did the lesson really stick? New research seems to suggest that it hasn’t: two-thirds of all millennial employees swear at work, while 58% of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are said to swear while on the clock.
Which begs the question, is swearing at work really that bad? An argument can be made that it’s actually a good thing.
Here are five reasons why you should swear at work.
To relieve tension
You’re swamped, deadlines are looming, meetings are veering off track, and for some reason, everything your closest co-worker does is annoying you.
On days like this, you need an outlet, and what’s better, letting a round of expletives loose or doing something you’ll really regret (like getting into a fight)? A well-timed swear word every now and then can help to manage frustration and ease tensions in tough situations.
Cursing activates a “fight or flight” response, which leads to a surge of adrenaline and endorphins. This response relieves pain, which is why we tend to curse when we burn ourselves or drop something on our foot. The response also makes us feel ready to fight back — so instead of just letting a bad situation at work continue, let the F-bombs fly, and you’ll feel more confident and ready to tackle the issue head on.
To make you a more relatable 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 praised him. By loosening things up a bit, and swearing, it showed a more human, relatable side. It showed that he cared.
Similarly, people in leadership roles who curse can be more likely to connect with their employees on an emotional level. That’s not to say that they should walk around the office like a drunken sailor played by Joe Pesci. But by occasionally using “taboo” language, particularly when it’s warranted, bosses can knock down barriers, letting staff see that behind the lofty job title, they’re not all that different.
To be part of the boys’ club
A study from East Anglia University in the UK found that women swear more around men as a way to assert themselves in male-dominated conversations. Throughout history, the theory goes, “blue” language was reserved for men in power, so when women use bad words in the workplace, they tap into this historical precedent, appearing more powerful.
But before you start peppering your vocabulary with four-letter words, keep in mind that this can severely backfire. Research from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand has found that potty-mouthed women were judged to be “lower class.”
To build a more tight-knit team
Cursing can make light of a situation and make it more humorous. You probably curse around your friends, right? Swearing can signal that we are open, honest, easygoing, and fun — and it encourages others to mirror your behavior and attitude.
By cursing around your co-workers, you can establish a friendlier atmosphere, and develop a deeper bond with them. Letting loose every now and then lets them know you feel comfortable enough around them to do so, and invites them to do the same. Remember, though, that everyone reacts differently to this. If you’re around people of the executive team, for example, or a more conservative co-worker, you might want to limit your use of four-letter words, unless of course they drop an F-bomb first.
To speak more powerfully
Words may be just that, but they do matter. The more ‘taboo’ a word is; the more impact it can have. And sometimes, you need to make an impact.
Swearing can show that we really mean what we are saying, and can emphasize the emotions we are feeling. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of a bad day, and you’ve had enough, you need to get the point across. Think of swear words like particularly sharp tools in your communication toolkit. Use them when needed, but be very careful not to get cut.
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