Can You Get Fired For Cursing At Work?

By Alina Dizik, Special to CareerBuilder

If you're cursing at work, be careful. While it's commonplace to curse once in a while and may even help you build a bond with co-workers, there's a fine line to when and how you curse. "We are being judged constantly by our co-workers for how we do our work and how we interact with them," says etiquette expert Cynthia Lett. "Cursing is an aggressive and hostile way of expressing oneself."

Companies where employees are constantly in front of customers are especially harsh when it comes to foul language -- employees caught cursing can be in trouble. Not sure where you stand when it comes to cursing? Here's how foul language at work can impact your career:


1. Reveal an unprofessional attitude

In some professions cursing is accepted and can even help you fit in to an environment, perhaps in high-pressure jobs where everyone needs to let off some steam. Constantly using foul language, however, can make it difficult to fit into a professional environment, says Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of "The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength." "Perceptions are important in shaping your career -- you don't want to be seen as that foul-mouthed person," she says. Be especially careful about your language when surrounded by several co-workers at once -- such as during meetings or when working in teams.


2. Prevent real communication

Using curse words over and over again can prevent you from truly communicating what you're trying to say. Instead of cursing, take the time to figure out how to let your co-workers understand what you're really thinking. Even if you're angry or upset, take time to develop a professional communication strategy. "Cursing is an aggressive and hostile way of expressing one's self," Lett says.

Furthermore it can create a distance between you and the others in your department because it makes others uncomfortable. "When people are uncomfortable around someone they avoid them whenever possible," she explains.


3. Hamper your image

Similar to a disheveled appearance or tardiness, foul language can impact the way you're perceived by others in the workplace. Even if you do great work, cursing can have an impact on your ability to get promoted or get better job responsibilities. "You need to be aware of how you present yourself to your co-workers, superiors and clients," says Suzanne Lucas, a writer and human resources expert. "Swearing when books get dropped on your toes or the copier dies on you is one thing, peppering your daily conversation with expletives is another."


4. Repercussions from human resources

Just because no one in your department comments on your use of foul language, doesn't mean it's going unnoticed. In some instances it can be reported to human resources with an official warning.

Sometimes it can even get you fired. "Someone who works customer facing [roles] -- such as retail or sales or call centers -- would be fired for swearing, as it's not appropriate with a customer," Lucas says.

Of course not everyone gets fired. And as you evaluate your behavior, cursing once in a while is no cause for alarm. "We all get angry and frustrated and using a curse word can be the best release available," says Kahnweiler. "Just be aware that this language shouldn't become your M.O. or you could be seen as lacking self control."

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donna

My feelings are use words to edify.

August 12 2011 at 2:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RJRofFL

Someone ought to tell this to Gordon Ramsay from "Hell's Kitchen!"

August 12 2011 at 11:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to RJRofFL's comment
donna

So true so true

August 12 2011 at 2:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
baydolphins2003n

I consider them 'colorful colloquialisms' and they don't bother me at all, even with my employees...as long as they are not cursing at customers, I couldn't care less. I don't consider their use particularly aggressive...I can be pretty verbally agressive without using profanity and I think in some cases that's actually worse.

August 11 2011 at 1:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
florenceyall39

What about if you have a foul mouthed MANAGER???? Also I work with my loud mouthed, TACTLESS, obnoxious mother in law, she could make a sailor blush.. and FYI.. we work in A PROFESSIONAL OFFICE!!!!!

August 11 2011 at 1:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to florenceyall39's comment
ohwhen

Get everyone in the office to agree to walk away when she starts in on a stream of foulness. Try completely not responding to it if you can't walk away.
Look back down at what you were doing, ignore her when she's being nasty, and then when she pauses, look up and say something like "Ready to get back to work talk?"
Don't respond to her with equal vulgarity, shut her down with non-response.

August 11 2011 at 1:35 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Nancye Combs

The reason those who work in Human Resources address the use of profanity is the potential liability to the company. Thus use of sexually oriented profanity creates a "hostile and offensive work environment." We frequently have women file a sex harassment compliant after a co-worker or supervisor has a meltdown that includes sexually laced profanity. Many companies label such behavior as "hostile." They have a zero tolerance for any behavior that is abusive or threatening, even when it is not directed to a specific individual. Their reason? Employees should be able to work in a workplace free of hostility and offensive behavior and this kind of behaivor violates their policy against violence and bullying.

August 11 2011 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
shirleyn48

IT ABSOLUTELY SHOULD BE A REASON FOR FIRING! It's vulgar, immoral and unethical to use fowl language in a work place, ESPECIALLY WHEN CHILDREN ARE PRESENT. People need to start acting like adults with decency and morals.

August 11 2011 at 1:00 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to shirleyn48's comment
dickn2000b

I will agree that foul (correct spelling...fowl language is bird noises) language is vulgar and in a few cases it may be unethical, but I cannot agree that it is immoral, and in some cases it may be even necessary. As an anthropologist, with specialties in archaeology and linguistics, I recognize that language, like a hammer or saw, is a tool. The greater the number of words and their meaning a person can bring to bear, the better that tool is. I have seen many instances where the only way to get your point across in a decisive manner is to use a swear word or two.

I also agree that it should not be used around minors. They will, on their own, learn those words that are most effective within their peer group. And finally, people should not act like adults. Acting implies a false presentation of one's self. A person should BE and adult at all times.

August 11 2011 at 1:33 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
baydolphins2003n

'immoral?' by whose definition?

August 11 2011 at 1:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
zip

I can see if your working in front of customers not to swear ...But in a factory , Construction field and jobs like that I see no problem with that unless ur disrespecting someone directly and its effecting the operations of the company ..Being Italian and growing up with the ''F'' bomb in just about every sentence from my father , uncles , friends just about everybody I knew I would use it in every other sentence just about. ..I worked in a high performance shop where there was about 30 people around me at all times in my dept. I can't count how many times I been called in offices about it ,,Even though I did'nt realize how much I was swearing It was in my every day vocabulary ...I never had gotten fired for it thank God ..I dunno maybe it was cause the big boss was Italian too and he swore worse than I did ....

August 11 2011 at 12:57 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
wcdaley6754

I guess it all depends on the job, I have a small construction company and hear my guys using foul language at times. Fine if we are at a job with no one around, but doing a remodel with the homeowner in close proximity, not acceptable. They will be told about it and they had better clean up their language...
it's MY name on the truck outside the house.

August 11 2011 at 11:45 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wcdaley6754's comment
ohwhen

I've been telling my students that for years! Yeah, they're going into HVAC or going to be a roofer...but they cannot swear around the clients or that will lose the company buisness, which will lose them a paying job! Teenagers...ugh. They cuss like they're getting paid for it.

August 11 2011 at 1:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Buckingham's

If it's not, then cursing SHOULD be a firing offense. I've had to work with people who LOVED using the F-word every other word while talking, and it gets old real fast.

August 11 2011 at 11:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Buckingham's's comment
qapla5

If it's NOT in the company's guideline or policy manual, then no, it should NOT be. What YOU might consider cursing might not be remotely offensive to others.

I find that people who incessantly talk about their families to get "old real fast," but should those people be fired? I'd rather someone drop the f-bomb or the s-word than hear about the new grandchild or how well little Johnny did in the spelling bee or little Shaniqua's church choir solo or little Reuben's bar mitzvah. I also really don't care to hear about the romantic weekend that your hubby surprised you with or how your mother-in-law's health problems are forcing her to move in with you. Please. Compared to that, I'll take a little cursing with every other word.

August 11 2011 at 1:36 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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