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Why it is not in your best interests to swear at work – ever.

In our modern and evolving world rebellion in many forms - from punk hairstyles, to body piercing and wearing underwear as outerwear - is seen as a statement of individuality, and a personal right. So much so that you’ll probably think I’m the dinosaur-guardian of prudishness for suggesting that swearing is a no-no in the workplace.

But you argue: Swearing is an individual expression. In fact, it’s more than that; freedom of expression is one of your basic human rights, is it not? And on top of that, all your mates swear, and it’s honest, says how you feel and it's considered a cool thing to do.

You know not to commit professional suicide by swearing at your customers or co-workers, or your boss, so what’s this fuss about cussing?

In the business world, like it or not, your professionalism (or lack thereof) is judged by your actions – the way you behave and speak. Swearing is not going to win you a promotion, or added responsibilities and a pay increase; nor will it help secure you a new contract.

Besides not working in your favour as far as career advancement goes, swearing ranks up there with other small but important business faux pas that could see you overlooked for promotions or opportunities.

Here’s why:

  • Swearing shows a lack of personal strength and character and creates the impression that you lack discipline and control.
  • Swearing is seen as an emotional outburst – and that will be perceived as a weakness.
  • Dealing with people in high-powered negotiations or appeasing an irate customer requires skill and control. The excessive use of expletives will put a question mark over your suitability for such positions.
  • Most people swear out of habit rather than out of deliberate choice. Swearing suggests your actions are a result of habit rather than a conscious choice with a value judgement made on the appropriateness (or not) beforehand.
  • Sure, it’s tempting to swear to fit in with your work mates over a beer. It’s even more tempting let rip and voice your frustrations with a string of strong percussive and punctuated expletives, or a cacophony of curses that would make a hardened sailor blush, when dealing with miscommunication or the ineptitude of others. But I’d urge you to consider whether the temporary satisfaction of venting your frustrations is worth the potential harm it can do to your career.

    That’s why it’s not in your best interests to swear at work – ever.