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Thread: Profanity in the workplace

  1. #1
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Profanity in the workplace

    I have been a bad boy.

    We were having a staff meeting and discussing someone who built a house into two setbacks - side yard and right-of-way easement. As usual the extroverts were dominating the conversation. Came my turn to speak and I was talking. There has been this pattern of where the extroverts just decide they can interrupt me and talk over me, which has frustrated me to no end. Well, I wasn't halfway through my point when the new boss begins to talk over me, but I kept going, because I wasn't through with my point. Then he starts whistling and calling my name.

    I told him I wasn't finished talking (which obviously I wasn't, because I was still talking). He said "sorry". My internal filter was overridden by the frustration and I muttered "jesus f***ing christ." Yeah, maybe not the best thing to say about your boss's rude and disrepectful behavior.

    So I got a lecture after the meeting that profanity wasn't professional behavior. Well, in Montana, the f-bomb is pretty common. And I am actually the one planner in the department who is least likely to drop the f-bomb.

    Are the f-bombs or other versions of profanity used during your staff meetings or interactions with other staff?

    For those of you who are bosses, would you chastised one of your employees for using profanity in response to your own transgression?
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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  2. #2
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Never. No f-bombs. There are circumstances where people know it's lurking (such as explaining that STFU stands for "shut the heck up" -- and I don't ever tell anyone to shut up, but the term came up in a meeting recently), but I never use it, and neither does anyone else. I agree that using it is unprofessional. It doesn't belong in the office workplace under any circumstances.

    Speaking of STFU, how come Jesus's middle initial is H but his middle name starts with an F?

    As far as chastising, I likely would say the criticism is warranted, but the means of expressing it needs improvement.

  3. #3
    nrschmid and choclatechip had a livley debate about profanity in the workplace not too long ago. It happens occasionally in my office but rarely within hearing distance of someone that may be offended and never, ever in at a staff meeting (directed at the boss to boot ).
    The content contrarian

  4. #4
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    I have been a bad boy.
    ...
    For those of you who are bosses, would you chastised one of your employees for using profanity in response to your own transgression?
    Your boss was an idiot, but no F bombs in the workplace. I keep talking when I'm interrupted too, say 'common courtesy says you wait until I'm finished' or some such. Kinda a-holey but so what.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Your post made me think about the situation in my office. There are no f-bombs in official meetings, or in public areas for sure, none from the big boss. My observation is that profanity is used strictly within my own generation and rank, so I have only ever heard (and used) bad words around the Gen X middle ranks in my office. That leads me to think then that they are used around people that one thinks could/would commiserate with you. It builds solidarity! Also and of course, you don't want the bosses to think poorly of you, and you don't want to set a bad example for the junior/younger staff. It's still a rare occurance - frequency along the lines of one word per person per year.

    It's odd though, that lots of tamer substitute words can be used... (I was going to give examples, but I think you all know what they are - they are all acceptable on public TV!).

  6. #6
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I work in a small office and we’re all pretty tight. When things get stressful and we’re all a little on edge, the occasional profanities slip out. Mainly as a pressure release valve. I would NEVER do so in the presence of people outside the office (and would be rightly chastised if I did). I’m talking about professional relationships here, not personal ones. With friends, I have no editing…

    As for Otterpop’s example, that’s a hard one for me to address, being an introvert myself. Because, as an introvert (or maybe some other personal quality of mine), if a coworker said what he said, I would be sitting there worrying that I had done something to really upset this person (which they did) and then work to resolve it on the side. If I did feel I needed to address the profanity, I would also do it on the side, one-on-one and would likely downplay it as not a big deal the first time. IF it continued, that might be a different story.

    I don’t know if I would have said the same thing Otterpop did, but I certainly would have been thinking it. People who talk over me (or anyone else) really annoy me. To me it express a total disrespect for what others have to say and gives the impression no one matters but them. This is why I can’t watch that show Parenthood (which the wife likes). The premise seems to revolve around the entire cast (which constitutes a big extended familynetwork) constantly talking over each other. Its maddening…
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  7. #7
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    You know, I we have a no f-bomb policy in our department, but I wouldn't have called down Otterpop on it because its not like it was a pattern. If anything, I'd be happy to get a genuine, unfiltered response about how he felt about the situation. It was an isolated incident unexposed to the public, and the boss was being a dick IMHO. I get infuriated when people talk over me or do so to others.

    I've been known to drop f-bombs on occassion in private meetings with my boss and a few of the other directors, but we have an understanding in that regard. Never in a staff meeting though.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  8. #8
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    . . . To me it express a total disrespect for what others have to say and gives the impression no one matters but them. . . .
    That is what ticked me off. I considered it dismissive, disrespectful and rude. But what set off my unfiltered muttering was the fact he was trying to stop me from talking while he's interrupting me by the whistling and calling my name. I am not a dog. I do not respond well to being treated as such.

    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I do not believe in using profanity in the workplace. I would expect, though, that your boss would get the message that his behavior - interrupting and then using demeaning tactics to get your attention - was equally inappropriate.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner View post
    nrschmid and choclatechip had a livley debate about profanity in the workplace not too long ago. It happens occasionally in my office but rarely within hearing distance of someone that may be offended and never, ever in at a staff meeting (directed at the boss to boot ).
    First of all, I would never use profanity if my superiors didn't. If my boss wears a tie to work, I'll wear one too. Ape the ape. So there's a time and a place for everything, including profanity.

    So here's when I think we shouldn't use profanity:

    In mixed company. If you don't know your audience, or if you know some in your audience would be offended, don't use profanity (except online, tee hee).

    With subordinates. If you curse around subordinates, you might find yourself in a position where they take it a step further and you end up having to admonish them, and of course this would be awkward, since you were the one who started that behavior.

    During staff meetings. Unless it's an office of like three people, I think staff meetings should be handled more professionally than a casual gathering of people bullshitting and talking over each other and about their weekend, etc.

    With clients. See above. No brainer.

    With women. Yes, this is totally sexist, and I am a chauvinist pig, blah, blah, blah. Call me old fashioned, but I cringe when a woman uses profanity casually, and I don't use it in their company, except for a few son-of-a-bitches and good-god-damns. Blame this on my mom, who taught me to respect women. Women, deal with it.

    With that said, I have violated all of the above instances, so I'm not perfect (although I might be a perfect bastard). In general, I think profanity in the right setting with the right individuals can elucidate the topic of discussion most colorfully and humorously. But it has to be well-chosen, like all words in our beautiful language. There's no reason cursing can't be integrated into our discourse as artfully and articulately as other words, but we must know our audience.

    I do not believe in using profanity in the workplace. I would expect, though, that your boss would get the message that his behavior - interrupting and then using demeaning tactics to get your attention - was equally inappropriate.
    I consider it not equally inappropriate, but much less appropriate. Talking over someone and whistling at them when they refuse to hand the stage over shows a gross lack of respect for another human, boss or not. His Jesus-Fucking-Christ moment was accidental and doesn't reflect arrogance as his boss's actions did.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    A meeting without f-bombs is like a day without sunshine here in the Motor-City!

    cue loud noise outside window followed by a hail of gunfire. "What the f#$k was that!?!"
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  12. #12
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    I think that your outburst was justified, given the context and events leading up to your response, and that it'll blow over quickly. If you swear like a sailor every meeting, then I think there would be a problem. In our office, I've noticed that my peers are pretty relaxed with profanity. However, it is not heard by the public nor the higher ups (like the CM). Some places are a bit more conservative though, but we're in California and are going to hell anyways (or our printer sucks).

    Mother****er, G**D*****, where's the tylenol?
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  13. #13
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    I've been known to drop f-bombs on occassion in private meetings with my boss and a few of the other directors, but we have an understanding in that regard. Never in a staff meeting though.
    This is how it is around here. It's reserved for private meetings with directors.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  14. #14
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    A meeting without f-bombs is like a day without sunshine here in the Motor-City!

    cue loud noise outside window followed by a hail of gunfire. "What the f#$k was that!?!"
    We're a bit more refined out here in the 'burbs!

    Occasionally some profanity will slip out from a few of the folks in the large meetings here - never an f-bomb though. Smaller meetings are a different story. The big boss in particular has a tendency to really let some stuff slip, in all sorts of company and situations, and now, after being warned by HR and his boss, seems to try to tamp that down.

    I personally rarely ever use any sort of foul language, especially in the workplace. I think it's a holdover from one of the offices I worked in in the Marine Corps where our boss would really get on your case if he caught you using foul language.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    ...We were having a staff meeting ... the extroverts were dominating the conversation. Came my turn to speak and I was talking.... I wasn't halfway through my point when the new boss begins to talk over me, but I kept going, because I wasn't through with my point. Then he starts whistling and calling my name.

    I told him I wasn't finished talking (which obviously I wasn't, because I was still talking). He said "sorry". My internal filter was overridden by the frustration and I muttered "jesus f***ing christ."...

    So I got a lecture after the meeting that profanity wasn't professional behavior. ...
    Oh please. Whistling at you ("here, Otterpop, sit! Stay!") and calling your name would seem to be a prime example of unprofessional behavior. A sotto voce comment is much lower on that scale.

    You could always circulate an e-mail stating that you are sorry if anyone was offended by your low-decibel comment, and it's just that being called to (and whistled at!) like an animal is just not making you happy. (Kidding. Some of us review resumes off-line and you'd want to set that up first.)

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    You know, I we have a no f-bomb policy in our department, but I wouldn't have called down Otterpop on it because its not like it was a pattern. If anything, I'd be happy to get a genuine, unfiltered response about how he felt about the situation. It was an isolated incident unexposed to the public, and the boss was being a dick IMHO. I get infuriated when people talk over me or do so to others.

    I've been known to drop f-bombs on occassion in private meetings with my boss and a few of the other directors, but we have an understanding in that regard. Never in a staff meeting though.
    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    A meeting without f-bombs is like a day without sunshine here in the Motor-City!

    cue loud noise outside window followed by a hail of gunfire. "What the f#$k was that!?!"
    Same here. Behind closed doors we have some WTF moments, when dealing with other employees and departments and other folks it's mostly on the up & up. My boss and I were put through a grueling 2 hour program update meeting which was just short of an interrogation by a TA provider. We were both irritated and when one of the TA team asked "So has this been productive in any way?" She let loose and said "Well if you mean being interrogated and questioned for 2 hours having to justify everything just to hear you say basically that I'm f*ed, no it hasn't been productive."
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    behind closed doors-no problem. Around the public and the elected officials-verboten. Folks,we're human with at times high stress jobs. Swearing is a good stress reliever that I've been known to use myself.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  18. #18
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    eff you, I won't do what you tell me!!!!
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    I work for the Navy, before this I worked in schools and the utterance of profanity by adults is verbotten. So when I first started with the Navy, I would cringe every time I heard someone swear. After 5 years, it doesn't bother me in the least and I've been known to drop an f bomb or two. Never in meetings, usually only when speaking to someone on the same level as myself. I actually had a CO who wouldn't start his weekly staff meeting until someone told a joke. The first few meetings the jokes started off tame. Toward the end of his tour, it was like watching Red Foxx do stand up. Good times.

    That said, I've never heard a flag officer (Admiral) swear except for the first female One Star I met.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Veloise View post
    A sotto voce comment is much lower on that scale.
    What a wonderful word - sotto voce. I think Italian is the most beautiful sounding language. Leave it to Veloise to use a musical term to perfectly express the situation.

    Sotto voce Sotto voce Sotto voce . I like the sound of the word. It was my word of the day. I look forward to my first opportunity to slip it into conversation.

    Thank you, Veloise
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  21. #21
    Member blevy's avatar
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    I love this thread. I have a problem with wanting to drop f bombs at the most inappropriate times. I'm not sure if this stems from being around my Boston Irish Catholic inlaws too much, being a gen-xer, or if it's my disdain for society's reverence of symbols. But for some reason when someone is cutting me off or being rude to me, I clam up and take it. I commend you for dropping the f bomb when you were disrespected. Essentially, when someone is cutting you off, they're saying f you without using profanity.

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    Its unprofessional

    It's unprofessional for the fact that it sets a wrong example. Workplace is all about trying to keep your cool and patience and the f-bomb does not indicate that. So, its okay behind closed doors but never in a meeting.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    I allow myself 1 f bomb a week. Lately, I have not been using it.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    I don't believe workplace profanity is ever acceptable. I'm pretty sure it would be a firing offense around here.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    I definitely refrain from openly cursing in the office environment, yet I've encountered many that don't. Ultimately, however, it never looks bad to hold your tongue.

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