Is Profanity In The Office Tolerable or Terror?

This month our question from our friends at Business Management Daily.

Question: “I am an administrative assistant at a very large company and my cubicle is right outside the door of one of the directors. He happens to loudly use a particular common curse word whenever he’s frustrated. I cringe every time I sense it coming. In most cases I try to scurry away from my desk so I don’t have to hear it, but sometimes I do get caught off guard. Do you have any suggestions for how I can deal with this, or approach the problem directly?” – Anonymous & Frustrated

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Anonymous May 31, 2016 at 6:02 pm

I was in a similar situation with a co-worker who sat just behind me. This person would curse, quietly scream, and make gestures at the computer. I tried to let it go. I tried headphones.
I finally decided that it wasn’t worth the anxiety level and went to talk with the boss to hopefully come up with some possible solutions. Honestly, I felt I wasn’t taken seriously about how disruptive and anxiety producing this behavior actually was. The boss didn’t feel it was appropriate to let me move to a different space and didn’t feel it was necessary to intervene. Direct communication only worked as a short term solution and I had to make up my mind about what was healthy for me. I chose to take a new position.
I couldn’t believe how much stress that behavior was really causing me until I was working elsewhere.
I wish the best to the next employee.
Good luck!

Victoria May 24, 2016 at 1:38 pm

I admit I regularly let the curse words fly. With that said, I have worked in some areas of my company where is wasn’t appreciated 😉 Someone politely mentioned it to me there had been some complaints and I made an effort to control myself. I took no offense as I realize this is uncomfortable for some people. I became very creative with my G versions of swear words.

Where I sit now we all frequently swear. But, whenever we hire someone new or someone new moves into our area I warn them about that and ask that they please speak up if it’s an issue.

Mark May 19, 2016 at 1:03 pm

If you want to approach it directly, you could always talk to him in private and say that this particular word offends you, and you would appreciate if he didn’t say this when you were around. It could be that he does not realize how often it happened. For example, I would periodically take my friends’ kids to movies or dinner to give the couple some alone time. One day after saying a very mild curse word like “damn” or something like that, one of the kids said I should have to pay 10 cents every time I said any curse word and share the total at the end of every month with them. I said they’d never have money, because I hardly ever cursed. But WOW, once I had to pay a dime every time I said something, I quickly realized that I did it a lot more than I realized. It may be the same thing with your boss, that he does it more often than he thinks he does. Of course, the non-direct way (if you are not comfortable talking about it) is to just accept it, realize it is not directed at you, and don’t let it bother you. Although I’ll toss out the minor curse words, I seldom ever say the major one, but when any of my countless friends who swear a lot say it, to me it’s a non-issue. I find it annoying but I’m not bothered by it.


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