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Four-letter words in the workplace: does anyone give a ****?

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HC Online | 30 Mar 2012, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Policies against workplace swearing could prove that HR truly is the ‘fun police’ – but swearing can actually be therapeutic
  • Bernie Althofer | 05 Apr 2012, 02:59 PM Agree 0
    It might be the case for organisations to consider what has been or is been said about the use of obscene language in the policing environment. Connor :2000 indicates 'that police deviance is a much broader term than corruption. It includes all activities which are inconsistent with norms, values, or ethics (from a societal standpoint or even from the police standpoint).'

    Connor provides four definitions to be considered. These are:

    Deviance - behaviour inconsistent with norms, values, or ethics
    Corruption - forbidden acts involving misuse of office for gain
    Misconduct - wrongdoing violations of departmental procedures
    Favouritism - unfair "breaks' to friends or relatives (nepotism)
    Connor 2000 discussed police and police profanity and indicated that 'there are many reasons why a police officer would use obscene and profane language.'

    Connor acknowledges that 'effective use of verbal communication is one of the skills expected in police work', and whilst there is 'specific condemnation of the use of certain words that are "patently offensive", there is no such 'mechanism for determining what's offensive with interpersonal communication'.

    Connor indicates a typology exists with words having 'religious connotations, indicated excretory functions or connected with sexual functions'. The use of words associated with such classifications or typology by police officers is 'purposive and not a loss of control or catharsis' and is done to:

    gain the attention of citizens who may be less than cooperative;
    discredit somebody or something, like an alibi defense;
    establish a dominant-submissive relationship;
    identify with an in-group, the offender or police subculture; and
    to label or degrade an out-group.
    Connor indicates that the 'last is of the most concern, since in may reflect the transition of prejudice to discrimination, especially if racial slurs or epitaphs are involved'.

    It is also important to consider that some of these behaviours can be present in workplace bullying incidents that occur in the public and private sector. It is also important to consider that many organisations now have codes of conduct requiring others to be treated with respect and dignity.

    Whilst it might be true that the use of obscenities is part of everyday language in some workplaces, the casual or flippant intentional use may lead to serious allegations being made. Yes, people do accidently swear from time to time, but that does not necessarily mean that it is acceptable.

    I think there is a time and a place for foul language, and it is not in the workplace. If people want to swear in private, then that might be another issue to consider. There have been discussions about this topic in other forums and it has been suggested that those who need to swear in the workplace (or elsewhere) have a limited vocabulary. I have heard people swear so much that if they left out the swear words, they would have said nothing at all.
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