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Swearing at work: when is disciplinary action justified?

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HC Online | 20 Jan 2015, 07:56 AM Agree 0
When it comes to managing workplace swearing, it's all about the context according to Alecia Thompson, solictor at PCC Lawyers.
  • Michael | 20 Jan 2015, 11:45 AM Agree 0
    If context is a determining factor when managing, nothing will be managed as "context" will cover a host of sins.
  • Kathryn Dent | 20 Jan 2015, 12:45 PM Agree 0
    It's an interesting debate that I've had cause to engage in with clients particularly during training sessions where this issue is commonly addressed and is a fertile source of discussion. While I can appreciate the difference between directing swearing at a person and simply swearing at an inanimate object the latter may still impact on the organisation in a number of ways eg does it create a hostile environment with a risk to safety (granted it may not be bullying)? does it reflect an organisation's professionalism and culture? (think about those third parties who may overhear the swearing - third parties which may include clients). In addition to policies and as a reinforcement of them, I recommend covering these expectations which are behavioural, in any induction and/or ongoing workplace training.
  • AJ | 15 Oct 2017, 01:49 PM Agree 0
    Profanities when used by managers are sometimes utilized to creat fear or to bully an employee. For example, this piece of shi# has been sitting here for a month, I want it gone by Friday. The manager knows there are hurdles to get it out by Friday, but wants an employee to take a shortcut, or just make it happen without resources or due process. The employee then disposes of a government property, and the company is later penalized and loses a government contract.

    So profanities do not necessarily need to be directed at individuals to create fear or bullying. It is ultimately a measure of company culture and respect.
  • Leon | 11 May 2018, 04:24 AM Agree 0
    I have a friend who is going through this at the moment. He has been suspended whilst an 'investigation' takes place. My colleague swore at another member of staff who was making his life difficult. The swearing was an expression of exasperation and frustration. Maybe if managers managed well and they worked to address the underlying causes of the swearing and professional discord. Instead of reacting defensively and with authoritarian manner. A more productive and happy workplace would be the result. My colleague has been treated appalinglly because the context was not considered at all. poor management is to blame, to prevent this issues arisng in the first place. An appeal and complaint are going to be the drawn-out consequences. As for someone fearing for there safety, these are the clipped and shallow platitudes that always seem to follow on the heels of a victims shock and horror, at the audacity of anybody, to swear at them when they have been a variable in the dysfunctional interaction. I for one are not fooled by this unreflective and self-deluding rhetoric. People do not swear at others for the fun of it. Management failure plays a considerable contribution to these issues.
  • Andrew Murray | 23 Oct 2018, 09:12 AM Agree 0
    This is a vexed issue. Could we also consider that swearing is only offensive if the hearer chooses to take offence. Another factor to consider is what vocab is "currency" in any particular workplace. Many, many workplaces are simply "swear friendly" in that everyone uses profanities as a matter of course - there is no actual or implied intent to harm, affront or offend. I think that we need to be a bit careful here not to impose some pretty narrow values on people who do not share them. Intent and tone are way more important than the vocabulary utilised.
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