If you’re offended by swearing and you’ve sat anywhere near me in my professional life, I should apologize. That was probably pretty awful for you.
Even in a professional office setting, I’m only slightly more conservative than Trixie from Deadwood. And if I haven’t had my coffee yet, I’m closer to Mr. Wu.
CNN recently published an article titled, “We all do it. But is swearing at work really ok?” Well, it’s not OK. It’s actually amazing. I think there are few things better than working in a truly profane work environment where you’re free to be your filthy self. Especially the writer.
But, I realize that’s not for everyone.
Agree to Disagree
The article is actually quite well-written and makes some good points about branding. But, I find myself disagreeing with a number of parts.
Avoid putting it in your e-correspondence? Of course, I just checked my Outlook and I haven’t put the word ‘fuck’ in a work email since 2011. Yay me! However, the same cannot be said for how I behave in work Slack conversations and giphy usage.
Know your audience? Of course. I like to let others set the tone. I never use cuss words when speaking with a coworker unless they drop the first one. However, I may drop the next 75. It’s possible I get too comfortable.
But, I wholeheartedly disagree with one particular passage in the CNN story:
“But getting a paper jammed in the copier — that is just not enough reason to go off — it looks as if you can’t handle stress.”
Ok, hold it right god damn there. How else am I supposed to let a copier know it’s being a useless piece of shit?
Trying to Cut Back. Or, Trying to Try
I have tried to cut back on my potty mouth recently, because I am aware that using too many F-bombs makes you sound like a teenager who vapes.
I’m doing better. For example, prior to this one, I published 3 consecutive blogs without putting a cuss word in the actual headline. So, you know, pretty much a puritan over here.
I do have to dial it back a bit. I have consistently been the most profane person in just about every office I’ve ever worked in. And let me tell you, in marketing, that is not a trophy that is simply given away.
I blame the fact that my earliest work experiences skewed my perception of office-casual swearing.
My very first editor was a surly man who would drop my work on my desk and say, “Make it 35% less shitty.” My next boss was one of the most gloriously crude men I’d ever met. I’d gauge what type of mood he was in by which c-word he called me in the morning. I felt incredibly at home.
Profanity Killed My Career as a Reporter
My inability to control my language started long before I hit the workforce. It sunk my journalism career before it even started. As a student reporter, I accidentally swore during my first live broadcast. Yup.
Our class did a live news show every Friday. And, Week 1, my job was to shoot a piece on the college’s sports teams. Go Panthers.
I signed off by saying “Ryan LeClaire… CRTV News” while spinning a basketball on my finger. During an outtake, the ball fell and I let out an audible “Fuck” as I chased it out of frame.
My friend actually convinced me to use that take because it was funny/goofy. “Just kill the audio right before you swear,” he said. Which I did. Or, so I thought. I dropped my tape off for the next day’s show and went home.
The next morning, my news director/ professor asked to see me. I walked into his office and was greeted with him looping, “Ryan LeClaire… CRTV News… Fuck.” Turns out I was a terrible editor.
He shook his head and said, “You don’t have time to fix it. Tell the guy in the booth to mute it after your sign-off.”
Well, that booth guy was also a student and also rather new to his trade. He did not mute it after my sign-off. My first broadcast story ended with a resounding “Fuck” as my professor and I watched the feed from his office. “Well, at least nobody watches this shit,” he said.
I wasn’t even live. A taped version of me accidentally swore on live TV, which is even more absurd. God, I wish I still had that footage.
So, the more I think about it, the more I realize I should not be commenting on how much profanity is acceptable in the workplace. Carry on, CNN.