SURVEY SAYS: Cursing at Work

August 13, 2012 ( - Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, do you think using curse words at work is acceptable?

While 56% of responding readers said cursing at work is not at all acceptable, only three in ten reported they do not curse at work. Thirty percent of readers said it doesn’t hurt to let one slip on occasion, and 52% indicated one might slip on occasion.   

Eighteen percent of respondents admitted they do curse at work, while 11% said it is ok to curse, but only around peers and those with a less senior title, and 3% said it is fine to curse around anyone.  

Bosses are setting a pretty good example. When asked if their immediate bosses cursed at work, 7% of responding NewsDash readers chose “yes, often,” and 46% each chose “no” and “on occasion.”  

The majority of verbatim comments were against using curse words at work, saying it shows a limited vocabulary, and lack of respect, intelligence and professionalism. Some readers noted that it is never ok to curse at someone, even if it is acceptable to curse in conversation.  

I appreciated the sarcastic humor of readers who used expletive symbols in their responses saying cursing was not acceptable; however, those comments have been edited for the consideration of our more sensitive readers. Other than those, Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “My answers are directly tied to the 408(b)(2) and 404(a)(5) fee disclosure projects! About time to find a new career path I think.” 


Swearing reveals the speaker's poor vocabulary. It's also unprofessional, and can be offensive to some. Best to expand your vocabulary! 


When an individual must resort to curse words to express himself, he is demonstrating how inadequate his vocabulary is. Also, the person who needs to "f" everything fails to understand how diluted the "f" word becomes. I find such an individual to be tedious and tune him out completely; such a shame because underneath it, he might have something of value to say.... maybe not. 


Letting a curse word slip out when frustration strikes is one thing. It can even lighten the mood. Ranting a blue streak is not acceptable, and some words should never be used. 


I feel it's ok to let one slip here and there, as long as it's describing a situation, never to attack a coworker. That would be highly inappropriate, and would likely cause HR issues. 


[I]t's totally unacceptable!!! 


It is absolutely astounding to me that any professional would use language that belongs in the gutter. 


Although we try to keep it clean at work, there is always that one client that you can never please no matter what you do. You try to keep a smile on your face while on the phone but once you hang up, a curse word or two might fly! 


There is a time and place for everything - even cussing, but you should never cuss AT a subordinate, co-worker, or boss and definitely not when it would be inappropriate given the surroundings. 


There are thousands of ways for someone to comment about someone or some event. The cultured person doesn't need to resort to profanity.

Verbatim (cont.)  

Although I don't condone it, it does tell me two things about people. 1) Their vocabulary is so limited that they must resort to these words to express themselves and 2) They have such a self worth problem that the only one they feel they can get attention is to use words intended to shock. Neither trait is one I would want in an employee. 


It is inappropriate to curse at work, however reality is that we all let it slip every now and then and should not be penalized for the occasional slip. 


While my boss and I would never say curse words out loud, I'm certain we've both thought them many times. Hopefully just not in dealing with each other. 


This is an adult environment, sometimes the only proper adjective that comes to mind is of the four letter variety. 


As a rule cursing isn't appropriate but sometimes you deal with [certain people] where cursing gets their needed attention because conventional methods don't seem to sink into their … heads. 


People who habitually use curse words at work or out in public display a lack of courtesy, good judgment, poor attitude, and have a crudeness about them. They also give off the perception of having low intelligence. No wonder employers are reluctant to hire them. 


like so many things, what constitutes a "curse" word seems to be a function of individual sensibilities. Whereas I think we can all agree that an "F bomb" … is "hell" in that category? "Crap?" … "Idiot" probably wouldn't be labeled as cursing, but depending on the circumstances, and to whom it was delivered, it could be worse than any curse word. Sad to say that, whatever you say in the workplace, these days you can pretty much guarantee that you won't hear much there you (and your kids) won't hear on a prime time TV sitcom. Thank you, Hollywood... 


In general, I strive to avoid swearing everywhere, but especially at work. That way, when I do let loose with a curse word, it is a signal that I'm really worked up about something! Also, I think swearing at work is sort of like sharing storied about your love life. It might not hurt you, especially if you do it with people you can trust and who "get" you, but if you do it wrong or with the wrong sort of people, impressions of you could form that you probably don't want. 


Although I have a "potty mouth" myself, by using curse words you are showing that your vocabulary is limited and you can only express yourself by using fowl language. Some would consider this ignorance. 


I don't care for it on a regular basis, but one slips out on occasion one is perfect! 


What can I say -- I am not perfect. I have occasionally (handful of times in more than 20 years) let one slip, but only in a one-on-one meeting. 


While my ears could hardly be described as virginal, and I have certainly known to use profanity on occasion, I just find it to be unprofessional. It is usually, but not always, a poor means of expressing one's thoughts. 


Professionals should talk in a manner that reflects a certain educational level. However, my grandparents who only had 8th grade educations used correct grammar and didn't use curse words. 


We need to go back to kindergarten to learn how to behave at work as we have lost respect for others and we need to be better at work together. However, Socrates had the similar complaints about younger generations.

Verbatim (cont.)  

its very unprofessional. 


Sometimes they are simply a way to drive home a point. Obviously there are many words that should never be used but some are now socially acceptable. 


No … way should curse words be used in an office environment. 


If you are going to curse at work, you need to pick your spots to do so... and to not do so! 


Cursing is not acceptable anywhere - common but not acceptable. Intelligent speech should be a goal of everyone at all educational levels. It is not necessary to use complicated, intellectual words; merely to be respectful to all around you. Cursing is further evidence of the decay of this crude society. 


As long as it is not in front of a customer/client, nobody at work minds the occasional curse words. 


Practically everyone at my workplace uses curse words. When used properly, they are akin to punctuation, because they can add emphasis, humor, sarcasm or other qualities to an oral communication. I have never understood why people object to this type of communication. They are just words. If individuals ascribes some sort of power to certain words that allow those words to offend them, that really ought to be their problem. 


You should be able to express your frustrations in a more professional manner than a curse word. 


A bad habit - if one uses them regularly, it's more likely that one will slip out at a really inappropriate time. 


Don't you hate it when the person next to you "whisper curses" at his pc? 


It is a sad state of affairs this question is even asked. 


There are times and places where swearing is not appropriate, and times and places where it is acceptable, expected, and a normal part of interaction. 


An old adage states that "cursing is the attempt of a limited mind to express itself". 


Many people let a curse word slip, including myself. I and they always feel bad afterward. I do believe that when employees curse it is because they are feeling a great deal of stress and frustration and feel that no one is listening. Funny though when they do curse, everyone hears the curse word but no one wants to or tries to hear the true message. 


There's a line you don't cross at work. If you're out after work it's a different story. But the more of them you say the more ignorant you sound. 




I don't mind an occasional interjection (followed by an apology, which I do myself on rare occasions), but constant cursing and foul language leads me to lose respect for the curser. Plus, someone who reacts in such a way rather than responding to a situation in a measured and well thought out manner is not an asset to any team. 


Younger generations use swear words much like noun, adjective, etc. 


I've slipped in front of my boss and really felt embarrassed when he expressed the same feeling without cursing.

Verbatim (cont.)  

Not in the general population or with clients, however, in confidential conversations with peers, behind closed doors, it absolutely happens. And for the record, women my age curse as frequently amongst ourselves as our male counterparts curse. And I find it levels the playing field with male peers when I talk like they do, which I always have....... 


I'm not a big fan of cursing, but sometimes a well placed [curse word] provides the right amount motivation. 


How on Earth could anyone think that it is remotely … appropriate to … swear at work. I don't want to hear that … in a place of business! It's … ridiculous! 


It's never okay to curse at someone. I think it's okay to curse a little to let off steam as long as you know it is okay with those within earshot. 


A well-placed curse can be effective, but they are overused these days. Someone using the F-word every other sentence just doesn't show any class. 


Cursing at work should be a situational ok or not ok thing to do. In closed door meetings of management only, we do let our frustrations out and sometimes words fly. We never, however, use curse words in front of employees. We try to lead by example, and that is not the behavior we expect from our people. This is a call center paying little more than minimum wage, so behavior is always something we struggle with among the agents and we don't want to add fuel to the fire. 


We have plenty of appropriate words to use. It's not necessary to use inappropriate ones. 


Letting a curse word slip every now and again is OK but when every other word begins with "f" then you have crossed the line. I had a co-worker that used the "f" word often. She made it very uncomfortable for those around her - especially on business trips while dining. I cannot say I was sorry when she terminated. 


In my opinion, people who curse at work are just announcing that they have no respect for their fellow employees and they cannot respectfully control of their temper. How they talk at home is their own business, but how they talk at work is the Company's business. 


An occasional swear word used in front of closer colleagues is not a problem for me but these should be used occasionally, in less casual settings unless of course you are quitting your crappy job in flames of glory ala Steven Slater. 


When frustrations, sheer stupidity or stress get to be a little too much, a well-placed curse word can provide just the release that's needed! 


There is no excuse for this. It exemplifies a lack of respect for those around them and increases an emotional response. Business should be about business & not emotion. 


… It's … hard to comment without sounding too … pompous, pious, prissy or pulpity. But, … no! BTW, did you hear the joke about the three.... 


If you're venting to a co-worker about a stressful situation, "dog-gone" and "RATS!" just doesn't cut it! Co-workers can relate! 


While I will admit that in moments of anger or frustration I have let a curse word slip out at work I do believe it is inappropriate to use curse words at anytime, work or elsewhere. It shows a lack of respect for those around you and an inability to communicate without the use of "impact" words. 


To curse every couple of words shows a lack of vocabulary. I think it is ok on occasion to make a point. 


I think it depends on the job. Definitely NOT at a retail or public place. But in an office environment, it can be used from time to time. 


My answers are directly tied to the 408(b)(2) and 404(a)(5) fee disclosure projects! About time to find a new career path I think. 


It is only effective if it is rarely used. 


The simple answer to the question is, "hell, yes"! 


NOTE: Verbatim responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not the stance of Asset International or its affiliates. 


Reported by
Please contact the PLANSPONSOR Reprint Manager, Michelle Judkins.