Published On: Tue, Jul 31st, 2012

How Cursing Is Hurting Your Career

Swear off swearing if you want your career to soar.

That’s the message from a new CareerBuilder survey of workers and managers, which shows more than half of managers would be less likely to promote someone who curses on the job. Almost two-thirds of employers said they think less of a staffer who sounds off with off-color words.

Some sectors are especially likely to skip the promotion if you say something profane. Those include health care, government, retail and financial services, according to the survey.

Cursing can call into question the person’s professionalism and may indicate a lack of control or maturity, employers said. Interestingly, younger workers – those ages 18 to 24 – were the least likely to say they curse at work, while the 35 to 44 year old had the highest curse count.

Swearing and using off-color phrases is especially inappropriate in job interviews, when you want to show your professionalism and ability to collaborate with a wide variety of people. You never know whether the hiring manager is allergic or just wants a very clean, upbeat culture.

If your language includes too many four-letter words, you may want to clean it up, using these five tips:

Scale it back.  Substitute ‘sugar’ or ‘shoot’ or some imaginary word for another ruder one.   Reward yourself when you get three a week with no cursing.

Save it for something really rotten. Use profanity sparingly and appropriately.  If you swear after you break your finger by closing it in your office door, people will understand. If you curse when you drop a handful of paper clips, they may not.

Build your professionalism in other areas. If you cannot cut out all the cuss words, counteract that with a show of politeness and professionalism in many other ways. Make sure your suit is always clean and pressed; offer to help with set-up before the sales meeting and offer small kindnesses and courtesies to the older members of your crew.

Find a colleague to kick you.  Enlist someone to help you clean up your conversations.

Maybe your mentor or goal-buddy could text you if they hear you slipping into inappropriate words.

Apologize.  People who say something offensive – whether swear words or demeaning comments about a colleague – need to express their regret. Ask forgiveness in a contrite email or conversation and promise your boss and co-workers that it won’t happen again. (You cannot use this tactic more than twice or the erase and forgive button stops working.)

While there are some First Amendment protections to free speech, they may not apply in a workplace where private standards may be set, according to one legal blog post.

Don’t think that just because you’re using a shorthand, text swear that you are safe. These are becoming more recognized and they are still likely to offend or reduce your standing. Remember too, that salting your speech with swear words can be perceived as not having a great vocabulary or not knowing how to express yourself clearly.

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