Using Your Favorite &$%*ing Words at Work

Can you guess the number of times each day I successfully filter a “swear” word in the workplace? It’s truly a magnificent feat at times, not because I dislike my job, but because I think of language like a big box of crayons. I don’t want to settle for just using the primary colors, I want the giant 64-pack with the sharpener on the back—the more colors, the better! This is not to say swearing is always the answer in any communication format and it is almost always the wrong answer in the workplace. Honestly, we’re all human and a word may slip here and there. Have your bounce back strategy ready—you can always apologize and recover. I did this recently in a meeting when I could not get my computer to work I dropped a tame one (the “s” one). I just apologized and blamed my lack of coffee (it is almost always a good scapegoat) and the person laughed it off. Sometimes this can accidentally be a benefit because the other person sees a typically uptight or straight-laced person as a real, live human being. To save yourself from %#*@ing frustration with all things swearing, consider these commandments before you let a $#%& fly at work.

Never swear in front of a group.

Sure, showing your colorful vocabulary may make you feel like you have some cool points in your work crew, but swearing in mixed company is dangerous. People you do not know well will instantly form an opinion of you, whether or not it’s valid. You may now be known as the “hothead” or worse, the person not intelligent enough to use words longer than four letters.

Never say the worst, most terrible awful, heinous word(s).

That thing you say to your friend when you’re alone and no one can hear you. That. Don’t say that. If it’s more than a syllable, it’s probably way too “real” for the workplace. Just don’t. If it would make your Cousin Terry blush, keep it to yourself.

Never swear in reference to any sensitive or hot-button topic.

If using a swear word in a scenario that could even be remotely construed as “-ist” or “-phobic” language, never use it. You do not want to accidently sound like an ill-informed hater. Save swearing for important things, like when the fax machine jams or you get a mouthful of coffee grounds in your morning java.

Never swear at someone.

The person responsible for getting the coffee grounds in your precious java must never be sworn at (this may truly test your humanity—but I know you can be strong right now). Save swearing for when you’re alone or as a description of something, never to emphasize your strong feelings directed at someone.

When in doubt, don’t swear.

Swearing can be a bit like eating a king-sized candy bar, at first it makes you feel so $#%@ing good—like the unexpected and naughty treat it is. But then you realize you overdid and there is no going back. There are no take-backs when it comes to gorging on candybars or on dropping 10 f-bombs in front of your supervisor.


These five commandments will help you navigate the murky waters of having an extended vocabulary. But, Number 5 is really the most important commandment; just do not swear if you are not sure if it is ok. Then when you go home you can say all your favorite words as much as you want! Such freedom!

By Lindsey Ward, CLDC Associate Director

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