Vault's Careers Blog

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Big #@%*$%& Deal, or No Problem? What’s Your Opinion of Colorful Language in the Workplace?

with 3 comments

By now, Vice President Biden’s remark on the passage of health care reform has been firmly established in the annals of infamy—and will likely find its way into the term papers of mischievous history and poli-sci students in years to come. Perhaps most striking about the coverage of the incident is the lack of controversy it generated—surely a sign that we’re living in changed times. Just imagine if such a comment had been picked up on an open mike at the passage of Medicare, or when Social Security was established—those politicians would likely have been drummed out of office for offending the public sensibility. These days, however, we have everyone from the White House Press Secretary to the entire panel on Meet the Press offering little more than a rueful grin and their complicit agreement with Biden’s sentiment.

All of which has us here at Vault wondering: Does the free pass for Biden apply in the American workplace today? Are the rules on colorful language on the job any more relaxed than in preceding generations? And if so, is it a good thing? We’d love to hear your thoughts on any aspect of this issue—provided, of course, that you can keep it clean!


Written by Phil Stott

March 30, 2010 at 8:22 am

3 Responses

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  1. I come from a journalism background and on deadline day it was not uncommon to hear several expletives shouted out by editors and reporters, alike. The problem with a softening stance on colorful language in the workplace is that it could lead to a blurring of the lines of what kind of language is acceptable to use, say with a coworker of the opposite sex. I think you need to remain strict on this kind of conduct so you maintain a professional environment across the board.


    March 30, 2010 at 10:03 am

  2. Down here in Australia you’d find it very difficult to spend time at any workplace without getting plenty of earfuls of foul language – but it doesn’t seem to get in the way of the job getting done. I’d always had the impression (right or wrong, I don’t know) that Americans were oversensitive about this issue so the fact that this hasn’t caused a big drama is kind of refreshing.


    March 30, 2010 at 3:41 pm

  3. I work in law and there are definitely plenty of interesting words thrown around the office When deadlines come up, when the copier breaks, when someone tries to screw us out of paying their bills, or when opposing counsel decides you’re their punching bag, we have all thrown around some interesting words. The only problem I see is when superiors decide it’s time to brow beat their own employees and use that kind of language. Like Jon said above, inappropriate comments about the opposite sex or calling your employee a f&*@$ing idiot, doesn’t promote a helpful environment in the workplace. Although, sometimes when the f&*^%ing copier won’t work, it’s nice to just get the feelings OUT.


    March 31, 2010 at 4:57 am

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