Is it all right to swear on the job?

In a potty-mouthed age, it seems everyone is lobbing F-bombs. But is there a risk, both legally and for your reputation?

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An senior executive from our company phoned me from his office down the hall and set my ear ringing with shouted rebukes. Yet when I hung up, all I recalled were the F-bombs—not anything he might have wanted me to do next.

Did I understand that I’d blown it? Oh, you bet. Was the profanity effective? Your call.

That’s the thing about swearing at work—or, less often, in written communications. It might just be counterproductive. For some (especially younger workers) curses are as unremarkable as dropping a “you know” into a sentence. Others find it distracting or off-putting.

Overlapping the two are those who distinguish between cursing at someone, and the overexcited co-worker who slips into profanity when regaling the lunchroom with the time he was hiking in Oregon and came face to face with a f—ing Sasquatch.

So is cursing a good idea at work, or not?

Preserving workplace decorum

Employers’ policies and guidelines often mandate that colleagues speak to one another respectfully, says Jessica Golden Cortes, and attorney with the New York firm of Davis & Gilbert LLP.

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