Is Cursing at Work Now OK?

Posted by Richard Moran.

Not Safe For Work is a standard warning we all receive. Even when we plead to be dropped from a dirty joke distribution list, the bad jokes never end. Besides off-color jokes, the NSFW label sometimes announces the delivery of a rant full of expletives about a politician or a wrong that is occurring somewhere in the world. There is not a shortage of rants or wrongs or expletives. But now, when it comes to those rants full of curses, I am wondering what is safe for work and whether NSFW even matters.

Lately, I’ve heard major network announcers use an expletive that precedes the word “hole” or “house”, depending on what was heard. Some pundits seem to say the words with glee. Other words that my mother would call curses have crept into daily language. Bob Sutton, a professor at Stanford developed an entire movement centered on a curse word. When he wrote, “The No A—hole Rule”, it was adopted by organizations large and small. We all know what the concept means.  Are these words offensive? Depends on who you ask.

What are the new rules when it comes to curse words? (For example, I am editing out curses so that LinkedIn will print this post.) If a network announcer can use that word on television, why can’t I use it in the conference room? Sometimes a curse can really save a lot of time when it comes to language.

If everyone else on the team curses, does that make it ok? What if the customer curses, should we curse back? Are there appropriate substitutes for curses that still convey the sentiment, like “Shut the front door!” What if the name of the entire company is based on a thinly veiled curse?

Like almost everything in the workplace, the definition of acceptable language is changing. What is acceptable can be confusing and what was a curse ten years ago is now part of everyday business banter. NSFW might really describe what is safe for work today. The best rule is still the safe rule, pretend your Mom is in the room and use good judgment before you release the F-bombs. If your Mom curses like a sailor, you might want to pick another relative.

Woof Woof Woof – Three Reasons Why You Should Bring Your Dog to Work

Posted by Richard Moran.

Each time the subject of dogs in the workplace is broached, hate mail ensues. The record will show that I am not a big fan of dogs running around whilst you try to finish that spreadsheet analysis.  Keep in mind, I love dogs – dogs literally are man’s and woman’s best friends. But dogs and work is just not a combination that scales. It’s ok if you work from home and Fido is lovingly nestled at your feet. It’s another thing to have a hundred dogs jumping around the office eating your bagel and making a mess on the rug. But maybe I am wrong.  Maybe I changed my mind; I am not proud or always correct.  Maybe we should bring dogs to work. According to a big study from Uppsala University in Sweden, research shows that owning a dog is linked to a longer and healthier life and, to my mind, might improve a work culture.

At the same time as the Uppsala report about the heath benefits of dogs, lots of other research shows that work is bad for your health. The stress, the commute, and the doughnuts all contribute to the belief that work can cause heart disease and worse. Some researchers like Jeff Pfeffer, noted Stanford Professor, have found a multitude of ways that work is killing us. So maybe the secret to work health is, DOGS.

The researchers can’t pinpoint what it is exactly about Rover and his friends that lead to the healthier results but a Ph.D is not required to come to a few conclusions that can apply to the office. The sense is that dogs seem to point us into better lifestyle choices and happier moods. Who doesn’t want healthier and happier colleagues at work?

The new research brings me to the hypothesis that dogs and work is a good combination and can lead to a happier and more productive culture.  Perhaps love from a dog could help make the job better and make you more successful. Maybe a few reasons for consideration will make you run to the pound for a rescue dog.

Corporate culture research almost always focuses on the boss and learning and purpose and behavior. Maybe one of the secret to a healthy and engaged culture is a dog. The new research could have implications about building a better workplace.

Here are a few thoughts that ties the research into the workplace:

Dogs at work can reduce feeling overwhelmed? Not sure about making the deadline? Pet the dogs belly and feel the love and your stress level will go down. Spending just a few minutes with a pet can lower anxiety and stress. All the studies show people performing stressful tasks do better when there’s a dog around. And lower stress means lower blood pressure.

Dogs require walking. Fitting exercise in to the schedule is tough, especially at work. But having Buster jumping around with a leash in his mouth will make you get out of the chair and take a walk. Dog owners are way more likely to get exercise, even at work. And as a bonus, all of that dog walking will help you lose weight as long as you don’t take a doughnut with you on the walk.  Daily dog walks will force you into activity and will help you lose weight.

Improve your social life at work. When everyone is wearing headphones and texting it can be difficult to develop relationships with your colleagues. Forget Facebook, try walking a dog. People will jump out of their routine to say hello and pet the dog and maybe talk to you too. Dogs are a built-in team builder.

So dogs at work reduce stress, help you lose weight and make new friends. What’s not to like? What kinds of dogs are best for this to happen you ask? The research pointed to dogs like terriers and retrievers for the best results.

Of course there is still the downside of packs of dogs taking over the conference rooms but that’s a minor technicality. So be nice, go out and get a puppy for your boss and all your colleagues.

About that Disgusting, Crude Boss

Posted by Richard Moran.

The toxic workplace is much in the news, but what exactly is toxic? A reader writes in through email to describe what she thinks is toxic and asks for some very specific advice. With her permission, I am bringing forth her dilemma…

“Dear Workplace Expert (If you really are one):

CAN’T be the only one in the world with this problem. My boss is a pig. He belches and passes gas all day. The smells are really bad. We are in an open office environment so it’s not like he is in private or there is another place where we can go. There are no windows to open.  My coworkers and I have discussed the situation because we all are affected. One of my colleagues thinks he doesn’t think anyone will notice – no way!  No one wants to approach him. What would we say?  He is a young guy, maybe his mother never told him anything.  As a boss, he is fine and treats everyone fairly and with respect. We just don’t want to go near him. Maybe he reads your posts. I am open to ideas.


Suffocating in Seattle”

Dear Suffocating,

Ugh. Repulsive. I am not sure why anyone thinks this is OK behavior. It’s not. I assume you like your job so jumping up and quitting while holding your nose is not an option. Your boss is creating a toxic environment – literally and figuratively. Headphones and fans might be a short-term solution for you and the team.  But a workplace culture that tolerates such boorish behavior is a bigger problem.

The typical Employee Handbook doesn’t address issues like this. Too bad, because if the handbooks were more current and focused on behavior, we wouldn’t have so many issues about “fraternity house” cultures.  Forget the handbook; let’s explore all of your options…

  • You could leave a book about manners on his chair one night when he is not around. Given what you’ve said, he might think it was meant for someone else.
  • You could bear with it. If you suspect the offender will soon leave the company, this could be an option, but it is not a good one. Eventually, your own performance will suffer because you will be outside gasping for air all the time.
  • You could quit. Why should you resign when you are the one who would leave a job you like based on the behavior of someone else? People resign all the time to get away from someone but it is the always the last resort.
  • You could tell someone in management about the problem. This path is a slippery slope. Your boss will be embarrassed and might lash out at the team but this could be a good option if you have an all around supportive and collegial management team.
  • You could set up an intervention. Someone on the team might take the boss aside and say something like, “Can I talk to you about something that will help you and the team? You are a good supervisor and we all appreciate your support.  BUT, we want to ask you to make a few changes in your behavior…” And so on. If the boss is as supportive as you say, he should be thankful for the coaching.

The problem doesn’t need to be about belching. It could be about cursing or crude jokes or raised eyebrows or cracking knuckles. The workplace is full of quirky behavior. I once had a boss who clipped his fingernails constantly during meetings. Another boss chewed on hard candy all day and made cracking noises. The list of really annoying habits we endure is infinite.  Sometimes we just have to deal with quirky.

Work shouldn’t be about suffering.   Certain behaviors, such as any type of harassment or racism are worthy of immediate termination. Other behaviors range from annoying to disruptive. Know what you are dealing with and push for changes to make work better. Don’t suffer.