Is Cursing at Work Now OK?

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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.

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