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Small Business Digest


Bosses Take Dim View of Workplace Profanity

Locker-room language should have no place in the office, most bosses say. In fact, many small-business owners say swearing in the workplace is offensive and unprofessional for employees and bosses alike.

A recent survey conducted by SurePayroll, America’s largest full-service online payroll service, revealed that three out of four bosses say that language should be kept clean during office hours. Eighty percent of respondents noted that even “innocent swearing” could be misinterpreted and ultimately have negative consequences.

“Considering how often we hear profanity in pop culture and everyday conversations, it's a bit surprising that so many small business owners are strongly opposed to profanity on the job,” says Michael Alter, SurePayroll president.

If profanity among employees is disrupting the workplace, Alter suggests five tips to help create a more professional work environment. Alter says bosses should first discuss the issue in private with specific employees.

“It's a business owner's right to confront that employee - but never in public. By working out the problem in private, a boss can spare the employee the embarrassment of a ‘slap on the wrist’ in front of co-workers,” he says.

Alter also says bosses should explain to their staff why cursing in the office is a problem and why it can be disruptive to their co-workers. Using money as an incentive also helps. Every time an employee is caught swearing, he says, the offender should donate a dollar to a fund that can be later used for an office-wide outing.

Using code words in place of swearing is another technique. Alter points to a New York Daily News column by writer Harriet Cole, who explained how a group of co-workers eliminated profanity and lightened the mood by using alternative terms.

“The staff began to use many of these kooky terms and laughter began to replace anger,” Cole wrote in her column. “The terms included such things as ‘What the French toast!’.... Creativity is a great tool for inspiring uplifting communication.”

And if all else fails, Alter encourages small-business owners to seek outside help. Cuss Control Academy, a firm based in Lake Forest, Ill., offers tips, classes and presentations on why swearing can be detrimental to the workplace and how to control it.


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