What Color is the Language in Your Office?

I haven’t thought much about this lately as the offices I have been visiting the last few months seem to have little if any “blue” language.  However, in the Parade Magazine in our newspaper this week there was a short piece on “Gordon Ramsay, Meanest Man on TV?”  For those of you that might not know this TV personality, his shows are all blue language.  I don’t watch his show, however, on one of our recent visits to a hospital emergency room, his show was on.  I was surprised and offended.  There were a number of children present and felt that it was certainly inappropriate viewing for these young people.

Curse Words.jpg

Now don’t get me wrong, I was raised by a truck driver with very blue language and I learned most of it at a very early age and I have been know to use a few curse words.  However, there are a number of places such language is just inappropriate.  I know many people that think it is never appropriate.  But I know others that think nothing of just letting this language fall out of their mouth, in their posts on Facebook and in their other writings.

I was taught in high school that we shouldn’t be offended by curse words in the books we read.  We were told that this was reflective of the particular situation.  In two of the companies in which I worked in the 1970s, blue language was rampant.  During this period I was reading a book about a law firm.  My mother-in-law asked what the book was about.  I told her and she said she would like to read it when I was through.  So I passed it onto her when I was finished.  A few weeks later she gave the book back to me.  I asked her if she enjoyed it.  She said “I really liked the story, but I didn’t like some of the language”.  I didn’t understand.  Later I was discussing this with my husband.  He told me that during her 25 years at the lumber company where she worked, no cursing was allowed in the office.  The president of the company had advised the men in the yard that they were not allowed to curse if they came into the office and if Miss Edna was in the yard, they were not to curse in her presence.  I visited with her about this the next week.  I told her that the language in my workplace was similar to that in the book.  Thus, since I was conditioned to such language in the workplace I had not noticed it in the book.  She was appalled to think that people really talked like that at work.

In my consulting career there have only been a couple of offices that I have visited that had this problem.  At one, it was really only the owner.  When he went on one of his tyrants on the first afternoon, the staff were extremely embarrassed that this was happening when I was there.  The next morning a couple of them apologized.  I thanked them but told them they had nothing to apologize for.  They were not the offensive party.

Mr. Ramsey seems to think that it is perfectly okay to curse at his employees, anyone he meets and in his home in front of his four children.  This really made me think about today’s workplace.  I know they are not all perfect and that these situations must exist.  While it may not offend those in the office, might it offend a customer?  Over many years I have learned that frustration can be expressed without cursing.  I work hard to be sure that language I have know my whole life and used in the past stays put away as much as possible.  There are much nicer ways to offend those you want to offend.  I have learned how to do that while smiling.

If you have faced this problem in your office, how have you solved the problem?  What similar cultural problems have you faced and solved or are facing in your office.

  • Pingback: Pat Alexander()

  • Pingback: Pat Alexander()

  • Pingback: PatAlexander()

  • Pingback: PatAlexander()

  • Pingback: InsuranceEcosystem()

  • Pingback: InsuranceEcosystem()

  • Hi Pat –
    I'm glad to see you writing about this. For the most part, cursing is not something that offends me, but I feel strongly that it has no place in a professional atmosphere. I come across some interesting things in my Internet travels that I'd like to share, but the included cursing in the article or video just prevents me from doing it.

    I've worked in an office where the staff asked the boss to keep his door closed so his loud cursing wasn't openly shared with the staff and clients. That helped – if you were offended by it, you didn't go behind the closed door!

    I worked with young entrepreneurs who had a very blue language environment, but coached them that it wasn't an appropriate presentation style in a room full of business folks. They would modify their language quite successfully and were very successful & engaging with their audiences.

    I think it has a time and place, but unless you know your audience well, I don't think it should be a part of professional conversations.

    • Wendy,

      Thanks so much for your comments. All so spot on. I think that those that use blue language just don't understand how it might offend others.