Modern Etiquette: That Blue Language Could Affect Your Career

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By Pamela Eyring

"Do you eat with that mouth?"

It's a question you may have asked when coming into contact with a profanity-prone colleague or office mate. But when it comes to swearing in the business environment, what is in poor taste and how does it affect your professional image?

According to a 2012 survey by Careerfinder, foul words may not only affect your reputation, they may also affect your chance for promotion.After surveying more than 2,000 hiring managers and 3,800 workers across industries and company sizes, 64 percent of employers said that they'd think less of an employee who repeatedly used curse words, and 57 percent said they'd be less likely to promote someone who swears in the office.

So who's using all that blue language? According to the survey, half of the respondents reported swearing in the office and the majority of those (95 percent) reported that they curse in front of their co-workers.

Another 51 percent admitted to cursing in front of their boss or supervisors. And if you think that only men are using foul language, the survey indicates that women are catching up with their male counterparts with 47 percent of women admitting to cursing while on the company clock.

As the day-to-day demands on today's workers continue to increase, swearing can be a way to let off some steam.

However, that doesn't mean that your office should sound like a drunken wrestling match or a scene out of Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" (Guinness World Records title-holder for most swearing in one film!).

Even polished professionals lose their cool on occasion, but the next time you feel a blue streak coming on, consider these tips on the long-term effects of swearing.

Lingering impressions: You are as good as your word —according to the saying — and if your words are off color, they will reflect poorly on your overall professional presence. Also, keep in mind that offices are collaborative places and we are constantly in the company of people who share different values and beliefs. If you offend someone with your language, you may harm valuable relationships with your colleagues and jeopardize the overall team dynamic. By keeping it clean, you can maintain your image as cool, collected and in charge.

Your permanent record: In many cases, swear words or off- color language can be interpreted as harassment, especially if the wording has a sexist slant to it. If you are in a management position, you have an even larger role in maintaining an environment that ensures safety and security — both physically and mentally — and cursing can create an atmosphere of disrespect and chaos. Do yourself a favor and avoid violating any human resources policy and save the swearing for the ride home.

Keeping it classy: One of the most notable aspects about cursing is that it's so common. The words and phrases are not only objectionable — they are also cliché. If you must curse, ensure your expletives are not only socially acceptable but also creative.

Off color/off brand: Again, we know there are instances where a curse word may certainly come to the surface, like when the office copier is out of toner and that "done deal" all of a sudden becomes undone. So if you are prone to cursing during stress or strike, make sure you never do so in front of a client or customer. Remember you are a brand ambassador for your company at all times and you need to protect your company's reputation along with your own.

(Pamela Eyring is the owner and president of The Protocol School of Washington, the global leader in international protocol, business etiquette and cross-cultural awareness training. With offices in Washington, D.C. and Dubai, the school was founded in 1988 and is the only U.S. educational institution of its kind accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET.org). For more information, visit www.psow.edu.)

(Editing by Michael Roddy)
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