Many of us work in places where harsh language is common--but we also know that it's possible for the foul-mouthed to get in trouble. Some guidance for common situations:
- If profanity really is common in your workplace, then you can't single anyone out to be disciplined just for using foul language. You can and should step in when a worker is truly harassing or abusive to others, regardless of what language is used.
- If you use profanity at work, don't expect to be able to discipline others for doing the same thing. Remember that what you do as the manager has more of an impact on the work environment than your employees' actions.
- It's always less appropriate to use harsh language when other people can hear it. Even if observers aren't offended by the words themselves, they may be troubled by the tone it sets for future conversations in the workplace. Plus, you never know who may be on the phone or in a meeting with someone who would be offended.
- Foul language is never OK when directed at customers. It may be less objectionable when used with longtime clients you know well, but it's not a good idea even then. Using profanity with, say, a retail customer at the counter--even a difficult one--is often an immediate-firing offense.