Cursing in the Workplace is a Lose-Lose Strategy for Women


Do you curse at work? Do you think your colleagues think it’s cool ? Have any of your associates told you that they think your language is offensive? Is your use of profanity at work sending a positive or negative message about you, your values, and your leadership?

Women communicate differently than men and that’s a good thing. Cursing by a male is generally accepted in the workplace while the same words, spoken by a female, are considered offensive. Using foul language to prove that you are as tough as any male is a losing strategy. Here’s why.

A Woman’s way of communicating is one of her most dynamic talents. Women are natural communicators. Men listen, and women talk—to everyone. Our ability to communicate is not just about talking, we are also aware of what others are thinking. We are keen observers and instinctively notice such things as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, which collectively give us the unique skill of perceptive communication.

As perceptive communicators we are able to tailor our message to fit the listener. This distinctive talent is forfeited when we resort to the use of foul language.

Joanna Weiss and Juliette Kayyem, provide the wrong advice to young women moving up the corporate ladder when they extol the actions of Carol Bartz, who proudly proclaimed that she was “f***ed over” by the Yahoo board that fired her. .

By injecting curse words into your conversation all you accomplish is to distract the listener from hearing your message. Using profanity calls into question your credibility and judgment. Although it might feel good for an instant, this foolish moment of pleasure defines you and affects your career for a lifetime—there are no take backs.

So if you really want to communicate—say what you mean—but don’t demean—yourself or others.

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  • Victoria Pynchon, Contributor 9 hours ago

    Harumph from the ladies who curse.

    We don’t curse because we think it’s “cool” or to prove we’re as “tough as the guys.”

    We curse because the environment in which we swim is both curse-filled and curse-worthy. Do you know that cursing actually diminishes the experience of physical pain? Yes, that’s why you say FUCK when your hammer lands on your thumb rather than the photo hook.

    I do try to watch my language but it’s really much too late in the day for some of us old broads to prevent that we’re “ladies.” And it’s incredibly irritating when male colleagues or clients look at me sheepishly after saying “crap,” adding their apologies if they offended me. This sort of pretense excludes me from the “company of men” and makes them uncomfortable.

    And though I don’t curse because I’m trying to “fit in,” I don’t at all like the sudden unease that fills the room when the guys remember I might not be just another trial attorney but a school marm in drag.

    When I’m mediating a particularly difficult piece of commercial litigation and tempers are running high, there’s no statement that breaks the tension so well as “gentlemen, what we have here is a Cluster F***, and that, of course, is a LEGAL term.”

    No well-behaved woman ever made history.

  • Victoria Pynchon, Contributor 9 hours ago

    that’s “pretend that we’re ladies”

  • Author
    Susan T. Spencer, Contributor 1 hour ago

    Dear Victoria, Having owned and operated meat processing companies for more than 20 years curse words replaced “hello.” But in the corporate arena today the workplace is changing and how women advance in that setting is still incredibly challenging. With only 2.8% of women CEO’s in the top 1000 companies we aren’t moving forward, we are moving backward. Our strategies to get to the top aren’t working. It is incumbent upon us “old broads” to advise younger women what works and what doesn’t so that women will have a greater voice. Using our communication talents to the fulllest in a positive way can foment change and change is long overdue. Susan T Spencer

  • Victoria Pynchon, Contributor 14 minutes ago

    Understood – I encourage young women to be pretty much who they are. I’m constitutionally incapable of advising them to be more feminine. That’s why it’s good that there’s such a diversity of us old broads out there – they’ll try and fail and succeed and try and fail again and succeed again.

    I think my own highest and best use to them is to listen and support and encourage and empathize with them because they’re going to be leaders in a world I can’t even imagine – one in which perhaps even the men stop cursing! Cheers!

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