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Small biz owners say ‘no’ to workplace profanity

Tough business conditions may cause tempers to flair at work, but that’s no excuse to swear. A survey conducted profanityrecently by online payroll service SurePayroll found that most small business owners prefer to keep workplace language clean, no matter what the economy is doing.

According to the survey results, three out of four business owners find workplace swearing offensive and believe it’s unprofessional for employees to curse while on the clock.

The survey also found that 80% of respondents believe that even seemingly innocent swearing on the job can be interpreted the wrong way and have negative consequences. Only 11% said swearing on the job could act as an office morale booster.

Despite their desire for profanity-free work environments, 40% of respondents admitted to swearing at work at least occasionally, indicating that language in their offices isn’t always as clean as they want it to be. They don’t blame the added stress of a down economy for their or their employees’ swearing, either. More than 80% believe the amount of swearing in their businesses has nothing to do with the recession.

“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 Alter. “Still, it’s clear that no matter how commonplace swearing is outside of the office, business owners feel it has no place in a professional environment.”

How to deal with workplace profanity

What can you do if employee profanity is disrupting the workplace? SurePayroll President Michael Alter shares a few tried-and-true tips to keep language clean in the office:

• Discuss the issue in private. If a particular employee has trouble completing a sentence without using choice four-letter words, it’s a business owner’s right to confront that employee — but never in public. Work the problem out in private to spare the employee the embarrassment of a “slap on the wrist” in front of co-workers.

• Explain why it’s a problem. Many employees who use profanity often don’t understand why it could be disruptive to the office. Be clear about the problems up front. If employees know right away that swearing is frowned upon, they will be more cautious about the language they use at work.

• Start an office ‘swearing fund.’ Make it into a game in which every time employees are caught swearing, they must donate a dollar into a fund that will eventually finance an office-wide outing.

• Use code words to cuss. It might sound silly, but in a recent New York Daily News column, writer Harriet Cole explained how a group of co-workers eliminated profanity and lightened the mood by using alternative terms instead. “The staff began to use many of these kooky terms and laughter began to replace anger,” she wrote. “The terms included such things as ‘What the French toast!’ and ‘Brother trucker.’ Creativity is a great tool for inspiring uplifting communication.”

• Seek outside help. If workplace profanity becomes so out of control that business owners simply can’t contain it, they can look to a third party for assistance. The Lake Forest, Ill.-based Cuss Control Academy, for example, offers tips, classes, and presentations on why swearing can be detrimental to the workplace and how to control it.

Source: SurePayroll,

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