The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


November 26, 2013

Your Office Coach: Take steps to curtail cursing

QUESTION: During business discussions in our company, I have increasingly heard the F-word being used, even by managers and supervisors. While this doesn’t seem to bother some people, others are noticeably disturbed by it. Personally, I do not understand when or how this became acceptable workplace language.

As a woman, I sense that men sometimes use profanity as a means of intimidating female colleagues and limiting their participation in meetings. However, I’m not sure how to respond when someone throws an F-bomb into the conversation. Do you have any suggestions for addressing this problem?

ANSWER: Casual profanity is definitely more prevalent these days, but the degree to which expletives are tolerated in the workplace depends largely on the climate established by executives. Apparently, management in your company either has no problem with such language or is too spineless to tackle the issue.

From a business standpoint, managers who are not offended by profanity need to recognize that many people are. This group may include important customers, key staff members and highly recruited job applicants. So regardless of their own feelings on the matter, wise executives take steps to discourage vulgarity and promote professionalism.

If your own objective is to create a widespread cultural change, you will need to recruit some allies from the ranks of those who are “noticeably disturbed.“ This group can then ask to meet with human resources or top management and present the business case for a language clean-up.

But if you simply wish to stop the offenders from swearing at you personally, then you must politely, but firmly, make that request. Just be sure to deliver this message with a smile and a friendly tone.

For example: “Bob, even though I’m not a prude, I find the F-word to be very offensive. I would really appreciate your not using it during our conversations.“

This approach should work quite well with reasonable adults who do not wish to offend anyone. Unfortunately, it will have no effect on those immature folks who get a secret thrill out of using naughty words.

Q: Last week, I accidently overheard my supervisor talking about me to another manager. Based on that conversation, it sounds as though my position might be eliminated soon, and I may have to find another job in the company. This has me very worried, but I don’t know whether I should mention it.

A: Since you weren’t engaging in deliberate office espionage, you should have no problem raising this issue. To either ease your fears or confirm your suspicions, simply ask your supervisor a direct question.

For example: “Last week I accidentally overheard a conversation that seemed to imply that my job is going to be eliminated. Is there any truth to that?“

You may learn that the discussion you heard was about something entirely different. But if your interpretation is correct, at least you will be in a better position to begin planning for the future.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.“ Send in questions and get free coaching tips at, or follow her on Twitter officecoach.

Text Only
  • The Color of Money: No easy way to get out of debt

    Many people who are deeply in debt are desperate for a quick fix. They ask the question: What can I do to get out of debt?

    July 21, 2014

  • Watercooler: When to speak up if you see problems down the line

    Q: Our organization has hired a new director. I am one of a number of division heads; above us, there's the associate director, and above him is the director. The associate director is feared and disliked for his duplicity and dictatorial nature, though few have come forward because of his vindictiveness.

    July 18, 2014

  • Career Coach: Bringing a purpose-driven spirit to work

    Increasingly, religious beliefs and practices of employees are becoming more evident in the workplace. Religious diversity and concepts of spirituality are more prevalent in organizational settings.

    July 18, 2014

  • Ask the Mompreneur: It’s best to farm out your payroll

    When my husband and I hired our first employee at our Web development company, we had it easy when it came to doing payroll.

    July 17, 2014

  • Protecting against unnecessary losses

    QUESTION: I run a small bar and grill which is open 7 days a week and have to rely on others for some of the shifts. How can I ensure employees have not become my partners?

    July 17, 2014

  • A checklist for keeping you focused at work

    A quick check of Facebook and next thing you know, a half-hour’s passed. Start chatting with a co-worker and suddenly 20 minutes is gone and the report you were supposed to finish by lunch is late.
    Workplace distractions are everywhere, especially in an age of social media and open-plan offices. In the face of so much temptation, accomplishing what you’re paid to do can be tough.

    July 16, 2014

  • It could be time for a career coach

    Need a little help figuring out your next career move?
    If you’re putting in the hours and still not seeing the rewards, feeling undervalued or simply striving to be more successful, it may be time to hire a career coach.

    July 16, 2014

  • Your Office Coach: Turn to boss for help with disgruntled underling

    QUESTION: When I joined this company a few weeks ago, I discovered that the person who previously held my position is now working for me. “Sarah” obviously resents my presence and frequently says I don’t have the authority to manage her, even though I clearly do. Her negativity has made my job much more difficult.

    July 15, 2014

  • You are not trusted

    If it seems like employers don’t trust employees - well, they don’t.

    July 15, 2014

  • The Color of Money: Beware of loan-modification scammers

    There are some good things going on in the economy these days. Just like temperatures across the country, the stock market has been hot lately. The economy added 288,000 jobs in June. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent. Yet there are still plenty of Americans who need financial help, especially with their mortgages.

    July 14, 2014

Business Video