LONDON (AFP) — Regular swearing at work can help boost team spirit among staff, allowing them to express better their feelings as well as develop social relationships, according to a study by researchers.
Yehuda Baruch, a professor of management at the University of East Anglia, and graduate Stuart Jenkins studied the use of profanity in the workplace and assessed its implications for managers.
They assessed that swearing would become more common as traditional taboos are broken down, but the key appeared to be knowing when such language was appropriate and when to turn to blind eye.
The pair said swearing in front of senior staff or customers should be seriously discouraged or banned, but in other circumstances it helped foster solidarity among employees and express frustration, stress or other feelings.
"Employees use swearing on a continuous basis, but not necessarily in a negative, abusive manner," said Baruch, who works in the university's business school in Norwich.
Banning swear words and reprimanding staff might represent strong leadership, but could remove key links between staff and impact on morale and motivation, he said.
"We hope that this study will serve not only to acknowledge the part that swearing plays in our work and our lives, but also to indicate that leaders sometimes need to 'think differently' and be open to intriguing ideas.
"Managers need to understand how their staff feel about swearing. The challenge is to master the 'art' of knowing when to turn a blind eye to communication that does not meet their own standards."
The study, "Swearing at work and permissive leadership culture: when anti-social becomes social and incivility is acceptable", is published in the latest issue of the Leadership and Organisational Development Journal.