Strategic Swearing: Is it Appropriate?

To anyone familiar with military stereotypes, the images of foul-mouthed drill instructors and the salty sea tongue of a sailor surely fit. As a veteran of both the Army and Navy, rest assured, you won’t find me arguing the inaccuracies of these portrayals. Of all the fantastic and developmental experiences involved in military service, one can hardly spend time aboard a naval warship or in a foxhole with fellow infantry soldiers without being exposed to the most creative and unique usages of profanity and blue humor. It’s a cultural aspect that dulls the sensitivities borne from “civilized” parenting and societal norms. And, yes, it becomes a part of nearly everyone’s verbal repertoire.

In this audio clip, Stanford University’s Bob Sutton, author of the bestselling The No Assholes Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace & Surviving One that Isn’t, discusses the power of swearing in today’s business world. Above all else, Bob emphasizes several key ideas:

* The importance of understanding group norms prior to launching “f-bombs” in the workplace
* Leveraging profanity through strategic use of such language

Check out this ten-minute HBR interview and let me know what you think:

The Subtleties of Strategic Swearing

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