Smart SpendingSmart Spending

&%@*#! Cursing may derail your raise

A majority of managers believe that swearing indicates a lack of professionalism, self-control, maturity or intelligence. Bye-bye promotion.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 24, 2013 11:00AM

Newly minted anchorman A.J. Clemente had a short but extremely well-publicized career with KFYR, the NBC television affiliate in Bismarck, N.D. On April 21, unaware that the microphone was live, he mumbled to himself a pair of words unprintable on this blog. (Hint: They began with "F" and "S.")

The video went viral, and Clemente was suspended after the broadcast. The next day he tweeted that he'd been fired, saying among other things, "Rookie mistake . . . wish I didn't trip over my 'freaking shoes' out of the gate."

This example of workplace potty-mouthedness is an object lesson for employees everywhere, even those who don't work in broadcast media. Eight out of 10 managers surveyed by said that cursing in the workplace indicates a lack of professionalism, and 57% said they'd be less likely to promote someone who did it -- even though 25% of those managers admitted to swearing at their employees.

Sounds hypocritical, but here's the thing: The boss decides who advances and who stays put. And who gets to cuss. 

Even if your supervisor swears like a stevedore, here's what might go through his mind when you drop your own F-bomb:

  • 71% think it indicates a lack of control.
  • 68% say it suggests a lack of maturity.
  • 64% would "think less" of a habitual swearer.
  • 54% believe it makes an employee appear less intelligent.

Those managers have plenty to worry about: Of the 3,800 workers interviewed for the same survey, 51% said they swear in the workplace. Almost all of those (95%) cuss in front of co-workers, but relatively few do so in front of senior leaders (13%) or clients (7%).

'A mistake that hurt no one'
Whether in the boardroom or at the water cooler, swearing at work is "risky," according to Amy Levin-Epstein of CBS MoneyWatch. Among other things, foul language can lead some to believe you need anger-management training.

"Not exactly the image you want to portray at the office,” she says.
Logo: Surprised woman (Photodisc Green/Getty Images)
Levin-Epstein also points out that not everyone is comfortable with cursing: "You really don't know how your co-workers will perceive a certain word. The same term can seem innocuous to one person, and horribly offensive to the next."

Online articles about Clemente's gaffe do have comments from people who believe KFYR management acted appropriately. However, the station is also experiencing a backlash over the firing, via letters and Facebook posts.

"You will be harshly judged for that one error," wrote one viewer. Another described the situation as "a mistake that hurt no one."

Expressing yourself

I'm of two minds about workplace vulgarity. I spent 18 years working at newspapers, which have long traditions of gallows humor and bad language. That's why I tend to agree with Vivian Glang of when she writes that a little naughty talk is sometimes beneficial at the workplace.


Glang quoted a University of East Anglia (United Kingdom) study that indicated "swearing actually helped co-workers build relationships with one another and enabled them to express their feelings."

Plenty of, uh, expressing went on in the newsrooms, and the at-times salty language did help us release pent-up emotion about what we'd just witnessed. (I expect police stations are also pretty pithy places to work.) Yet I also wonder whether any former newspaper staffers were offended by the casual profanity but felt too intimidated to speak up.

Beware, too, of a steady diet of bad words. Get in the habit of popping off too regularly and something may accidentally slip out in front of, say, your mom.

Or the department manager, who might wonder whether during a future business deal you'd trip on your freaking shoes. Bye-bye promotion.

What do you think about swearing in the workplace?

More on MSN Money:

May 3, 2013 1:13PM

**** this study. :)


Plus they are only "curse" words because society says they are.  Fact is they are just words.

May 3, 2013 1:33PM

'Cursing may derail your raise'

No fvcking way, this is bullshlt

Apr 24, 2013 12:23PM
You shouldn't have to be told not to curse in the office, around women, kids, in many social situations, etc. It's basic respect and manners.  Then again, I've heard some women/kids speak that could make Andrew Dice Clay blush.  In ranking all of our social problems, this one is far from the most important.  But, as one who could keep up the expletives with the best of them, I no longer do it.  It's just so *&^%$ (fill in your favorite word) hard on the ears. And, I never have to worry about slipping in the wrong company.
Apr 25, 2013 4:15AM

Beware, too, of a steady diet of bad words. Get in the habit of popping off too regularly and something may accidentally slip out in front of, say, your mom.


Or your grandkids causing thier parents (your kids) to limit your time w/them.

May 3, 2013 1:50PM
We live in the perfect country its called the United States of America we're suppose to be perfect robots. There is no such thing as perfect.
May 3, 2013 5:12PM
F****n give me a F****n raise or I'm gonna F****n S**t all over your desk, A***ole!
May 3, 2013 4:23PM
May 3, 2013 4:04PM
MOST JOBS nowdays are ENOUGH to make you WANNA CUSS ...........Not alot of "good" jobx out there these days .......and employers expect UNREASONABLE goals because they know the employment market is FLOODED with people looking for work so they treat their current workers like crap .........knowing most of them HAVE TO STAY cause there are no other jobs..........
May 3, 2013 2:08PM
swearing is a lazy person's way of expressing themselves. So many people think it is amusing and groundbreaking to use certain words. It isn't. It is offensive and shows the lack of intelligence of the person swearing.
May 3, 2013 4:02PM

LOL like .......we were gonna ACTUALLY GET A RAISE anyways ?????   Ummm YEAH SUUUURREEE LOL ????? can be PERFECT and see not one red cent in a raise ?????   Usually the HARDER YOU WORK .......the LESS YOU GET ..........and you are doing YOUR JOB and two other people's ..........THEY GET THE RAISE and you get NOTHING lol ..........

May 3, 2013 5:09PM
May 3, 2013 4:49PM

Personal expression is simply personal expression if you don't get a raise then you have a greedy boss simple as that. the way you carry yourself has nothing to do with a work ethic unless you are employed in public speaking. this is the medias way of trying to get you to express yourself their way and not yours. Everybody knows this crap, and we are fed up!


May 3, 2013 4:34PM
i've read other surveys that say managers that curse in the workplace move up faster... 
May 3, 2013 3:21PM
May 3, 2013 2:29PM
Whatever we would like to believe about swearing being ok, many people see it as a sign that the person cussin' is inarticulate, or has anger issues (because this can be the case, most of us have seen it) or take it as disrespectful or even abusive.Fact of life. Clemente appeared inept, partially because of the foul language. I'm not surprised he was fired- hope he gets another chance somewhere.. 
May 3, 2013 2:32PM
Oh Piss Balls...I really wanted a raise...
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.