Are curse words an unforgivable scourge or a healthy way to build trust?
In her book swearing is good for You, Dr. Emma Byrne argues that new research reveals how we might be better off to invite profanity into the office. But
she’s also clear that trying to implement a pro-swearing policy will be an uphill battle.
Dr. Byrne tells how during the 2008 crash a Goldman Sachs senior manager described a sub-prime mortgage transaction in an email as “one shitty deal.” When the emails were released to the public, Goldman Sachs apologized – not for supporting a system that broke global banking, but for bad language.
Despite the aversion to swearing, evidence suggests it can help teams bond. Far from artless and vulgar, research shows that swearing in small groups demands social skills to express differences between teams and nuances specific to each member’s role.
In addition, Dr. Byrne’s research shows swearing reflects on credibility: The greater the rate of swearing, the less likely the person was to be dishonest.
Ultimately, there’s no simple answer. Though it risks giving offense, it seems that at the right moment, a well-turned expletive can work wonders.
Laura Templer is Content Production Manager in London.