Here Is Why You Should Swear at Work, According to Science

Various studies appear to show that swearing might be good for your career and personal health.
Christopher McFadden

Do you find that you swear an inordinate amount of the time? It turns out swearing might actually be good for you. 

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that swearing can actually improve your health and working prospects.

Sounds too good to be true? Let's find out how.


Is swearing allowed at work?

This will depend entirely on the "culture" of your office as well as any written company policies and procedures. If in doubt, it is best to err on the side of caution.

Openly swearing in the office will probably be frowned upon in most cases. But if used in private, or as banter between colleagues, it will probably be fine. Swearing in front of company clients is, in the vast, vast, majority of cases a big no, no!

Remember that you are acting as a representative of your employer, not a private individual. It is usually unacceptable to threaten the public image of a company when you are working as a public face for them. 

"When it comes to swearing in the workplace, context is key. Employers cannot look at swearing in a vacuum. ... While there may be no clear line, an employer should never act too hastily and must ensure employees are afforded procedural fairness in all circumstances." -

Can I get fired for swearing at work?

As we have already touched on above, this will depend on the context, company culture, and any policies and procedures they may have in place. When you swear in a non-customer-facing environment, you may simply face some form of disciplinary action (either formal or informal).

But this will depend entirely on how other work colleagues react, and the opinion of your superiors. If you swear in front of customers, the consequences might be more serious.

If in doubt it might be best to refrain from using colorful language. 

"In some instances, it can be reported to human resources with an official warning. Sometimes it can even get you fired. "Someone who works customer-facing [roles] -- such as retail or sales or call centers -- would be fired for swearing, as it's not appropriate with a customer," Lucas says" - CNN

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Is swearing gross misconduct?

Once again not to beat a dead horse, the consequences of swearing will depend entirely on the situation, environment and company policy on swearing. For example, the odd expletive in reaction to stubbing your toe or out of frustration in private is probably acceptable.

But, unsurprisingly, using foul language in a threatening or abusive manner is usually discouraged. The use of any abusive language, swearing or otherwise, will not normally be tolerated -- as you might expect.

After all, "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all," as the old adage goes. 

"While there is no general legal principle that the use of swearing by employees is an act of gross misconduct that would justify instant dismissal, there are certain circumstances where the use of foul and abusive language in the workplace could lead to legal action." -

Do animals swear?

As it turns out, humans are not the only animals that swear. Studies of chimpanzees have shown that they also like to use the odd expletive. 

In one particular study, a group of chimps who had been taught sign language was shown how to make the sign for "dirty". Not only that, but the test chimps were taught to associate this as an insult to others.

The study found that chimps were more than happy to use it in the same way we would say "crap".

Dr. Emma Byrne, an artificial intelligence researcher and the author of Swearing is Good for You explained in an article

"Dirty was deployed with impressive flexibility. In the same way that the f-word can be hissed, shouted or spat, DIRTY was be signed with differing emphasis by the chimpanzees depending on the intensity of their feelings.

swearing is good chimp
Source: Chester Zoo/Flickr

The sign is made by bringing the back of the wrist up underneath the chin. When the chimpanzees were extremely angry they would make the sign so forcefully that the clacking noise of their teeth could be heard all through the lab.

That passion and fury remind me of the way that the middle digit can be brandished or the fist pounded into the crook of the elbow." 

Could swearing be good for you at work?

Could swearing at work be good for your health and career? While it is still something of a taboo to use expletives in the workplace, some studies suggest it might be time to challenge this tradition.

According to a 2016 study, most Americans swear, on average 80 times a day. Despite this, 81% of employers still believe that swearing in a work setting "brings an employees' professionalism into question."

Many studies are revealing that cursing in our private and professional lives appears to have some interesting benefits. These studies show that people who are not afraid to swear in public have higher levels of integrity, emotional intelligence, possess a larger vocabulary and, on average, tend to have higher IQs (believe it or not).

swearing is good secret swear
Source: Iain Farrell/Flickr

The use of expletives helps to convey feelings and opinions far more efficiently than other words in the English lexicon. It, in effect, is a more efficient method of transferring information in a short burst. 

This helps not only more accurately convey someone's feelings but also helps build stronger connections and trust with others. In other words, it shows you are more comfortable around that person or group of people. 

"Choosing the appropriate kind of word (mild or strong) demonstrates that you understand the mentality of the person that you’re speaking to so they’re more inclined to believe you." -

Many studies also show that swearing has some physiological benefits too. Swearing has been shown to reduce discomfort and increase pain tolerance. 

An interesting example was a study at Keele University in the United Kingdom. In it, study participants were asked to submerge their hands in icy water. 

Participants who were encouraged to swear during the experience showed a marked increase in their ability to keep their hands submerged -- about 50% longer. Other studies have shown that people who frequently swear also have increased circulation, elevated endorphins, and an overall sense of calm, control, and well-being.

swearing is good game
Source: MattysFlicks/Flickr

In a professional setting, swearing has also been shown to be beneficial to one's career. Some research on this revealed that swearing helps increase the effectiveness and persuasiveness of an argument, for example.

It also helps build camaraderie between teammates, and swearing appears to also increase sales by about 18%. This figure was gleaned from a study of 73,000 sales calls by Gong.

Not only that, but sales-prospects tended to be more than comfortable with swearing during a call. In fact, once the prospect has "crossed that line," reps increased their preponderance to swear themselves by around 400% and dramatically improved their chances of a sale!

Yet despite the growing evidence to the contrary, swearing is still generally thought of as taboo in the workplace. Perhaps it is time for a bit more colorful language in the workplace?

Just make sure you don't contravene any workplace policies and procedures! And do not insult or belittle your colleagues; it's quite simple.

But, in the end, we'll let you reach your own conclusion.

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