Office Handbook

Chapter 32: Workplace swearing


In the course of your work, you may find it desirable or necessary to employ colorful language (“swearing,” “cussing”) in the office. Should this situation arise, please adhere to the following guidelines.


1. Damn, Hell

The most innocuous expletives. Spicing informal banter — or formal presentations, among sales reps — with a strategic “damn!” or “hell!” can provide vivid punctuation. (E.g., “How the hell are we going to hide this $3 billion shortfall?”) The instruction, “Go to hell!” is, however, ordinarily not recommended.

2. Bastard, Bitch

In general, the B-words are acceptable, especially if used to avert or temper a grander, more embarrassing outburst. While “bitch” is inadvisable in mixed-gender groups (see Chapter 17, Sexual Harassment), the use of “bastard” is especially encouraged when dealing with Texans.

3. F***

The classic F-bomb. Despite recent liberalization in some circles, employees are advised to approach this word with due caution. The golden rule typically applies: Don’t say it until it has been said to you. That being noted, including “f***” in a breezy exchange with a superior may prove a powerful bonding experience. (E.g., “How the hell are we going to hide this f***ing $3 billion shortfall?”)

4. The C-word

The neutron bomb of all expletives. Under no circumstances should it be uttered in the office. Just leave it alone.

5. French Words

In some instances, employees may seek to demonstrate their sophistication by employing such expressions as merde or putain. You are advised that the pretentious use of such mals mots may result in a noticeable lack of career advancement. This applies as well to employees who actually may be French.