Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Southampton Business School

New research suggests swearing is now acceptable in the workplace

Published: 15 March 2017

Swearing at work can lead to positive consequences, according to an academic study led by a Southampton Business School professor. Research among senior managers and professional people has found it can relieve stress and aid team building and communications in the workplace.

Professor Yehuda Baruch, Professor of Management at Southampton Business School, worked with colleagues in the US and France to probe attitudes to swearing among lawyers, medical doctors and business executives. Their findings have just been published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology.

“Swearing is seen as negative and many people believe it has no place in the working environment but our research suggests it can be beneficial,” explains Professor Baruch. “My first study in this area was carried out among students and you might imagine they would swear at work but we have found swearing is now largely acceptable in more traditional workplaces as well as within different cultures.”

Almost all the individuals questioned, both male and female, admitted swearing, frequently to de-stress when making a mistake, in frustrating meetings or nearing deadlines. They also cited swearing to emphasise a point, convey urgency and bond with co-workers. Few believed their companies and organisations had formal policies about swearing but doctors and lawyers said it was not socially acceptable in their professions as it would show a lack of respect for their patients or the court.

The paper “Swearing at Work: The Surprising Positive Outcomes of Profanity” was co-authored by Dr Ariane Ollier-Malaterre (Université du Québec à Montréal), Dr Rea Prouska (London South Bank University) and Dr Jennifer Bunk (University of Pennsylvania).

Access the published paper here or view the accepted paper here

Privacy Settings