What the #£@$%& did you say?

Let’s say you’re already having a tough day at work and then your team gets told some more bad news. Or, perhaps you’ve all been told you’ll need to work late to hit a hard deadline. How do your colleagues react? Do they let out a series of loud expletives, or do they bury their feelings in copious amounts of coffee and biscuits?

If you said the latter then you’re in the minority, because our latest research shows the average UK worker hears an average of 11 swear words from foul-mouthed colleagues every single working day. In fact, more than one in ten (11%) employees admit to hearing more than 25 swear words at work on a daily basis.

Our recent study polled office workers up and down the UK to find out just how much people use bad language in the workplace, as well as which words and phrases are used most often.

The most commonly used slurs and offensive words in UK workplaces are:

  1. F**k – 68%
  2. S**t – 58%
  3. B****y – 35%
  4. B******s – 31%
  5. P*** Off- 30%
  6. B*****d – 29%
  7. T**t – 24%
  8. A******e – 22%
  9. D**k – 21%
  10. B***h – 20%
  11. W****r – 20%
  12. C**t – 19%
  13. A**e – 15%
  14. C**k – 11%
  15. S**t – 9%

When asked how often they use bad language themselves, a quarter (25%) of UK workers admit they rarely hold back and only occasionally censor their language at work, while one in eight (12%) say they never filter their speech and always say whatever comes to mind. On the other hand, one in five polite workers (19%) say they try to never use offensive language in front of colleagues.

So, who are the foul-mouthed culprits?

According to our research, it’s mostly middle management. Over a quarter (28%) of UK workers admitted that their supervisors and line managers turn the air bluest in the workplace, while entry-level and admin staff (receptionists, assistants etc.) share second place, both with 18% of votes. The politest employees are catering staff, with just 1% of colleagues saying they use offensive language regularly, while interns and work experience are second from bottom with only 3% using swear words in the workplace.

Dr Jo Gee, psychotherapist and founder of The Luna Hive, offers some insight on why people swear at work, and just why people find it so inappropriate:

“Studies suggest swearing can be beneficial, as the process of swearing is often cathartic, letting out pent up emotion, as well as aiding storytelling or jokes. Perceptions of those who swear are also more likely to be linked to the words ‘honest’ and ‘credible’.

“As to why people use them at work, alongside the above reasons, for some, offensive language might be a ‘test’ for the work setting – with employees experiencing a thrill when swearing or using swear words to draw attention to themselves in a busy workplace.

“That said, swear words often include a range of taboo words including sexual language, profanities, animal names, and vulgar terms, so this is part of why people find them offensive. Additionally, they are linked to negative emotions and our minds associate them with anger, even if they’re not used aggressively.”

So, while there might be some benefits to swearing and bad language, it can’t be denied that many find it inappropriate for the workplace. So, if you’re always finding yourself having to apologise for your potty mouth, here are some tips to help you stop swearing at work.

  1. Most swearing is linked to anger, so when something riles you up, take a long deep breath before reacting. This might just give you enough time to respond more appropriately.
  2. If you can feel yourself getting worked up, where possible, take yourself out of the situation briefly. Even just going to the bathroom and taking a few minutes to yourself can have a huge effect.
  3. If you often find yourself using offensive language when telling stories, or when chatting to colleagues, try and think of a couple more polite synonyms beforehand so you’ve got them in mind during the conversation. For example, switching out ‘what the f**k’ with ‘what the heck’.