Survey: Swearing at Work Can Harm Career Prospects

Chicago — July 25

Employees who make frequent contributions to the swear jar may lose more than loose change. They may lose out on a promotion, according to a new survey.

Sixty-four percent of employers said that they’d think less of an employee who repeatedly uses curse words and 57 percent said they’d be less likely to promote someone who swears in the office, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.

The nationwide survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive from May 14 June 4, included more than 2,000 hiring managers and 3,800 workers across industries and company sizes.

Half (51 percent) of workers reported that they swear in the office. The majority of those (95 percent) said they do so in front of their co-workers, while 51 percent cuss in front of the boss. Workers were the least likely to use expletives in front of senior leaders (13 percent) and their clients (7 percent).

Comparing genders, men are more likely to report swearing at work — 54 percent compared to 47 percent of women.

Employers are inclined to think less of an employee who swears at work for a variety of reasons. Most (81 percent) believe that the use of curse words brings the employee’s professionalism into question. Others are concerned with the lack of control (71 percent) and lack of maturity (68 percent) demonstrated by swearing at work, while 54 percent said swearing at work makes an employee appear less intelligent, the survey said.

While many employers may think less of an employee who curses too much in the office, one in four employers (25 percent) admitted to swearing at their employees. Roughly the same amount (28 percent) of workers said they have sworn at other co-workers.

Among top markets in the U.S., workers in the nation’s capital were the most likely to report that they swear at work, with Denver and Chicago rounding out the top three.

  • Washington D.C. — 62 percent
  • Denver — 60 percent
  • Chicago — 58 percent
  • Los Angeles — 56 percent
  • Boston — 56 percent
  • Atlanta — 54 percent
  • Minneapolis — 50 percent
  • Phoenix — 47 percent
  • New York — 46 percent
  • Philadelphia — 44 percent

Comparing age groups, younger employees were the least likely to swear at work, while employees ages 35-44 are the most likely to curse while on the job.

Source: CareerBuilder