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Swearing at work boosts morale

Leading research challenges leadership styles and investigates the positive impact of swearing in the workplace

UNITED KINGDOM, October 2007 – Research published in Emerald title Leadership & Organization Development Journal ,  a leading source of research on leadership styles and management,  has found that regular swearing at work can help boost morale and motivation. 

The article, entitled "Swearing at work and permissive leadership culture: When anti-social becomes social and incivility is acceptable" was written by Yehuda Baruch, Professor of Management at the University of East Anglia and graduate Stuart Jenkins has hit the headlines in the press, radio, television and leading news websites around the world. 

The article examines the use of profanity in the workplace and assesses its implications for managers. The research found that although swearing can help staff to express feelings and develop social relationships, the key to dealing with the use of bad language was knowing when it was acceptable. 

Swearing in front of customers was obviously highlighted as being unacceptable, as well as in front of senior managers.  However, banning bad language altogether could remove key links between staff and impact on morale and motivation.  Professor Baruch comments, "Our study suggested that, in many cases, taboo language serves the needs of people for developing and maintaining solidarity, and as a mechanism to cope with stress".  He continues, "Managers need to understand how their staff feel about swearing. The challenge is to master the 'art' of knowing when to turn a blind eye to communication that does not meet their own standards."

The article is available for download at

Leadership & Organization Development Journal is published by Emerald Group Publishing Limited, the world-leading publisher of management research.  The journal explores behavioural and managerial issues relating to all aspects of leadership, and of individual and organization development from a global perspective.

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