Should @#%! Have a Place in Business?

I’ve noticed a growing trend in the business world, and particularly within my industry, around the use of vulgar language. What was once considered taboo now seems to be fashionable. Call me old fashioned, or just call me old, but I think it’s highly unprofessional and it’s definitely not called for in most business settings.

Now, before some of my friends and colleagues start throwing the F-Bomb hand grenades at me, I want them to know that I am not judging them or any other person. That would make me a hypocrite. I also let expletives fly from my mouth at times (mostly in the car, but that’s another story), though I can’t say that I am proud of it. What we do in our personal lives is up to us as individuals. It’s your choice to cuss or not to cuss. In a professional business setting, I feel that we should adhere to stricter standards.

Why Cussing Shouldn’t Have a Place in Business

It’s Rude and Offensive to Others: Not everyone agrees to your choice of words and not everyone believes the same as you do. Some people would consider it highly offensive, depending on their background, ethnicity, or religious affiliation. Why would any business person want to clearly offend another person or risk losing potential work by not controlling their tongue? Being obscene for the sake of being obscene makes no sense to me.

It’s Degrading to Women: There are women who are as vulgar, if not more, than men. But I believe that a majority of women do not appreciate this kind of talk and I believe men should show more respect to women through their actions and words. I will also state here that the women who are now using vulgarity as a “shock and awe” marketing tactic are tasteless and disrespectful as well.

It Teaches Us that There Are No Rules: Our society and our country has become so desensitized that we no longer have any true, defining morals. Take religion out of it, because that’s not what I am necessarily talking about. In the past, we had guidelines or a common sense of decency that most people would follow. It’s not that way anymore and I believe this is a great tragedy. We need to get back to drawing some lines in the sand.

Is Cussing in Business Settings Ever Acceptable?

I attended a couple of events last year that I really value, but couldn’t understand why certain speakers would take the stage and start talking like juvenile boys, instead of professionals. The f-bombs and sexual language flew from the stage like obscenity was going out of style. There were women and children present and I was horrified to see the looks on their faces as they heard these words. Some presenters didn’t have any consideration for their audience.

If we are hanging out over a few beers with a select group of friends and talking shop, I personally don’t care what you say. Believe me, you won’t offend me. I think you can, and should, be who you are with friends or the people you know. But if you are having meetups and new people come into the mix, you might want to tone it down. It’s not so much about what you say than about what setting you say them in. Be mindful of the people around you.

I know there will be readers who completely disagree with me and that’s OK. One would argue that if we don’t like the language a person uses, we can simply walk out, leave, or not follow them in the social media sphere. That would be correct and I’ve even done it. However, I do think as business owners or entrepreneurs that we owe it to the people we want to reach, to practice as much respect as possible in business situations.

What do you think?


  1. ryanddawkins on February 27, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    I completely agree with you, especially on the stance that the country has became to desentized with no common rules.

  2. Micah Choquette (@meetmicah) on February 27, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for bringing this up, James. I wholeheartedly agree with what you say, both about being yourself around your friends and staying aware of your audience. I’m pretty amazed at how the far the boundaries are being pushed in mainstream culture these days, and you nailed it – it’s like fashionable to be able to cuss. I have to admit, I will be listening to someone I admire and the moment I hear them use a strong curse word (like the f-bomb) or throw some sexual remark out there, in my mind they immediately go down a notch. That’s not me being hypocritical, just my reaction to people who talk like that. I instinctively don’t want to be around them and discount what they’re saying.

    • jamesdalman on March 1, 2013 at 11:32 am

      You bet Micah.

      The boundaries have been pushed way too far. Nothing is taboo anymore. It’s whatever you feel is right for you without any regards for the people around you.

      I am not sure what the solution is other than kindly letting people know where we stand or that they should be considerate of the people around them in certain situations.

  3. Perry Storkson on March 1, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Well said James. I’ve had similar conversations at work over the years and have taken special exception to the apparent ease with which derogatory references to Christians and/or Christianity are accepted, while any such reference to any other religion or race is met with swift disciplinary action. I too am hard to offend (I spent a considerable portion of my life cussing like a drunken sailor), but that doesn’t mean that I should have to sit and listen to that kind of language all day. “May I have your attention please. Professionalism has left the building”.

    • jamesdalman on March 1, 2013 at 11:39 am

      Thanks Perry. I am hesitant to write such thoughts because having been around people who cussed growing up and being a grunt in the Army, I too could speak in such a way that would make grown men blush.

      The thing is that I can turn my filter on and off. When I am in a professional setting or a group of people I don’t know, I always do my best to ensure I don’t cuss. This doesn’t mean it always happens – sometimes a word will slip by the filter, but I am cognizant of the people around me and try harder not to be offensive every day. Sometimes it goes great and sometimes when I drive on the highway, not so much. 🙂

  4. John Saddington (@saddington) on March 11, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    uh-oh… you may have to cover your ears this thursday………. you’re entering into a boys locker room……!

    • jamesdalman on March 11, 2013 at 7:30 pm

      LOL! I’ve heard you guys have a wild side. Maybe my butt-less chaps will speak louder than the words you all say. 😀

  5. Patrick Neve on October 19, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    You couldn’t be more real than this James. I’m always amazed at people’s choice of words. Maybe I’m just old too, but I’m not impressed with people’s creative obscenities anymore. I’ve outgrown it and I think a majority of professionals follow the unspoken code of ethics. But there’s always “that guy” that wants to make an impact at any expense. I would never buy a home, car, or website from a guy that dropped f-bombs. Because of my numerous (unfortunate) tattoos, I get this quite a bit. As if he/she is speaking my language. The only thing it achieves is me feeling embarrassed for them.

    • James Dalman on October 20, 2013 at 10:55 am

      I admit that I don’t always use the best words, but I also have the common sense to watch what I say according the person or crowd I am around.

      I think cussing for the sake of “shock and awe” just makes the person doing it look ignorant. Additionally if any person “sizes you up” because of your tattoos and assumes you talk like a sailor, it just shows they stereotype people and again, communicates their ignorance.

      There definitely needs to be more emphasis on a business code of ethics. It seems like every rule has been thrown out the door in favor of tolerance.

Leave a Comment