Dropping the F-bomb: Do you really need to do it?

Instead of helping to assert authority, profane words can backfire on women and the message that they are trying to convey in the corporate world. Work with your unique strengths and abilities and you won’t need “colourful” language to stand out! 

Curse words set the wrong impression

Let’s face it: Pressing deadlines, upcoming meetings and other demands at work can make you swear like a pirate. The use of foul language may seem justified for stressful situations, but it remains a no-go zone for the corporate world. It’s not ideal for leaders to use profane words in any context to motivate employees, as their language can easily be offensive and intimidating.

Women employees may sometimes feel the pressure to use swear words to thrive in a male-dominated workplace, but this could have negative implications on their professional, social and moral image. Former Yahoo CEO, Carol Bartz, admitted regret for using the f-word during her tenure at the company.

Many companies have implemented policies in place to discourage the use of curse words. Those who spout foul language may find themselves facing legal citations in violation of corporate rules and existing laws.

Aside from casting professional women in a bad light, the use of profanity could also distract your listeners and distort the message that you are attempting to communicate. Your credibility and judgment may be deemed unreliable if you are unable to stop yourself from using profanity. Colleagues are likely to question your professional image and it may also come across as having a narrow vocabulary for appropriately expressing yourself.

Women in authority attract contempt

It still remains an obstacle for women to firmly plant their feet in the corporate world because of the stereotypes held against them.  Many women who work hard to address workplace demands can be seen as “abrasive and aggressive.” Women who get the job done may be termed coming on “too strong” as compared to their male counterparts. According to a study by Fortune.com, women’s reviews were more likely to include negative critical feedback, and while men received constructive suggestions geared toward development of skills, women received this in the form of sharper statements such as ‘watch your tone or manner’, ‘step back’, ‘stop being so judgmental’ or ‘you’re being too tough.’

This notion of gender-based communication is particularly prevalent in male-dominated industries, such as technology and aerospace sectors.  Russian cosmonaut, Yelena Serova, had to clamp down on the journalists asking her how she would style her hair in space. Internationally-acclaimed lawyer, Amal Alamuddin, saw her accolades disappear after earning the label as George Clooney’s fiancée in the media. Amid the milestones reached by women in the corporate world, those who are successful in their fields are still frowned upon or labelled in society.

These stereotypes also label successful women as “bossy”, and yield a mindset that is on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum of using curse words. This sometimes results in businesswomen frequently using the term “sorry” and being apologetic all the time.  This type of thinking will compromise women’s ability to lead and make crucial decisions. It could also set women back from a well-earned promotion because their superior may think they are not ready or too weak.

Since this is nothing but a mindset, it can easily be challenged and overcome. And it can be surmounted without the use of profanity.

An expletive-free way to fight these stereotypes

Women can assert their authority in the workplace without having to spout expletives. You can climb to the top of the corporate ladder by simply being yourself. This may sound like a cliché, but women who “bring their whole self” to the table tend to be more successful in the corporate world, said Barbara Annis, chair emeritus of the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard Kennedy School. In contrast, businesswomen who adopt male behaviours can shortchange themselves in the process of achieving long-term success.  There is no need to swear like a sailor to get ahead; you only simply need to stand your ground and trust in your own abilities.

Furthermore, women can gain success in the workplace by forming bonds with each other. This will allow you to mutually encourage and support each other, embracing your uniqueness and using it as a tool for success in business. You can be comfortable in disclosing your challenges with female colleagues, and learn from them how to overcome them.

By simply being yourself and using your skills, work ethic and professionalism to assert authority, you can be a successful business leader without being vulgar and offensive. There’s no need – or room – for the f-word in your career.

Donny

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