Is It Ever Appropriate to Drop an F-Bomb in a Meeting?

Tim Taylor posts that he recently mentioned to an executive he was working with that the exec was swearing like a sailor. I have never confronted a colleague in the business world over their language. If people choose to "swear" (who defined what a swear word is?!) then that’s their choice. I myself exercise this right frequently! What’s important to me is how and when people swear. There’s no point just dropping an f-bomb for the hell of it — this shows that someone is lazy and doesn’t want to think of a more descriptive word, or is trying too hard to come across as laid back and cool — but it does make sense if you want to inflect extra emotion or meaning. Plus, the grammatical flexibility of many swear words make it even easier to draw on them.

Bottom line: there are smart ways and dumb ways to use swear words in everyday oral interactions. It reveals something about someone, either way.

6 comments on “Is It Ever Appropriate to Drop an F-Bomb in a Meeting?
  • Watching your playoff game on TV. Sorry to see you guys lost, but you’re looking good out there.

    I got my first pro baseball job in El Paso this summer. Not quite Zurich, but I’ll take it.

  • One thing about The F-word is that is an attention grabber. When you say “Fuck, -ing, -er, -ed”, there is no disputing the intensity of the situation. An example:

    “What are you talking about?”
    “What in the fuck are you talking about?”

    “Who are you?”
    “Who, the fuck, are you?”

    “What happened?”
    “What the fuck happened?”

    “I hate this car.”
    “I hate this fucking car.”

    I love to swear in casual conversation with my buddies, but I try to avoid it in all professional situations. I think that Fuck is a very important word when you are trying to get a point across, and you need to use it appropriately, it evokes strong feelings out of people.

  • While I think it’s rarely acceptable in most business meetings, context and audience matter. When in doubt, don’t do it. But it’s not fatal if it happens. I’m in business meetings all the time and it does happen. Most people don’t mind.

    For an instructive point, I was in a meeting once where a disagreement occurred. It could easily be resolved with better communication. Instead, one individual involved didn’t like the response when the debate ended. She uttered “your mama” at the end, which was clearly immature and unprofessional.

    The f-bomb can be used in a professional environment, but it needs to be delivered with a professional’s respect for the individuals involved. Aim it at ideas or nothing specific, but don’t aim it at someone. That’s the basic advice I’d offer.

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