Angry Businessman shouting into microphoneHow common is cursing in the workplace? And more importantly, how do certain words affect you or your job?

According to a survey by CareerBuilder this past July, 64 percent of employers reported they would think less of an employee who repeatedly uses curse words. Fifty-seven percent reported to be less likely to promote an individual who swears in the workplace.

The survey results came from more than 2,000 hiring managers and 3,800 workers in various industries and company sizes from across the nation. Let’s use the 5 Ws to analyze the findings:


At 57 percent, men are more likely to report swearing at work; only 47 percent of women reported the same.

Younger workers were the least likely to use profanity while at work, yet employees 35-44 years old were the most likely to curse in the office.

Breakdown of employees (by age) who said they swear at work:

  • Ages 18-24 – 42 percent
  • Ages 25-34 – 51 percent
  • Ages 35-44 – 58 percent
  • Ages 45-54 – 51 percent
  • Ages 55 and over – 44 percent

Many employers reported they’d think less of an employee who heavily uses profanity in the office, but one in four employers, or 25 percent of respondents, also admitted to swearing at their employees. Twenty-eight percent of workers reported swearing at their colleagues.


Using profanity at work, of course. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, profanity means the use of profane language. Other terms include four-letter-word, expletive, curse, swear, cuss and swearword.


Half, or 51 percent, of workers admitted that they swear while in the office. Almost all of them (95 percent) also reported cursing in the presence of their co-workers, while another 51 percent said they cuss in front of their bosses. At 13 percent and 7 percent, respectively, senior leaders and clients are the two groups employees are the least likely to use profanity around.


Our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., reported the most employees who were most likely to curse at work. Denver, Chicago. Los Angeles and Boston made up the top five cities.

  • 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


Most employers will automatically think less of an employee who uses profanity at work. But why?

  • 81 percent believe that using curse words leads to questioning the employee’s professionalism that the use of curse words brings the employee’s professionalism into question
  •  71 percent become concerned with a worker’s lack of control while 68 percent become concerned with a worker’s lack of maturity
  • 54 percent said using profanity while at work makes an employee look less intelligent

I found the survey to be quite interesting. In a society filled with profanity from everyday TV shows to music to casual conversations, it seems like cursing, at least the “not as profane,” words are accepted. But just as, in most cases, it’s unacceptable to dress everyday casual at work, should the use of curse words be held to the same standard of professionalism? Is it justifiable for an employer to think less of an employee who curses, especially if managers curse themselves?

I am interested in your thoughts. Do the survey’s results reflect your company’s views when it comes to cursing? How often, if at all, is profanity used in your office?

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