Swearing at work and permissive leadership culture: When anti‐social becomes social and incivility is acceptable

Yehuda Baruch (University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)
Stuart Jenkins (University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Publication date: 4 September 2007



The purpose of this paper is to examine the use of expletives and swearing in the workplace. It proposes to challenge leadership style and to suggest ideas for management best practice.


Case studies and qualitative analysis were applied, methods that fit well for this sensitive topic.


This paper identifies the relevance, and even the importance, of using non‐conventional and sometimes uncivil language in the workplace.

Research limitations/implications

Sample size and representativeness present limitations.

Practical implications

There is a need for leaders to apply, under certain circumstances, a permissive leadership culture. This paper advises leaders on how it may lead to positive consequences.


The paper is an original contribution to an area where research is scarce. A certain originality element stems from the fact that, focusing on swearing language, the paper found it necessary to use swear words (avoiding usage of the explicit form); bearing in mind the purpose of the paper, the paper hopes that this will not cause offence to the readership of the journal.



Baruch, Y. and Jenkins, S. (2007), "Swearing at work and permissive leadership culture: When anti‐social becomes social and incivility is acceptable", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 28 No. 6, pp. 492-507. https://doi.org/10.1108/01437730710780958



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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