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Swearing at work: the mixed outcomes of profanity

Yehuda Baruch (School of Management, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)
Rea Prouska (London South Bank University School of Business, London, UK)
Ariane Ollier-Malaterre (Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Montréal, Canada)
Jennifer Bunk (West Chester University, West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 13 March 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore the use and misuse of swearing in the workplace.


Using a qualitative methodology, the authors interviewed 52 lawyers, medical doctors and business executives in the UK, France and the USA.


In contrast to much of the incivility and social norms literatures, the authors find that male and female business executives, lawyers and doctors of all ages admit to swearing. Further, swearing can lead to positive outcomes at the individual, interpersonal and group levels, including stress-relief, communication-enrichment and socialization-enhancement.

Research limitations/implications

An implication for future scholarship is that “thinking out of the box” when exploring emotion-related issues can lead to new insights.

Practical implications

Practical implications include reconsidering and tolerating incivility under certain conditions.


The authors identified a case in which a negative phenomenon reveals counter-intuitive yet insightful results.



Baruch, Y., Prouska, R., Ollier-Malaterre, A. and Bunk, J. (2017), "Swearing at work: the mixed outcomes of profanity", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 149-162.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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