Allowing employees to swear at work can help them to release stress, new research has revealed.
A study carried out by academics at the University of East Anglia (UEA), which looked into the positive impact of non-conventional and uncivil language at work, found that regular use of expletives in the office can reinforce solidarity amongst staff, enabling them to express their feelings and develop social relationships.
Professor Yehuda Baruch, professor of management at UEA, said the aim of the study was to challenge leadership styles and suggest ideas for best practice. "Employees use swearing on a continuous basis, but not necessarily in a negative, abusive manner. Swearing was as a social phenomenon to reflect solidarity and enhance group cohesiveness, or as a psychological phenomenon to release stress."
He added that the study indicates that leaders sometimes need to "think differently and be open to intriguing ideas".
However, Professor Baruch also warned that abusive or offensive swearing should be greatly discouraged if it leads to higher levels of stress, and should not be used in front of customers, for example.
"Certainly in most scenarios, in particular in the presence of customers or senior staff, profanity must be seriously discouraged or banned," he said.
"However, our study suggested that in many cases, taboo language serves the needs of people for developing and maintaining solidarity, and as a mechanism to cope with stress. Banning it could backfire."
He added: "Managers need to understand how their staff feel about swearing. The challenge is to master the 'art' of knowing when to turn a blind eye to communication that does not meet their own standards."