A reader writes:
My office has a loose, casual, wacky, mostly fun vibe. We’re in close quarters in one big room. Things can get raucous. Virtually all of us — including me — swear. We have a newish employee —I’ll call her Jill— and this is her first job out of college; she had zero office experience. Jill sits a few feet from me, as does her supervisor.
Here’s the thing: Jill drops F-bombs ALL DAY, every day, loudly, and much more than anyone else on our team. When she was brand new, she didn’t, but I guess as she heard the occasional “f*ck” from others, she figured she could, too. And now, a couple months in, it just never stops — she hits the double digits, daily, and almost exclusively various forms of “f*ck.” She’s not swearing *at* people, except when she’s talking back to her emails. (Also constant; she bitches about virtually every email she receives. She receives most of her work by email.)
The barrage is making me crazy. I don’t have any power over her. I can’t make her tone it down. Her boss is loath to correct her behavior in general — it took a long time for her to speak to Jill about her overly revealing clothes; and she swears a fair amount, too, so my asking her to intercede isn’t likely to go well. Jill is a nice person, does a good job, and is well liked. But she doesn’t know how to behave in an office environment, even one as loose as ours. I just can’t deal with her mouth anymore. Any ideas?
Try this: “Hey, Jill, can you rein in the F-bombs? We’re all fine with a little profanity here, but it’s jarring to hear it so constantly.”
Frankly, you’d be doing her a favor. She’s picked on the fact that some swearing is okay, but she hasn’t picked up on any nuance, like that a barrage of it is differently from occasional usage. Or that constant swearing at her emails is going to be annoying and disruptive to other people. And it’s very possible that it’s making her look like she has bad judgment to others around her — or will when she goes to her next job or gets a new boss at this one.
I say that as someone who likes to swear. But you’ve got to calibrate it according to time and place.
Plus, even if she weren’t swearing, loudly complaining every time she receives an email is a really bad way to operate in an office. It’s going to make her come across as incredibly negative or unhappy with her job, even if she doesn’t intend it that way. And doing it in her first job out of school? That is really … not good. If you happen to have good rapport with her and think she’d be receptive to advice from you, it would be a kindness to discreetly tell her that.
But all of that aside, if the constant F-bombs and their accompanying negativity are jarring to you, that all by itself is justification for asking her to stop. Even if she weren’t using any profanity but was loudly expressing non-profane vitriol at her email all day, you’d be on solid ground asking her to stop that too. It’s really unpleasant to sit downwind from a steady stream of negativity, and you can ask her to cut it out.