Great Leaders Have Potty Mouths

Cursing like a sailor—strategically, of course—can rally your team.

By TalentQ Editors

A doctor swearing in front of a patient probably won’t fly, and neither will an attorney cussing in court. But in certain situations, workplace profanity could boost morale, suggests new research in the Journal of Managerial Psychology.

While using harsh language to intimidate coworkers was linked with negative outcomes in the study, dropping friendly f-bombs in one-on-one conversations was shown to relieve stress and bolster at-work relationships.

What’s more, a boss’s salty language in front of larger groups of employees can foster a sense of mutual trust and cohesion, especially if the swearing was used humorously, not aggressively.

Not every c-suite executive should channel Ludacris during company-wide conference calls; you’re always safer avoiding foul language. But the study argues a zero-tolerance policy toward swearing at work may be overkill.

In some instances, an expletive could be just what you need to cut employee tension, boost feelings of trust, or provide some levity, found the study authors.

Did one of your people close a big deal, or nail a presentation? Hand out a high-five and a “f#@k yeah!” to make his day.