Cursing Coworkers

Dear DW,
My boss and some coworkers often use language in the workplace I find offensive. How do I best manage the situation without bringing about a backlash?
I’m Really Not a Prude

Dear Not a Prude,
Coarse language in the workplace can be challenging to address. Someone may find use of the “D” word or even the “F” word fine, but you may find either objectionable. Many people don’t find the same words offensive, because they hear these terms used on TV and can think they are OK to use in the workplace. Therefore it is important not to make a value judgment.

If a coworker or supervisor crosses what you consider a line, says Oneida D. Blagg, PHR, a member of the SHRM expert panel on diversity and inclusion, take the person aside for a one-on-one conversation.
Say to her or him, “When you use these words”—you can write them down if you don’t feel comfortable saying them out loud—”I feel uncomfortable. I know you want good outcomes, but I am not able to be as effective as I could be, because I find the environment uncomfortable, as the use of certain language hinders our relationship.” Deliver this message as calmly and confidently as you can. Then brainstorm a better way to communicate that makes both of you comfortable.

If your coworker or supervisor continues to use such language, you may have to go to the human resource department to get advice. In addition, know your rights—check your company policy. It might address respectful language.

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