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Who Hired Pottymouth?

Everybody's talking dirty these days. Is cursing out of control in your workplace?

You've heard it all before: the "goddamn" printer jam, the "f-ing" fax machine, the "asshole" who took the last danish. Colorful language has always been part of the workplace, but employers and employees are increasingly unleashing strings of profanities reminiscent of a George Carlin show. It seems that, frankly, most people don't give a damn about what they say at work.

What's behind the surge in swearing? Some say "desk rage," the latest incarnation of Americans' apparent inability to remain calm. In a recent national survey by Scripps Howard News Service, 88 percent of respondents believed people are more likely to express anger now than ever before. "There's an escalation in rage," agrees workplace communication consultant Bill Gorden. "People don't know how to respectfully disagree."

James O'Connor, author of Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing (Three Rivers Press), believes the increase in workplace swearing coincides with the institution of casual dress codes and the influx of younger workers. "Most swearing is [by] young people working at high-tech jobs or dotcoms," contends O'Connor. "Casual dress leads to lazy language."

If your employees' mouths are filthy, there's at least one tried and true deterrent: a bar of soap.

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This article was originally published in the September 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Who Hired Pottymouth?.

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