There are many problems with profanity. It’s jarring. It’s potentially offensive. It can seem a little familiar. But there are many wonderful things about profanity, too. It’s jarring. It’s potentially offensive.
It can seem a little familiar… and unhinged… and manic. But there are times – in business and in life – when unhinged and manic are exactly what you need to be. But before we figure out how to utilise profanity, let’s figure out why it’s so powerful.
According to Melissa Mohr, author of the fascinating book Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, we all have profane thoughts – it’s just that our brains typically knock them down before we say them.
Consider the 10% to 30% percent of Tourette’s syndrome patients who suffer from coprolalia, the uncontrollable utterance of obscene words.
Related: This Advice Is For You, Smart-Ass
Mohr writes: “Many people have such thoughts, but their prefrontal cortex – the executive area of their brains – overrides and shuts them down.
“The current theory is that people with Tourette’s syndrome have a problem in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia, which plays a role in making choices among several actions and inhibiting certain motor functions. The executive areas of their brains can fight against their limbic urges for a time… but eventually the lower brain wins.”
So it’s not that people with coprolalia have more profane thoughts; it’s that they’re unable to prevent them from being spoken. Profanities aren’t added to our thoughts – they’re there all along. When we utter a profanity, we’re not adding to our language, we’re simply not suppressing it.
Profanities represent honest, authentic thoughts, and hearing them is a powerful, memorable thing. As Mohr points out, when US college professor Timothy Jay gave subjects a list of 36 ‘taboo’ and ‘non-taboo’ words, the top five the subjects recalled were from the first category.
The good kind of profanity
Not that many people want to go on record saying it, but there is a good kind of profanity.
Mikael Berner, co-founder and CEO of US-based app company Mountain View, says of his company, “We don’t have a hard and fast rule about swearing, but we do have a hard and fast rule about being respectful to others. Swearing can express surprise and delight, and it can also be derogatory – and if it’s used in that latter fashion, it’s unacceptable.”
But then he told us a story about a business he had worked at where his manager was adored by the employees.
“He was a really good leader, and he served customers well. For some reason swearing was part of the culture. I don’t know how they never managed to make it seem derogatory, but I never experienced it that way.”
The reason it didn’t seem derogatory is that it probably wasn’t derogatory. This is the good kind of profanity. And what good profanity can uncover is, well, goodness, not badness. This is profanity spoken out of joy, excitement, comfort. Even if it’s spoken out of frustration, its goal is to bring people closer and get them excited.
The test is: Are you smiling when you say it? Even if you’re not smiling on the outside, are you smiling on the inside? If there’s no smiling, then what you’re getting involved in is menace.
The bad kind
The bad kind is very, very bad. The fact that you’re using profanity is almost incidental; it’s the tone of your voice that’s most important – whether you sound like you’re angry.
If you’re attempting to bluster around and freak people out, profanity is only going to accentuate the fact that you’re out of control. And out of control may work in the short-term to shut people down or motivate them, but in the long-term things will break down. The awful residue of angry profanity isn’t worth the momentary relief.
This is why most people say not to use it. Ever. Even the guy who wrote a book about it says not to do it, mainly because of the historical volatility of the words themselves. Says Jesse Sheidlower, editor of The F-Word: “The important thing is how words are used, not how they have been used historically.
“Things may become less offensive over time, as with almost everything. But any racial or ethnic or religious term referring to a specific group has become vastly more offensive over time. If I were running a company, I would always take a cautious approach.”
Here’s a cautious approach: Don’t do it. Unless.
Unless what you’re saying could be made funnier, more entertaining, more memorable, more honest, more authentic. Because when profanity is used the right way, what you’re granting is honesty and friendship.
For your professional associates, profanity is a window into what you’re actually thinking. When you’re forcefully making a point via the employment of an expletive, you’re bringing people closer to you and letting them in.
But what does the lawyer say?
We spoke with Michael Zweig, partner at New York’s Loeb & Loeb, to find out the legal issues related to profanity in the workplace.
What are the possible legal issues surrounding profanity in a work environment?
You make yourself a target for future litigation if you know an individual is highly sensitised to certain types of speech, and it’s repeated. If a particular individual is subjected to speech on a repeated basis after making it known that it is offensive to them, it could be regarded then as personal and directed at that person, as opposed to the environment in general.
We’d never do that. Mostly we just yell out profanities due to excitement.
With entrepreneurs it may be an open office environment, and someone may have a primal scream from their desk that may be disruptive or inappropriate, but it would not reasonably be seen as being directed at a particular employee.
If, on the other hand, you’re using sexualised words, frequent usages of those words and behaviour may be taken as sexual harassment or creation of a hostile environment.
Use common sense.
Bottom line? Profanity need not be excised from the workplace completely.
Key Technical Matters
Everyone has profane thoughts. It’s just that most of the time, our brain’s prefrontal cortex shuts them down. In our professional lives, the prefrontal cortex is working very, very hard.
When employing a string of profanities, it’s best not to jump up and down, Yosemite Sam’s communication approach notwithstanding.
- It’s okay to say frickin’. It’s okay to say frackin’. It’s not okay to say frickin’ fracking.’ Unless of course you’re talking about fracking, the process by which rock layers are fractured by pressurised liquid in order to release petroleum or gas, in which case frickin’ frackin’ is the funniest possible way to refer to the subject.
- Dadgummit! works only if you’re from the Deep South.
- Curses! Works only if you’re from the 19th century.
- $#&*% works only in cartoons. “Dollar sign, pound sign, ampersand, asterisk, percentage” is not an effective profanity when spoken aloud.
- Either say it or don’t say it. ‘What the F?’ No. ‘You gotta be S-ing me.’ No. ‘When the K did you get here?’ No. (What does K stand for anyway?)
- What the hey? Absolutely not.
- What the H-E-double hockey sticks? We’re not even going to dignify that with a [expletive deleted] response.
Disclaimer No. 1:
This column will assume that your every professional move is not determined by a team of lawyers who are advising you that any use of profanity — especially ‘sexualised’ profanity — could result in a lawsuit.
Disclaimer No. 2:
The writer of this column works in an office in which profanity isn’t frowned upon. Mainly because it’s fun and, sometimes, funny. (For instance, there are two ways to say, “Hand me that stapler,” and only one is amusing.)
Disclaimer No. 3:
If you’re reading this column to find out whether or not to use profanity around customers, the answer is: No [expletive deleted] way.
How To Listen To Your Employees Better So You Can Improve Your Business
Create ‘Hero relationships’ with your workers so you foster a team environment that helps fix mistakes and makes your business stronger.
Years ago, I was in a business where we were shipping product constantly to get things out on time: “Get the stuff out the door so we can make revenue and meet our quotas now.” With our Operational Excellence seemingly hanging in the balance, we did what we were told.
We forgot about our dedication to quality and our promise to do the best for our customers. We also forgot about what it was doing to our people, from the top of the organisation to the floor. Concerns about what was going on were acknowledged, but never pursued. Head down, pedal to the metal, nothing to see here.
We’ve all lost our way like this at some point. The question is, does anyone have the courage to speak up, and will anyone listen before it brings the culture and the company down? Our company culture had been good up to this point. We were a “Good Co.” But no one was listening to our people anymore. We were now “Bottom Liners,” and if we kept going, we would soon be sliding toward “Zero.”
Then we had a company meeting with the CEO, and I watched as the senior leaders turned on their people and told the CEO what they thought he wanted to hear. They spoke about how great things were going and how everyone was stepping up. That’s when one of our people – an hourly worker – had the courage to speak up. He said things weren’t great — that we were breaking our brand promise and cheating our customers:
“We’re not doing the right things, and we might be putting a product out that’s not quite ready or not checked for quality in packaging and shipping. Is that OK if I raise my hand and say, ‘No, that’s not acceptable’?”
Related: The Value Of Employee Growth
The senior leaders were shocked, and I wondered what the CEO was going to say. He had to be surprised, given this was the first he had heard of this. I wondered: Would he be willing to listen, really listen to what this person had to say? “Absolutely, that’s OK,” our CEO said, looking around the room at everyone but focusing hard on the leaders. “Does that mean we’re going to lose revenue and make customers unhappy short term? Yes. But we’re going to fix this. And in the end, we’ll get a better customer for any we lose, because we did the right thing.”
Our CEO was right. The company took a hit but recovered within the year to achieve record revenue and profits. And what if we hadn’t recovered? Well, at least it wouldn’t be because we failed to do the right thing and listened.
What can you do to listen? Start by doing what that hourly worker had the guts to do:
Speak up and ask questions. Get your butt out of your chair, walk over to a desk, and ask a question to someone’s face.
Not a demand, like, “Where’s the report I asked for?” or a yes/ no question. One that opens people up and requires a thoughtful answer – the more personal and less work-driven, the better. Anything that shows you care about their well-being. Maybe try to find out one thing you don’t know about them:
- What did you do this weekend?
- Who’s that in the picture on your desk?
- Where do you like to eat dinner when you go out?
Then listen to the answer and ask at least two more follow-up questions before saying anything about you. This is what’s called “active listening.” But it only works if you stop thinking about yourself and genuinely care about others – and let them ask questions of you, too.
A big part of listening is asking questions to understand. You want your people to do that, so you need to model this behaviour, which is why I’m always happy for my people to ask good, thoughtful questions when we launch a new program so they can execute better.
Related: Dealing With Employee Misconduct
The more you do that, the more you not only show your people you care but also connect and begin to form real relationships with them. When an employee feels that connection, it makes them want to work harder to serve you and deliver better results. By listening to others, you also learn to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to ask bigger and more important questions, like:
- What does this potential customer want?
- How can I help my boss do more?
- What is the other party in our joint venture or partnership trying to accomplish?
Of course, questioning can cross a line. Leaders can never tolerate questions designed to undermine authority, prove what they don’t know, or make excuses. I’m intolerant when my people keep questioning why the company is doing what we’re doing and attacking it, as if I didn’t consider all sides before making the decision. Any question like that sounds like it’s really saying, “Jeff, you know that makes you an idiot, right?” is the worst kind of entitlement: Thinking you know better.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Make Your Team Feel Safe Bringing You Problems
Advertising an ‘open door’ isn’t enough.Team members need to truly believe that you’ll hear them out and take action.
Plenty of leaders say they offer an “open door policy” to encourage employees to bring them problems or concerns. Many of these leaders also ask that employees voicing concerns come prepared with solutions in order to take responsibility for the problem rather than just “dump” or “vent.”
But employees in those scenarios may get the idea that it’s unacceptable to raise problems in the business if they don’t know how to fix them. In fact, in a study of a phenomenon they dubbed “employee silence,” professors from New York University’s Stern School of Business demonstrated that 85 percent of their respondents felt they couldn’t raise important issues to their management at all.
Is this happening at your company? If you’re not regularly hearing about your team members’ challenges and frustrations, you can’t conclude that all is well: In fact, you might be missing out on vital information that could help you make crucial decisions about your business. You might also end up losing employees who would otherwise be able to make significant contributions.
The good news is that there are ways to reduce these risks. Try the following techniques to encourage employees to speak their minds and feel confident that you’ll take their comments into account.
Tell them why you need to hear from them as a matter of business
Emphasise that your openness isn’t because you’re nice or merely want to placate them. Instead, explain that you recognise the downside of not understanding employees’ opinions or acknowledging the risks of having a disengaged workforce, i.e., high turnover.
Research backs up this concern: A Harvard Business Review study by James R. Detert and Ethan R. Burris found that”
“When employees can voice their concerns freely, organisations see increased retention and stronger performance.”
Teach employees to use code words
These will signal to you when they’re coming in with an important matter and want you to hear them out. For example, many of my clients now tell one other to “put their seatbelts on” to signal that they need to have a tough conversation and want to cue the other party that it’s important to keep cool and maintain an open mind on the issue.
Research from Fierce Conversations and Quantum Workplace found that although about half of employees studied didn’t speak up regularly, the employees who always or almost always “speak their minds reported being more engaged at work than those who said they never or almost never did so.”
A mutually agreed-on process for ensuring attentiveness goes a long way toward helping employees speak up.
Go and seek them out
If you haven’t heard from crucial individuals for a while, or you suspect there’s an issue brewing no one has talked to you about, create the forum for a discussion yourself.
This doesn’t have to mean summoning people to your office. One of the CEOs I work with says, “I don’t know what I don’t know,” and periodically walks the floor, chatting with everyone and lingering longer and probing more deeply with influencers and opinion leaders to learn what’s really going on.
Show that you act on their input
Refer to times when you took someone’s opinion and were able to improve a situation. Be explicit, so that the participants and other employees can tell you mean it. You could say something like, “Once Sally told me what was going on, it got me thinking. So I reevaluated that supplier’s performance, and asked them to improve their level of service. Now we’ve got a better deal.”
Use a meeting and report structure
One of my clients was slow about taking action on employee concerns. As a result, her employees stopped informing her of problems altogether, and instead ratcheted up the conflict among themselves.
This outcome matched the findings of the Journal of Business Ethics study, When Employees Stop Talking and Start Fighting, whose authors wrote that:
“Negative consequences are particularly likely to occur when employees perceive the opportunity to voice opinions to be … given by managers who do not have the intention to actually consider employee input.”
To correct the problem, this leader started holding weekly meetings to ask employees what was new or bothersome and to make public lists of the issues that needed attention.
Create an advisory group or process
Another of my clients knew he wasn’t hearing enough candid feedback from his team. He created an advisory council that collected concerns from the entire group and met with the leader quarterly to share them. This felt less risky personally to the individual employees and helped create a consistent feedback loop.
Overall, employees may always have some nervousness about raising tough topics to their leaders. But if you take the time and trouble to make clear that you care about their feedback and intend to take it seriously, they’ll be much more likely to share their concerns and deepen their commitment to you and the company.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Reduce Turnover Of Hourly Workers With These 7 Tips
Employee turnover can be costly for businesses that rely on hourly workers.
Hourly workers play a significant role in today’s economy – from running operations at restaurants, to transporting goods from one place to another, to getting people to their destinations. Companies from Amazon, Uber and Instacart to local retail, food and logistics businesses are raising wages and offering better benefits in order to attract and retain hourly workers. At the same time, the demand for hourly workers has increased significantly, as the number of job openings in the United States has exceeded the number of job seekers.
At the same time, companies face the challenge of high turnover of hourly workers for their businesses. In a survey of 1,200 hourly workers by FSG and Hart Research Associates, the majority of respondents wanted to leave their current positions within less than 12 months. The average cost of a turnover in the company includes the cost of interviewing and screening, the cost of on-boarding, cost of training and lost productivity and engagement of current employees, which can be significant.
Therefore, it is important for business owners and entrepreneurs to recognise the importance of engaging hourly workers, to reduce turnover and to increase productivity. Therefore, in this publication, I hope to offer some tips to reduce the turnover of hourly workers for your business.
1. Start with a great onboarding process
Onboarding is a prime opportunity for employers to win the hearts and minds of new employees. It is important to have a well-structured onboarding process to provide employees with the information to succeed in their work, and to also integrate them into the culture of the company. The few weeks before employees start and after employees join is the best time to engage with new hourly workers, as they are most receptive to new structure, processes and ideas.
As an employer, it is important to come up with a well-structure onboarding process to share the values, mission and processes of the company and to ensure that each manager reinforces them. Hourly workers who experienced a robust onboarding process are more likely to stay with the company for a longer period of time and also exhibit higher productivity.
2. Offer professional development opportunities
Many hourly workers may only have finished high school or community colleges and are often eager to learn new skills, obtain new knowledge and broaden their horizons. One example is Starbucks’ College Achievement Plan, which was introduced in June 2014 in partnership with Arizona State University, to create an opportunity for all eligible employees in United States to earn their bachelor’s degree with full tuition covered.
On a smaller scale, local businesses can offer mentoring sessions with managers, or provide opportunities for hourly workers to go to community classes on sales, marketing or communication skills. They could also turn to online courses such as Coursera or Khan Academy, where employees will be able to access resources from leading universities at minimal or no cost.
3. Offer flexibility in work scheduling
With the growth of on-demand companies like Uber, DoorDash, Instacart and more, it has become increasingly important for companies to be able to offer the flexibility that the gig economy presents. Uber drivers are able to have complete flexibility in their schedule with a few clicks on the mobile app, and hence the trend has evolved that employees value their control over their time allocation. Therefore, business owners and entrepreneurs should adopt scheduling software to increase efficiency and allow employees to readily select the time slots that may best fit their weekly schedule, increasing loyalty and engagement.
4. Work toward inclusion, not just diversity
Hourly workers come from many different backgrounds and having a more inclusive work environment and hiring for a more diverse team will benefit the company significantly. In order to attract more talent and reduce turnover, it is important to work toward both inclusion and diversity to better engage hourly workers.
One of the leaders in this is Gap, which created a program called “This Way Ahead,” which helps younger workers who face employment challenges. Coming up with programs and career initiatives focused on a wider range of people is also an effective talent strategy for companies as different demographics of workers may have lower turnover rate, and hence be a better source of talent pipeline.
5. Communicate with your team by having periodic check-ins
It is important for managers and owners to have periodic check-ins with their employees of all levels and backgrounds. Hourly workers increasingly seek engagement and having a clear line of communication is essential. Many hourly workers are not satisfied with their work because they do not feel supported or recognised in their workplace. In a Randstad report, 27 percent of employees surveyed said that a lack of recognition is what causes they to leave the company. The more engaged workers are, the more committed they will, in turn reducing the turnover of hourly workers for companies.
6. Provide a clear path to progression and promotion
Local businesses should have an employee of the month in place to increase competition, to motivate employees and to reward the ones who excel. Hourly workers want to have a clear path to progression and promotion, and there should be a clear career road map. In the case of a restaurant, hourly workers should have the opportunity to progress from a server, to team lead, to manager and to other functions within the company.
Employers can further break down the different role hierarchies to allow more space for employees to progress in their work. Companies can also tie annual bonuses to the performance of employees, and incentive schemes like this can greatly motivate hourly workers.
High turnover for a business is detrimental and can significantly impact the morale, productivity and operations of any company. As the competition for good hourly workers increases, it has become ever more important for companies to focus on increasing engagement for their entry-level workers, to further motivate them and to reduce the turnover for workers. Companies need to take a more structured approach to communicating with entry-level workers, to better onboard them and to better reward them. Lower turnover will lead to a higher output for businesses, and benefits created from reducing turnover will surely outweigh the costs and resources allocated to it.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Company Posts2 weeks ago
Changing The Shape Of What’s Possible
Entrepreneur Today1 week ago
3 Stealthy Tax Hikes Payroll Managers And Employees Need To Take Note Of
Entrepreneur Today2 weeks ago
How SMEs Can Stand Out From The Crowd
Entrepreneur Today1 week ago
SMEs: Staying On The Right Side Of The Taxman
Company Posts3 days ago
Executive Education Geared For Industry 4.0
Entrepreneur Today1 week ago
4 Dangers Of Business Under-insurance
Entrepreneur Today2 weeks ago
Inspiring A New Generation Of Learning – Education As A Basic Human Right