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Cursing in Construction: Tradition or Damaging?

Cursing in Construction: Tradition or Damaging?

"Swearing is industry language. For as long as we're alive it's not going to change. You've got to be boisterous to get results." - Gordon Ramsay

By Gordon Ramsay's standards cursing is the only way to get results in the restaurant industry. If you've watched a single episode of Hell's Kitchen or Kitchen Nightmares you are very familiar with his deep love of colorful words and heightened volume in order to get his point across to the somewhat innocent bystanders (occasionally they are well deserved...). The construction industry like the restaurant biz is fast past, results-driven, and under tight deadlines, all elements that can get emotions stirring and account for loss of cool. Specifically when it comes to leadership, such as a Ramsay individual, it can actually demean the image of that person and cause a lack of respect. Coarse language can also lead the listener to tune out the speaker which in turn causes the message to not be internalized, understood, or acknowledged. The last thing you want as a Project Manager or Superintendent is for your team to lose vital information pertaining to a project because you gave instructions or orders sprinkled with f-bombs and expletives.  

"Profane swearing never did any man any good. No man in the richer or wiser or happier for it." - Robert Lowth

No one is saying you have to be the Will Smith or Jerry Seinfeld of construction. The occasional swear word can absolutely be tolerated, but there should be a more conscious approach to when and how these words are used and who they are directed towards. For example, you have a client who themselves engage in expletives when speaking with you in a joking manner and to relate you do the same, no problem there right? Well now you have a negative situation that has occurred on site and the same client is not happy and now uses those swear words to show you how unhappy they are and you meet them back with the same rhetoric, still ok? Most likely this is going to leave a bad taste in your client's mouth regardless of your previous relationship. Remember coarse language is a sign of disrespect, you are basically saying I have no regard for you and can speak to you anyway I like. While it may not be right for your client to speak with you in such a derogatory manner as well, they unfortunately write the checks. As quoted from our recent political race "When they go low, we go high."

"Profanity is the inevitable linguistic crutch of the inarticulate." - Author Unknown

Advancing in the construction industry can and should also occur in our communication skills. A lot of professionals are college educated individuals who are setting the example for the future generation. Every construction leader should reconsider how they address others who have upset them, as negative feelings can fester and cause even your best employee to start job hunting. An apology goes a long way and should be given if a situation does become too heated and foul language is used. Most users of expletives are covering up for their own weaknesses, insecurities, and lack of creative ideas to inspire and motivate. Realize the importance of every individual in your organization, if you feel an f-bomb firing up, step away and take a moment to compose yourself before addressing the problem again. Be a linguistic leader.

Trying to be a great construction leader takes a lot of work. If you have the "four letter" word habit would you kick it in order to be that great leader? You may be amazed at the results and how interactions among your employees, co-workers and clients change. Now get to f***ing work.

October 31, 2016