Vulgarity in the Workplace

Hey There Readers,

One thing that seems to have changed in the many years I’ve worked in the business place – it has gotten more vulgar. And I don’t mean the vulgarity in the back room where the men are being idiots. (I think in most places, this has gotten better.) I mean that in our regular business communications, we’ve all become a bit more free and open with our usage of vulgarities.

Some people apologize for it immediately after, like it was some kind of slip. (It wasn’t.) For some, you just expect it because that’s how they talk. Maybe it was warranted because it’s the only right way to express the frustrations of the moment. Maybe it is warranted because the situation is just that bad.

We’ve all done it – you know, the same way that younger people in the workplace tend to overshare their personal lives. It’s just a thing we deal with now.

But, just the other day, I was on a call with a client and the client was irate. He let my team know just how irate he was… You know what I was thinking the whole time, “Wow, what an asshole.

That got me thinking about this blog post. What’s wrong with us?

First, let me say this: the client had the right to be angry about the situation they were in. I firmly believe that I would have been equally irate if I were in a similar situation. That’s where the similarities end. This client proceeded to unleash all sorts of accusations, threats, and vulgarities at the people on the call.

For the record, the client’s problem was not the fault of my company and team. (Even if it were the fault of someone at my company, you can’t treat people the way he did.)

Anyway, as I listened to this man go on, I realized a few things. The main one was that I would never be able to respect this person. If I can’t respect him, then how can his own employees? How long before they decide to move on because of toxic management? My next thought was about how much damage he did to the relationship. As work for the client progresses, does he honestly believe anyone will go above and beyond for him anymore? Every little thing will need to be documented and accounted for. Every little thing will need approval and signature.

I certainly won’t extend any offers to help beyond the bare minimum required contractually. I can’t. You can’t treat people like that and expect to command any sort of respect. It’s one thing to be vulgar, it’s something wholly different to launch those vulgarities at the people you expect to be working for you.

As to how the people on my side responded, well, the main person that responded was a lot softer than I think I could have been. He apologized and called the client “sir”. I stayed on mute.

I stayed on mute because I’m not above throwing vulgarities back at someone, client or not. In my eyes, the minute the client started acting the way he did – this was no longer a formal business call. I guess it’s lucky for me that I wasn’t asked any questions or asked to speak because who knows what would have happened!

I should note that I wouldn’t have apologized for anything or called the client sir. But… I doubt I would have launched into anything too vulgar. I’m not above it, but I also need to keep on being employed. Plus, it wouldn’t have helped. I mean, it would have felt good…

So, let me wrap this up and say something meaningful. A gift from me to you, Mr. Irate Client.

When you’re angry and looking for someone to blame, remember that you are pointing the finger at people too. People that care enough about their jobs and the work they do to call you “sir” even when you’re a fucking asshole. People that care enough to continue to show up and put forth their best effort even though you’re still there. People that are doing the work you didn’t want to do. Maybe you should temper that anger with a little respect.

Oh, and by the way, these were people that didn’t respond to you by throwing out all the reasons why the fault was actually with you and your team. That is something I absolutely would have done, consequences be damned.

Thanks for reading,


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