How not to let off steam at the of­fice

Eight pre­cepts about when to watch your mouth and con­duct to avoid a faux pas

Ottawa Citizen - - FINANCIAL POST - SHARON SCHWEITZER

Whether it’s your first day on the job, or you’re cel­e­brat­ing many years with a com­pany, it’s im­por­tant to know the cul­ture of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, and how your lan­guage is per­ceived by work­place col­leagues and clients.

Con­sider these tips be­fore de­cid­ing whether it’s okay to loosen your pro­fan­ity fil­ter at work.

Know your or­ga­ni­za­tional cul­ture.

Pro­fan­ity in the work­place is a mat­ter of cul­ture. It may vary based on pol­icy, both writ­ten and un­writ­ten, as well as lead­er­ship. Ob­serve and lis­ten care­fully. It may be 100 per cent un­pro­fes­sional in some of­fices, while other of­fices may have curs­ing em­bed­ded in their con­duct. Noth­ing is a se­cret. Even af­ter hours, when team­mates are re­lax­ing, en­joy­ing a drink ca­su­ally and hav­ing a good time, watch your mouth. Re­mem­ber, en vino ver­i­tas trans­lates to “in wine there is truth.” Ex­pect any com­ments made to be shared with the pow­ers that be. An af­ter­hours event is just an ex­ten­sion of the pro­fes­sional work day.

Col­leagues who curse are still per­ceived as less in­tel­li­gent.

Cur­rent re­search finds that al­though pro­fan­ity doesn’t ap­pear to be an in­di­ca­tor of in­tel­li­gence level, peo­ple still per­ceive col­leagues who curse more neg­a­tively. Al­though there may not be a proven cor­re­la­tion be­tween pro­fan­ity use and in­tel­lect, it’s a mat­ter of per­cep­tion. Word choice can be a del­i­cate task. Us­ing emo­tional words that are pro­fane or vul­gar cre­ates an emo­tional re­sponse in team­mates. When you re­frain from curs­ing, you are per­ceived as more ar­tic­u­late, ma­ture, pleas­ant and pro­fes­sional.

Keep it in check 24/7.

Whether you are a man­ager or an in­tern, lead by ex­am­ple. Lead­ers will no­tice the dif­fer­ence and may in­vite you to af­ter-hours events to act as an am­bas­sador for the or­ga­ni­za­tion. It can’t hurt to lean to­ward a more pro­fes­sional and for­mal pre­sen­ta­tion of your­self.

Be a brand am­bas­sador with cus­tomers.

Clients lis­ten and won­der if they can take you into their board room. Will you em­bar­rass them in front of their CEO or their board? You rep­re­sent your or­ga­ni­za­tion, so em­body the brand at its best.

Con­trol your emo­tional re­ac­tions.

Pro­fan­ity is used when peo­ple be­come up­set and feel the need to re­claim power over a con­ver­sa­tion. Re­spond, don’t re­act. Re­spond­ing is lis­ten­ing to what was said and for­mu­lat­ing an ar­tic­u­late an­swer. Re­act­ing is your ego try­ing to gain con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion. Quell your urge to lash out; col­lect your­self and re­spond pro­fes­sion­ally. Re­spond­ing af­ter ac­tive lis­ten­ing also helps build trust through open and non-judg­men­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Mis­takes hap­pen. The more im­por­tant part is how you han­dle it af­ter­ward. Some peo­ple opt for lev­ity and brush­ing it off lightly. You can never go wrong with own­ing up to your faults. Apol­o­gize with a sin­cere, “Please for­give me” or “Ex­cuse my potty mouth — it slipped.” Be­ing gen­uine and us­ing lev­ity in your re­sponse leads to au­di­ence for­give­ness.

Fol­low the lead, but use dis­cre­tion.

When in doubt, mir­ror and match the ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour of lead­er­ship. This works when seek­ing to fit into or­ga­ni­za­tional cul­ture. Gauge your be­hav­iour on spec­trums of per­sonal com­fort and of­fice cul­ture. Su­per­vi­sors set the tone but stay within your com­fort zone. Be a model of be­hav­iour. In times of stress, demon­strate in­tegrity with care­fully cho­sen lan­guage. Fi­nan­cial Post Sharon Schweitzer is an in­ter­na­tional business eti­quette ex­pert, au­thor and the founder of Ac­cess to Cul­ture.

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