13 November 2007

Is It Okay If HR Says F*** (...oops, almost said the F-Word...)

As I always say, HR is supposed to represent the company. So saying "fuck" is a big no-no! Really?

To Cuss Or Not To Cuss?

Deb over at 8 hours & a lunch made me think about this. I already linked to her post How Sensitive Should HR Be? (where she dropped the f*** bomb. Just "f***", mind you, she's a decent girl!) and she even left a comment on this blog (this means a lot to a rising star (heh?), wanna-be blogger! But like one of my role models recently said: "It takes a while to build a blog up").

The Fucking Bleeps!

So you have MTV or various Gordon Ramsay shows [1] where people are using all these dirty words but you can't hear them because they're bleeped out. But you know exactly what they mean. Or, if "u'r inglesh ain't that guhd", you assume it's just shit and fuck. Although when you have three bleeps in a row, it gets a bit hard to translate.

Back to the initial question

But the question was, should HR use these ugly words or not? I'm a "find the right balance" guy. I believe in wrong or right, but in day-to-day situations, I also believe that what's black today can be white tomorrow.

If your conviction is that cussing is always wrong, then don't ever say "shit". If somebody just told you that the CEO was addicted to heroin, the CFO was under investigation for insider trading and that right now the FBI was looking through all your personnel files, then stay true to yourself and just say "oops".

White can mean to be polite and to choose your words wisely. But in some private discussions with employees, spicing up your message with a few strong words can help the communication. After all, outside of work, most of your employees wouldn't say "Oh phooey, I burned the darn muffins." [2]

Be Wise!

So, as always, it depends on the situation. During a job interview you wouldn't say "this company is fucking cool" unless the candidate is borderline comatose from nervousness and you're absolutely sure that this statement will help him relax. If you're working in ER (=employee relations, not emergency room, although sometimes the lines can get a bit blurry), then you probably know your customers quite well. So saying "I damn well understand what you're going through" might help. Remember the "darn muffins"?
QED.

My Theory

Cussing is often bleeped out on US TV (not so much on British programs, though). This may seem to confirm the theory that Americans are rude hypocrites while the British are cultured, decent and polite.
But this explanation just seems too easy...

My Theory. Now really...

My theory is that it's just a cultural-linguistical problem. Somehow the US culture has developed these F-, S-, L- and whatever words.

In French and German there are no S- or C-words. Either you say "Scheisse" or "Mist", or you say "con" or "idiot". There's nothing in between. No F*bleep*k or buhl**shh***i*d**.

My recommendation

If you want to be rude, then spell it out! Say the words. Period! (".")
Otherwise, use polite words.
And if you're convinced of what you say, then you won't need any strong language.

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[1] Gordon Ramsay is a world-class chef who owns several restaurants all over the world and hosts a few TV shows (Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, etc.)
[2] this is a quote from the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight with Samuel L. Jackson and Geena Davis. They don't use "pure HR speak" all the time.

1 comment:

HR Wench said...

You would be surprised what is allowed on US tv these days. I remember not so long ago when The Simpsons first came out the show was considered very crass. Now The Simpsons is the tamest thing on! Same thing with radio - dj's used to be really careful with words and subject matter. Now the subject matter caution is out the window although they are still a bit careful on some words.