Category Archives: Team Building

Language in the workplace: should leaders and managers swear?

Some people couldn’t care less about swearing while others are highly offended by it. Bad language can be a divisive topic in it’s own right, but swearing at work seems to cause an even greater split.

There is evidence to suggest swearing in the workplace can have a positive impact on morale and relieve stress therefore boosting productivity, creating a better team spirit and improving bonds between colleagues.

The reason for this is that it enables people to be themselves and express themselves in a way that they naturally would outside of the office. When colleagues see this happening, it helps to break down barriers because you are seeing more of the personality behind the job title.

Others might argue that swearing is just rude, immature, unjustified, and a lazy way of expressing feeling. Of course, context is everything. It can be very easy to interpret swearing as nothing more than straightforward anger and aggression.

While cursing the computer system for crashing on you for the tenth time today may be seen as humorous, using foul language to abuse your boss for increasing your workload will probably paint you in a bad light. 

But what about when bosses and managers swear? Does this make you feel comfortable? These are the people you are supposed to look to for leadership so you want to see someone who is strong and in control and if that means using ‘strong’ language then that’s great, right?

On the other hand, if the person managing your team is always ‘effing and blinding’, doesn’t this display a lack of control? Shouldn’t they be more sensitive to their team members since the negative consequences of not swearing surely outweigh the positives of swearing?

Think back to Barack Obama’s reaction to the BP oil spill when he was said not to care enough about the incident – until he told a reporter he wanted to find out “whose ass to kick”. And it was only recently that Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron was widely criticised for referring to a member of the opposition party as a “muttering idiot.”

In some workplaces, they play it safe by having a zero tolerance policy on swearing in any context, be it humorous, light-hearted or otherwise. Others may want to encourage an open environment, freedom of expression and so forth. Whatever is decided, it’s important to be consistent and practice what is preached.

What are your feelings on swearing in the workplace? How much depends on where you work? Would you speak out if you manager’s language made you uncomfortable?


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How to build a successful team

First of all, let’s establish what a team is. The Collins English Dictionary describes it as a “group of people organised to work together” which sums it up quite well. Would you define it differently?

Numerous experiments have been performed examining team building and group dynamics, one of which was put forward by Dr Bruce Tuckman in 1965. Tuckman’s developmental model consists of four stages which showing the behaviour and performance of teams in the workplace.

The four stages are as follows:

  • Forming – The team is not yet a team, rather a collection of individuals. They start to understand the goals of the team but they are not yet clear on their role within it.
  • Storming – Individuals tend to argue and even get upset about their role as unexpected difficulties arise and it becomes apparent that the task is more complicated than anticipated.
  • Norming – Only now do the individuals begin to work as a team. The ground rules have been established, roles have been defined and there is more focus on the task at hand.
  • Performing – The pinnacle of team building. Individuals understand what the other members of the team are good at and where their weaknesses lie. There is a sense of loyalty and total co-operation to the cause.

Getting from one stage to the next is not always straightforward though; it takes time, effort, perseverance and  patience. Invariably, there will be members of the team who don’t get along, which can be challenging for everyone on the team not just those directly involved.

If there is someone on your team with whom you struggle to get along, consider the following:

  • It might be the role they have to play that you find disagreeable rather than the person behind it.
  • If you have history with that person which may be the cause of the friction, talk it out with them and iron out where any differences lie.
  • Sit down and clarify what your role is what that person and vice versa so you both gain a better understanding of the pressures each of you face.
  • Make sure your focus is on the task rather than the person. Keep it civil and don’t put your energy towards feelings of anger or frustration.

Please click here to visit our website to find out more about how we can help improve your team as well as our other ILM accredited Leadership & Management courses.


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