The Cursing Controversy: Does it Belong in a Business Setting?
by Amelia Oates
Anyone who has ever made any form of contact with Team KSA knows one thing is true, in this office we curse, or as Katie would say, “I curse like a trucker.”
Now although cursing is part of the culture in our workplace and we have no problems with it, we understand what we consider to be normal does not translate to all professional settings, and can instead be considered offensive.
Cursing is a part of what makes Team KSA unique. KSA itself has been known to stand for “Kick Some Ass”, Katie frequently reinforces the idea to “own your sh*t” and we have “oh sh*t moments”. It’s a part of who we are and embracing it makes us more authentic. In our eyes there is nothing wrong with that.
Katie found herself in a tricky situation at the beginning of this year while preparing a presentation for an AMP-RI event, which stands for the Association of Marketing Professionals in Rhode Island. She asked the office “do I curse or do I censor myself?” Given the audience, Katie knew cursing would be a rather controversial move, because some people would love it and some people would definitely be offended.
We all found ourselves in agreement she should quite literally “own her sh*t” and do it exactly the way she felt most comfortable. Cursing is part of who she is and she should give the presentation authentically. If people didn’t like it, they didn’t like it and that is just the way things are sometimes. She opened up the presentation with a quick disclaimer that she does in fact “curse like a trucker,” and she did not intend to offend anyone, it is just who she is.
You cannot please everyone. Katie cursed and it may have offended people, but if she were to not curse she would have had to hold herself back from being herself. It is also important to consider if people don’t like who you are when you are being yourself, then those people are probably not the kind of people you should be working with. You shouldn’t have to curb yourself just to please your client. It’s also important to consider the fact the people who you should be working with won’t mind and will appreciate you for being who you truly are.
KSA believes you should be who you are regardless of whether or not other people are offended by it; however, this does not mean we think everyone shares our opinion. So we pose the question to you, do you think cursing is okay or not?
We think this is an important question to be asking, especially as cursing is slowly securing a place in modern culture. Take Gary Vaynerchuk for example. Vaynerchuk is an entrepreneur, author, and speaker who is well-known for his digital marketing and media work at his company VaynerMedia in New York City. If you have a problem with the occasional curse in conversation, I would not recommend putting yourself in a situation where you have to hear Vaynerchuk speak, because quite literally every third word out of his mouth is a f-bomb.
It does not matter if he is in an interview, recording a podcast, or speaking to a crowd of a thousand people, he does not censor himself in any way, shape or form. Now we understand many people would think this much swearing is unnecessary, but similar to Katie and the rest of our team, he owns his sh*t.
He has openly stated this is just who he is and he isn’t going to change for anyone; if you have a problem with it then you have a problem with it. He understands not everyone is going to like it, but some people clearly do not have a problem with it because he still sells out crowds of thousands of people and all those people know exactly what they are walking into when they come to hear him speak.
On his YouTube Channel “AskGaryVee”, he was asked the question “Gary, why do you feel the need to swear to make a point? Surely business credibility is better but without swearing?” He countered by saying he doesn’t feel the need to swear, and his business credibility is not affected by it. He believes people who judge your business credibility based on swearing are making surface level decisions. Vaynerchuk goes on to say he can use swearing to filter out people who can’t see the bigger picture and get past what is essentially just a word. Cursing doesn’t define who someone is or how he/she delivers. He knows he loses some people by swearing because it offends them, even though it is not his intention, but he thinks in the end he really wins more people because he is being himself. You can view the whole video here.
Some of the biggest companies in the world are starting to incorporate swearing into their work, such as our client Pepsi. In their new ad “The Encounter” that premiered during the Golden Globes, just days before Katie’s presentation to AMP-RI, they used a swear word, even though it was typed in the form of random symbols and punctuation, and the alien speaking swore in some unknown language. Although they did not directly swear, it was clearly insinuated. At KSA, we gathered around to watch it together and loved it, but we all knew not everyone would share the same positive feelings. It is also important to consider this controversial move was made during one of the most watched awards shows of the year, where it was bound to get lots of visibility and had the potential to spark conversation.
So again we raise the question, is it okay to curse? Is it better to be yourself, or be conscious of the way your words are interpreted regardless of your intention? Is it a good thing this is becoming more common in the business world, or is it infringing on credibility? You know how we feel about it, but we would love to hear your thoughts, feel free to share them with us!