Professionals Keep it Clean

Nashville Business Journal

May 9, 2014


Vulgarity doesn’t belong in business. I realized this a few years back at a corporate meeting when a feisty young executive tried to convince us of his point by using some pretty rough language. While he thought his choice words were demonstrating passion, I found his delivery just plain unprofessional. I wondered why he thought it necessary to use such crude content when he could have made the same point with less cussing and more creativity.

Today bad language is more common than ever. It seems to be everywhere and increasingly accepted, particularly among younger generations. But the reality is plenty of of people don't accept vulgarity - and using it may actually undermine your efforts. since the natural setup of business means most "bosses" are older, and perhaps less receptive to foul language, next time you're considering some bad verbiage, take a second to ask:

  • How does my boss feel about this type of language?
  • Are my peers just pretending to be OK with it? Are they really laughing or cringing?
  • Who's in the room, and what are their thoughts on the subject?
  • And, when in doubt, ask, "What would my mom say?"

You may think you know the answers to these questions, but you may not. And not knowing  puts you in an awkward position. Additionally, you may think choice words add to your pursuasiveness, but many people are simply turned off by uncouth language and won't even take the time to consider what you have to say.

There is no upside to using vulgarity, and you may be offending others. Bottom line: TRhere's simply no logical reason to use foul language - and a lot of career risk if you do.


Joe Scarlett is the retired CEO of Tractor Supply Co. He can be reached at

Comments and Discussion:

Very Timely

Posted Jun 17, 2014 at 8:55 AM by Wes Perry
Mr. Scarlett, Thought this was very well said. It's a principal that I'm trying to adhere to and will pass it along to my team and other colleagues.


Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:18 PM by Phillip Van Hooser
Joe, I couldn't agree more. This is an important subject for leaders. I'm glad you took it on.

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