Employees in a workplace hail from very varied backgrounds. Culture gap is one of the biggest factors at work, because it can cause many embarrassments and misunderstandings. What about something like foul language? We are given to think that it is always a matter of individuality rather than culture. But odd as it may sound; culture is at the root of foul language too.
Why? This is because what is foul language in one culture is acceptable in another. This subjective nature of office behavior is at the heart of the many problems HR faces in enforcing rules and etiquette in the workplace.
Seen differently in different cultures
Let us say an American multinational starts operations in a country in the Orient. What would the employees who work for the company in these locations feel when a brash American executive starts using words that are taken for granted here in this country, but are frowned upon in that culture? We in America are used to taking liberty in the use of many expletives. They qualify as normal and acceptable words in our part of the world, but down there, they could be profane and vulgar.
How many of us think twice about using four-letter words in the office? In the east, it is something that is unimaginable. It will perhaps invite puzzled looks from colleagues, but if the same words were to be repeated by a person of that same culture, the result would be disastrous.
HR should state
What HR can do is to frame clear regulations on the kind of words that are permissible in the workplace. It should lay down clear-cut guidelines and even policy on the use of foul language in the office. It should state in unambiguous terms what is acceptable and what is not. This will go a long way in clearing doubts about whether some words are considered foul or are acceptable at the workplace.
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