Cuss Academy’ battles bad language on the job

Cursing can damage morale and productivity

A Northbrook, IL, marketing professional has launched a campaign against cursing in the workplace — which, he says, is not just an annoyance, but a threat to employee morale and teamwork.

"I think it’s very important for there to be a good sense of cooperation and getting the job done in the workplace," notes Jim O’Connor, president of The Cuss Control Academy. "In a place where I used to work, there was a sense of negativity that was detrimental to productivity and kind of infected other people. When you add swearing to that, it intensifies the criticism [of the company] and the lack of cooperation."

Foul language can also be an important employee health issue, he says. "It’s definitely a mental health issue in terms of stress. If someone is swearing intensely and they’re doing it because they’re opposed to the way they have to do their work, or to the way the company is run, it affects them and the people who have to hear them. In both cases, it fosters a feeling that, we’re wasting our time, the company is poorly managed, and the boss doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ Basically, it makes people miserable."

It also affects productivity, O’Connor observes. "If someone convinces you you’re wasting your time, you lose your spirit and your desire. You may not even realize you’re not putting a full effort behind your work, but it naturally follows that you wouldn’t. In that type of atmosphere, you do the bare minimum and then you go home."

Not created for work site

O’Connor did not originally establish his academy to address work site issues when he founded it in 1998. "I just felt there was too much cursing in public in general, which contributed to a decline in civility and an increase in a general lack of patience and tolerance with things that go wrong," he recalls. He was in the process of writing a book when he announced the academy and offered the training to individuals.1

It was their responses that led him to expand the program to the workplace. "I’ve made initial presentations in the workplace setting, and seen a lot of nodding heads," O’Connor notes.

In a work site setting, O’Connor first meets with management and asks them to describe their problem, so that he can tailor the program to their specific needs. "They may just want me talk to the offenders,’ but it’s important to address larger groups — the people who have to work with them," he notes. "They need to know how cursing affects their performance, and to not just accept it as evolution of language. I make them realize all of the negatives of swearing — it’s impolite, it’s improper, and it can contribute to a hostile environment."

Employees must be taught how extensive the damage caused by foul language can be, O’Connor emphasizes. "They need to realize they’re hurting themselves," he explains.

"Even if they’re just joking around, it’s a sign of a certain immaturity and lack of professionalism; and it’s not a good career move to cuss." O’Connor offers employees "Ten Tips for Taming Your Tongue." (See box, p. 125.)

O’Connor knows that some situations require special skills. "After the assessment, if I feel the problem is beyond my ability as a communicator, I seek the assistance of mental health professionals we are affiliated with here in Chicago and in California."


1. O’Connor, JV. Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing. New York City: Three Rivers Press; 2000.

[For more information, contact: Jim O’Connor, The Cuss Control Academy, O’Connor Communications Inc., 899 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook, IL 60062. Telephone: (847) 498-2284. Fax: (847) 498-3144.]