Bombing the office, coping with loss

Friday, January 28, 2011


I've just hired a talented new manager. Everyone thinks she's great and she's brought an exciting new vibe to the office. The thing is, she has quite the potty mouth. No one else seems to mind, but I'm worried that if I don't nip it in the bud, everyone in the office will start dropping f-bombs. Is swearing something a boss should weigh in on?

- Lisa, Calgary

Dear lisa

If Cee Lo can score five Grammy nominations for a song called "Fuck You," surely you can cut this woman some slack for her salty language. In fact, your new hire may have read the 2007 study by Yehuda Baruch and Stuart Jenkins, professors in the United Kingdom, who determined that swearing at work actually encourages teamwork and helps employees cope with stress. The casual utterance of four-letter words among colleagues (a.k.a. "social swearing") allows co-workers to bond, while "annoyance swearing" (dropping an expletive in the context of doing business) can cut the tension in the office. Of course, there are boundaries to be respected. Bosses shouldn't curse people out in an effort to fit in; bad words should not be directed at specific individuals; and swearing in front of clients is a big no-no. As long as your new hire respects those rules, I say she's a f***ing genius.


I recently lost my father. He was elderly, but it was sudden, and it's still sinking in. Part of me thinks it would be better to get back to work right away and not sit around the house, wallowing. But my wife is saying I shouldn't rush back. Is it possible to grieve and work at the same time?

- Maneesh, Toronto

Dear MaNeesh

I'm very sorry for your loss. Consider this, however - when you go back to the office, not everyone will say that to you. Some people won't know how to acknowledge your situation, and others might not even care. Either way, you'll need to interact with them. Dr. Katherine Shear, a bereavement therapist in Columbia University's department of psychiatry, says it can also be difficult for people to concentrate or problem-solve during a period of acute grief. But Dr. Shear agrees that returning to work can be a helpful part of restoring normalcy. "People need to oscillate between confronting the pain and setting it aside," she says. So if you feel you're ready, by all means, get back to work.

Be aware, though, that you might not handle stress as well as you did before, and that even the most distracting environment won't block out your grief. Losing a parent is a big deal, and getting over it is hard work, too.