Professional Presence: Regulating speech in the office

by epi on February 2, 2012

Q: Is it appropriate to make a comment to a new-coworker about his lack of professionalism?  I’m referring to his use of “slang” or “street talk” in the office.

A: Be careful — you could be skating on very thin ice here.  If the language in question isn’t explicitly foul, you’re better off leaving any corrective action to a supervisor or a close friend.  At the same time, everyone in the business world should realize that how you present yourself, including your wardrobe, your body language, your hygiene, and your choice of words, will have a direct effect on your success.  Using slang or street talk in the office can only hold a person back.

If you decide to move ahead, try asking other employees if they’ve noticed her language, if they think it affects her work negatively, and if management knows about it and condones it. If their answers indicate you should pursue the situation further, you could raise the issue with your manager on the grounds that it may be hurting the company.

Be aware, though, that once you do, your manager may act—and you may then have to deal with a resentful, angry employee who thinks her actions are none of your business.

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