The F word

It’s recently been reported that a former interim chief executive of an NHS Trust was unfairly dismissed for sending a high volume of inappropriate emails, including personal ones, and not taking action when receiving inappropriate emails.

The Employment Tribunal felt that the emails were “largely innocent; at or below the level of seaside postcard humour”.  It went on to highlight that over a two year period, the emails contained 12 expletives and the f-word appeared six times.  As such, the Tribunal felt that this reflected language “in common everyday usage throughout industry, commerce, voluntary organisations and public authorities”.

I have never used the F word in an email.  And those who know me, know that I don’t shy from verbally expressing my anger by using expletives (but not quite as fluently as Gordon Ramsey).  But I think a line is crossed when it’s written in an email.

Equally, I have never seen an email in over a decade of working in or with the NHS that contained the F word.  And if I did, I’m not sure what I would do.

So I’m not so sure I agree with the Tribunal’s opinion that using the F word six times in two years in an email is a reflection of everyday usage in business.

Am I wrong?


9 comments on “The F word

  1. Katherine says:

    Hi Karen

    I couldn’t agree more. I believe I’ve seen the F word used once in an email and I wasted no time in telling the sender that I found it incredibly inappropriate and asked him to refrain from doing it again (he was very embarrassed and apologised immediately).

    I believe that while such vocabulary may be common in everyday spoken language (and I certainly wouldn’t disagree with that point), I feel that its usage in written communications such as emails is still uncommon and entirely unnecessary.

    On an slightly different note, didn’t they have a spam filter to stop the emails with such expletives in the first place?!

    • karencwise says:

      Yes, I did think about the spam email filter issue. However in the NHS, because of the nature of the work many words & pictures which are considered “inappropriate” in normal business are not filtered because the content of the email could relate to someone’s health condition.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kevin Ball, Michael Carty, Rick, Katherine Connolly, Karen Wise and others. Karen Wise said: New Post: The F Word #hrblogs #ukemplaw #nhs […]

  3. Anne says:

    I totally agree with you. It is offensive and totally unnecessary. I have seen dismissals for such language. At a senior level such behaviour could be seen as bullying to subordinates. (Karen you are always v professional and only rant in the safety of friends and out of earshot of others – don’t we all!)

  4. Totally agree with you Karen. I don’t think swearing in worked-related emails is at all common. I haven’t lived a sheltered life but I don’t think I have ever seen the “F” word in a work-related email and would certainly agree that casual use of such language is inappropriate in written communications related to work.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Shepherd, Michael Carty. Michael Carty said: RT @oldshep: Very much agree with @karenwise about the F word in business/professional communications #hr […]

  6. I think you’re right Karen. It’s totally unnecessary and rather crass. Oooh that made me sound a bit grand…which I’m not. It’s just not appropriate in business and shows a lack of respect for the recipient.

  7. Rita Weber says:

    While dropping a verbal F-bomb on the rare occassion happens, (we’re human, right?)it is never proper to use in writing regardless of the subject matter. Swearing of any kind in a professional setting is dubious at best, but the lasting impression of how someone can master the English language in written form without resorting to profanity goes a much longer way. PS: the word irregardless bothers me more.

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