Posted on: Sep 22, 2021

As a mediator I have heard every word imaginable in my mediations. Parties and even legal representatives, sometimes use these words to describe what has been said for the shock value, but I am of the view it is important that we clearly understand what has been said and how it has been said. But what does it all mean?

 I do not recall many of my 4000 odd mediations, but I do recall a young man in one mediation who said, “I was hurt and humiliated and my boss injured my feelings” [no coaching at all here !!] when he told me to FxxK off”. There was a pause, he breathed in, looking emotionally distressed at reliving the dreadful moment when the boss had sworn at him and in his next breath said across the table to the employer “You were a real Cxxx !” and he didn’t bat an eyelid. 

 I have thought about that mediation this week as I commence an investigation into inappropriate language in the workplace. What does this mean within the context of what is and what is not acceptable these days?

 I have talked to my young colleagues and my older colleagues. I have found there is certainly a difference of opinion of what is and what is not acceptable. 

 I understand about workplace culture and that some workplaces have normalised the use of words that would make our mothers reach for the mustard [or worse still – the soap]. This, it seems to me, is a risk on many fronts for an employer. 

 To allow a culture to develop where it’s okay to use expletives may in fact open an employer up to personal grievances and bully & harassment claims. If an employer does not challenge, or uses bad language in the workplace themselves, what does this mean for the employer if an employee is uncomfortable with it and raises concerns.

 I think that a wise employer will often step back and look at the culture in their workplace. There are often indicators of problems if there is an increase of people being away from work, people resigning or a general feeling of unhappiness. 

 I encourage employers to take a proactive approach to this. Consider a pulse check so you know what is going on in your business, ensure you have policies and processes are in place and they are relevant and living documents, provide support and training to enable managers and staff to have respectful crunchy conversations.

 Get in touch with if you want to talk through options that will head off issues before they arise.

Written by, Lynn Booker, Senior Associate at Three60 Consult


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