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Career-Life Times, Issue #42--Job Interview Profanity: Are You at Risk?
November 01, 2007
Ready to GET HIRED, GET NOTICED, and GET AHEAD? Read on...
Imagine that you’re in a job interview. Several questions have been asked and answered, and you’re feeling pretty comfortable about how things are going.
Then the hiring manager asks, “How would you handle a situation where some asshole intentionally fucks up your project?”
You’ve got three seconds to decide how to respond. Would you:
A. Get up and walk out, saying something like, “I’m offended by your inappropriate and unprofessional language. This is obviously not the right working environment for me.”
B. Ignore the foul language, mentally transform the phrasing into a question you’ve prepared for (“How do you resolve disputes and handle conflicts with co-workers?”), and answer it calmly and professionally.
C. Demonstrate how you’ll be a team player who fits right in by using the same foul language when you answer the question.
If you’re thinking, “That would never really happen,” think again. This type of situation is more likely than you realize.
When WorldWIT, an online network of professional women, surveyed its 40,000 members on the topic of workplace profanity, 80% said it’s increasing, especially in stressful environments (which can be virtually anywhere, right?).
Could this be a generational thing? Most Baby Boomers were taught as children that using “dirty words” meant you had a dirty mouth that needed to be washed out with soap! In today's world, an attempt by a parent to wash out a child's mouth with soap might lead to an accusation of child abuse. The nonstop use of foul language in TV shows, movies, rap music and video games is also boosting tolerance for and frequency of cussing, I’m sure.
To further complicate things, a study reported in the Leadership and Organization Development Journal just last month claims the use of foul language can boost morale and teamwork in the workplace, and can allow frustrated workers to let off steam that might otherwise be channeled into physical aggression. Profanity, it says, can be a "relief mechanism" for stress.
Some employers who read about that study’s findings may not only tolerate foul language in the workplace, they may actually encourage it. (Until they get hit with a lawsuit for harassment or allowing a hostile work environment, that is.)
So a foully worded question at a job interview is really not such a far-fetched scenario.
This can be a tricky situation. You won’t know whether the hiring manager really cusses like that at work, or whether this is some kind of test to see how you’ll react.
Here’s my advice: even if you’re uncomfortable with foul language, do NOT go with Option A and leave. Likewise, even if you’re comfortable with foul language, do NOT go with Option C and start cussing yourself. Regardless of your sensibilities or comfort level, go with Option B: ignore the foul language and answer the question in a professional manner. If the words really offend you, do your best not to let it show. They are, after all, only words. (Note: if the nature of the questions takes a nasty turn—if, for example, they become sexual in nature—leave.)
At the end of the interview when you’re given the opportunity to ask questions, find out what the real situation is. You can say, for example, “I’m wondering about your use of profanity. Is such language common among the people who work here?”
Hopefully you’ll get a direct and honest answer (perhaps even an apology if the interviewer was somehow clueless about what he/she was saying), and you can use that information to decide what to do if you are offered the job.
But a possible response to your question is, “Why? Does such language offend you?” By this point in the interview, the shock value of a foul-language question to test your response is gone, so he/she probably has a legitimate reason to ask if it bothers you. Some corporate cultures are more accepting of foul language than others, after all. So answer honestly. Then you’ll both know where you both stand on the issue of profanity in the workplace—whether your sensitivities are compatible, or can be accommodated—and can go from there.
Regardless of how the hiring manager talks, you should never use profanity in a job interview. Take the high road and remain professional, even if he/she does not. In all interviews, hiring managers evaluate candidates partly on the words they use. This may not always be by design, and they may not even be aware that they do it—but it’s human nature to notice and judge such traits when we form first impressions of people we don’t know. That’s one reason why it’s so important to prepare for the interview and practice your answers to anticipated questions. When you’re well prepared, you’ll be less nervous. When you’re less nervous, you’ll be less likely to blurt out a word or phrase you’ll regret. (Give a quick apology if that happens.)
Some of you old-timers (like me) may remember these lyrics sung by the Electric Light Orchestra:
You got me thinkin’ that I’m wastin’ my time.
Don’t bring me down… no no no no no.
I’ll tell you once more, before I get off the floor,
Don’t bring me down!”
You know what brings me down? Chronic complainers.
Every workplace has them—people who always whine that it’s too hot, too cold, the boss is a jerk, the pay is lousy, work stinks (I hear that one a lot, since I work for a sewage treatment agency), etc.
No matter how good things are, chronic complainers see only the bad—and they go to great lengths to point it out to everyone around them.
I'm not talking about people who bring up legitimate problems or offer constructive criticism. Occasional whining is normal. Experts say 30-40% of our conversations center on a complaint or criticism.
The people I’m talking about do nothing BUT complain—and never offer solutions.
Chronic complainers take up your time. They steal your energy. They bring you down.
Your initial impulse may be to listen to their complaints and offer to help them. But if you do that, you’ll make two mistakes. First, you’ll waste time that would be better spent focusing on your work. Second, you’ll reinforce their negative behavior.
Besides, they don’t really want your help. I believe most chronic complainers love being a “victim.” It gives meaning to their life. Solving their “problems” would be like taking away the air they breathe. If one problem is solved for them, they’ll immediately find a new problem to complain about.
If you don’t want to deal with these toxic people over and over again, don’t encourage or empathize with them.
Here’s what you can try instead: tell them their constant complaining brings you down… and because you’d rather be “up” than “down,” you can no longer listen to their complaints.
If they have valid problems you need to be aware of, tell them you’ll only listen if they also offer solutions. Notice I said THEY must offer the solutions, not you!
If they agree to this stipulation, it will allow them to still complain (which is their life, remember?), but it will also add a new focus for them to find solutions (and may help bring improvements to genuine problems in the workplace). Who knows? Perhaps some of them will actually change their behavior as their new focus on finding solutions eventually takes priority over finding problems.
If they do not agree to change their ways (and many won’t), stick to your guns and stop listening to them. They’ll get the message and go complain to someone else…probably about you, but at least they won’t bring YOU down!
Do YOU complain too much?
Here’s a challenge: see if you can go 21 consecutive days without complaining. Each time you complain before the 21 days is up, put a nickel in an envelope or other container and start over again from day 0.
Use this definition for complaining: describing an event or person negatively without offering a solution or steps to overcome the problem. Oh, and cussing will cost you an extra nickel.
Examples: “This coffee tastes like sewage!” will cost you a nickel. “This coffee tastes like sh-t!“ will cost you two nickels. “This coffee is too strong for me. I’ll make my own coffee from now on,” will not cost you anything.
Once you can go 21 consecutive days without complaining, you’ll no longer need the nickel awareness trick… you’ll have changed your behavior. And you’ll have enough cash for a celebratory treat from the vending machine (or perhaps a new car, depending on how often you complain and the “color” of your vocabulary).
And here’s a bonus: people like to be around action-oriented problem solvers. Training yourself to offer solutions on-the-spot will attract and impress people.
And you won’t bring me (or anyone else) down!
Completing a 26-mile marathon race shares some characteristics with a successful job search.
There is one “winner” who crosses the finish line first. There are the many who quit before they’ve completed the race. Finally, there are the rest of us who don’t finish first, but are determined to complete the race nevertheless.
For most of us, half the battle is finishing the race, regardless of where we place among the finishers. The same goes for a job search.
I’m a veteran of three career changes and numerous job searches. For me, job hunting made flying during turbulence, nails dug into the arms of my seat, seem relaxing by comparison. Yet it was a learning experience; what some call a “character builder.” The good news is that after each episode of job hunting, I became better at the game. I also noticed that job hunting always strengthened and prepared me for my next job. Looking both at my own growth plus that of other successful job seekers, it boils down to 5 characteristics.
Here are Five Secrets of Winning Job Hunters:
1) Visualize: Marathon runners and other goal-directed athletes are great at visualization. They set a goal and see themselves achieving it. The same applies for your job search. Set a goal and see yourself achieving it. No matter how many setbacks you have, hold that vision of the job you want. Continue to hold it. Focus on the outcome you want, and not on how you’re going to achieve it. Picture it in your mind. Be specific. What is your supervisor like? How about your co-workers? What is your workspace like? What is your workday like? How do you dress? What hours do you work? Including your right brain in the imagination and visualization process enhances the achievement of your goal.
2) Be Persistent: Just as in running a marathon, nothing worth having is ever easy to achieve. There is a lot of rejection in job search. Sometimes it seems as if you’ll never get a “yes”. Remember what good sales people already know. That winning a sale, a job, or any other goal is a numbers game. Commission sales people will tell you that every “no” is one step closer to a “yes”. When you can see your process from a more objective viewpoint, knowing that you’re one more rejection closer to a “yes”, you’ll be less inclined to take the “no’s” personally, and less likely to get discouraged.
3) Replenish Yourself: The job search process, like a marathon race, can be an endurance test with a lot of disappointments and setbacks. It can also go on for weeks, months, and for some people, even a year or more. Top marathoners know that they have to nourish their bodies in order to prevail. You need to nourish your mind and spirit as well. If you’re going to outlast this process and prevail, you have to take care of yourself. This means taking time to relax to take your mind off the challenges, frustrations and rejections. Work hard on your job search, then take time out to exercise and pursue activities that bring you joy and replenish you.
4) Inoculate Yourself Against Negative Messages: Succeeding at a job search is a mental process, and negative input from anywhere can poison your mental outlook and encourage fear, discouragement, anxiety, anger and other negative emotions. Associate with positive people and protect yourself from all types of negativity. A job search journey can be a big undertaking. You need all of the assets and advantages that you can possibly bring to the party. You can’t afford to be exposed to the negativity of others. This includes friends, relatives and negative articles in newspapers and magazines as well as negative TV shows. Make a point of reading books and articles that motivate, encourage and inspire you. Avoid anything and anyone that doesn’t fall into this category.
5) Meditate: This can be the most important secret, yet it can be very simple. Take some time every day to be still and to get away from the “white noise” of life. Whether you are a spiritual person or not, commit to some quiet time away from the noise of TV, radio and other distractions. Give yourself the gift of quietness to contemplate, calm down and center yourself. Even five minutes of quiet time can make a positive difference in your life. This is an opportunity to relax, focus, and renew yourself. It will ground you and make it easier to face and overcome the stresses of your job search journey ahead.
As with successful marathoners, job hunters have some secret tactics that make their success look easy to others. Winning the job search game has a mental component. Developing the above five winning secret tactics will enhance your chances of success, and make the process more pleasant and less stressful.
As a recruiter, Joe Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers. Known on the Internet as "The Job Search Guy," Joe has also authored 'how-to' books on interviewing and job search. He's been interviewed on several radio talk shows. Discover more insider job search secrets by visiting www.jobchangesecrets.com .
Interviewing can be both frustrating and arduous because throughout the process, you receive little or no feedback except for the obvious: if they want you back, they contact you. If they don't, frequently you never hear from them again. But after a first interview the reasons for not being asked back are numerous, and quite frankly, usually the reason is you: lack of experience, poor interviewing skills, inadequate preparation and research, or similar shortcomings. As a result, another candidate generated more excitement.
But sometimes you are the candidate that generates the excitement, and you're the one that is invited back for a second or third interview. And though you've reached the final stages of the interviewing process with a specific company and feel sure an offer is imminent, suddenly......nothing.
Sometimes the process has stalled. Occasionally - and stupidly - a company finds the perfect person, but feels they have to interview a specific number of people first, and while they do, they're under the impression you're waiting happily in the background with your life and emotions on hold until they contact you again.
Other times only a letter in the mail tells you it's done. Rarely are candidates told why they didn't get the job. Unless you get this far in the process, usually you aren't even told that much. Was it something you did? Maybe. But maybe not!
Relax. While you are busy wondering what went wrong or trying to convince yourself it had nothing to do with you...sometimes that's the truth! You and that company just weren't meant to be, and nothing you might have done - or not done - would have made any difference.
Consider these factors, all of which take place without your knowing:
Remember that interviewing is the process by which you find a company that you like, and by which a company hires you because they feel you are the best person for the job. Everything happens for a reason, and if you missed getting a job offer with one company, something better may be just around the corner.
So concentrate on what you can control and forget about what you can't. If you mope around over a missed job offer, worrying about what you did or didn't do and wonder why they didn't like you or where you messed up - what you are effectively doing is letting your attitude bring about another negative outcome.
Keep your chin up. Look objectively at whether or not you can pinpoint something you might have done differently, and then learn from it. Otherwise, put it behind you and move forward with a confident and positive outlook!
Prior to starting her firm, VisionQuest, Judi Perkins was a search consultant for 25 years in both the contingency and retained market, including a short stint in the temporary and local permanent placement markets. She has owned her own firm and successfully assisted numerous repeat clients in hiring all levels of management. To sign up for her newsletter, understand the psychology of interviewing and how to work it to your advantage, and learn thousands of powerful concepts to find your perfect job go to www.FindThePerfectJob.com.
More Articles. So much great information, so little space in this newsletter! You can find more articles on my website by clicking on Article Index.
Here are two new articles you might be interested in:
Work From Home Resources. Want to earn some extra money for the holidays? Here is an excellent list of resources and opportunities to consider for making money at home, compiled and researched for you by WomenForHire.com (the list is good for men, too!): Work From Home Resources.
Totally Free Stuff. This site offers a lot of links to all kinds of free offers (I just ordered a free chocolate snack bar sample… didn’t even have to pay for shipping/handling). Some of the offers are better than others, and some have expired, so you’ll need to be patient and click around… but it’s worth a few minutes for free stuff, right? Here’s the link: Totally Free Stuff.
Job Interview Success System. Would you like a great new job in 2008? Start preparing for it now with my guaranteed step-by-step system for helping you ace a job interview. See the details here: Job Interview Success System.
but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
I Hate My Job
When you have an "I hate My Job" day, try this. On your way home from work, stop at your pharmacy and go to the thermometer section and purchase a rectal thermometer made by Johnson & Johnson. Be very sure you get this brand.
When you get home, lock your doors, draw the curtains and disconnect the phone so you will not be disturbed. Change into very comfortable clothing and sit in your favourite chair. Open the package and remove the thermometer. Now, carefully place it on a table or a surface so that it will not become chipped or broken.
Now the fun part begins. Take out the literature and read it carefully. You will notice that in small print there is a statement, "Every Rectal Thermometer made by Johnson & Johnson is personally tested.”
Now, close your eyes and repeat out loud five times, "I am so glad I do not work in the thermometer quality control department at Johnson & Johnson."
Have a nice day and remember, there is always someone else with a job that is more of a pain in the ass than yours!
November Holidays. Can you believe it’s already November? The holiday season is upon us, whether we’re ready for it or not.
Veterans Day (in the US) is November 11th. My dad served in the US Air Force for more than 20 years; so did my ex-husband. I didn’t wear a uniform, but worked with members of the US Air Force and US Army as a civil servant for 13 years. I have the greatest respect and admiration for the men and women who serve their country. Whether or not I agree with their missions, I always remember and appreciate their sacrifices. I hope you do, too.
Thanksgiving (in the US) is November 22nd. Now, I’ll be the first to admit I am not a great cook, but I’m not as clueless as a lot of people. Check out the turkey-cooking questions received by the Butterball Hotline (and others) here: Talking Turkey.
Of course there’s more to Thanksgiving than food. I am thankful for what I have (family, friends, health). I hope you have much to be thankful for, too.
Road Trip! My husband and I are taking a road trip, driving to southern California (from northern California) tomorrow for a friend’s wedding which is being held aboard the Queen Mary (I hear it’s haunted!). We’ll spend a couple of nights on board and then head off to visit relatives in the area. I’ll be offline (this is a vacation) until November 9th.
So, what did you think of this issue? Any suggestions? Topic ideas? Questions? I really appreciate your feedback. Please send me a note at Bonnie@Best-Interview-Strategies.com
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