Yahoo CEO Is Good Example of Why Women Should Swear in the %&)$#! Workplace

If a male CEO says the F-word, no one even blinks, but when Carol Bartz, the former CEO of Yahoo who was very publicly fired last week, said it (or any other swear word), it makes the front page of CNN. Throughout her tenure at Yahoo, Bartz was known for her "blue language," and when she left, it got even worse.

Bartz was fired last week from Yahoo and sent an email to the entire staff letting them know that she was fired, not leaving voluntarily. Then, to make matters worse, Bartz said in an interview with Fortune that Yahoo's board "f-ed me over" and called them "doofuses."

You don't hear that every day, do you? Unprofessional and out there, maybe, but also really, really cool. And it's candor that would probably be lauded in a man. But in a woman, it's considered crass and shocking. But it shouldn't be.


Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University and author of You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, talked to CNN about women and swearing. She said:

It stands out because it's not expected. We always take notice of what's unexpected and women are still not expected to curse, so when they do, its noticed more.

So, why can't women swear but men can? Swearing can be good for the soul. When a person is angry, they should purge that anger rather than take it in. Don't believe me? Take a look in the comments section (here included). When women comment, they make passively rude comments full of anger and spite. Sometimes they curse. But most of the time, they don't. They make childish accusations like "you are a B word that rhymes with witch!" and they think that is clever and hilarious (it isn't).

Here's the thing: Big people and grown-ups talk about their anger. Whether they swear or not is entirely a matter of personal preference, but the point is, they are direct and open about their anger. They don't passively express it and pass it off as "I'm just sayin' is all ..."

Personally, I respect a woman who has the courage to say what she really thinks, and if that comes off "salty" like a sailor, well, I am OK with that, too. There is a reason Bartz is a CEO and those "ladies" who spew behind backs and say things like "bless her heart" while being unimaginably cruel are stuck baking rolls for the local bake sale every week.

Women need to learn to stand up for themselves and be real. When you make a mistake at work, a male boss is likely to pull you into their office, tell you what's what, possibly chew you out, and then let it go. It's refreshing. The women send emails to your superior and let her handle it. They hold meetings in which everyone holds hands and builds teams and then talks smack behind closed doors.

It doesn't make for a good workplace or for moving up the ladder. It isn't leadership.

So Bartz might be paying for her candor and her loose language in the here and now. But in the long run? She has CEO of Yahoo on her resume, she is on the front page of CNN, and she is going to keep on keeping on. By my definition, she is a success. And if she swears, so what?

Do you think it's a problem for a woman to be so candid?


Image via Yodel Anecdotal/Flickr

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