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They Don’t Say Bad Words Do They?

August 6, 2014

I don’t know. But, I suspect the more financially successful you become the less you swear.

Really? Like what?

Oh, you know, your typical blue collar construction worker type, we expect him to swear like a drunken sailor, but someone like Bill Gates, wouldn’t need to.

I almost hated to break it to my friend. Bill Gates, not surprisingly, in addition to being the richest man in the world and the founder of Microsoft, was a bit of a local celebrity in the Seattle area. I was working for Microsoft, but lived out in Maple Valley, about 40 miles outside Seattle.

The only time I’d personally seen Bill (you got to call him Bill if you worked for the company) was at the company meetings. (The Time I Was Convinced We Were Attacked By Terrorists.) But, I worked with a lot of people who had worked with him individually. I was about to shatter my friend’s perception.

Swearing has a place in the IT field. I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong to swear, but if you go into IT, you should expect to hear it. Often it’s the typical day to day conversations that a profession largely dominated by men brings out.

“What the . . .”

“Son of a . . .”

You know what they are, and I do too. I’m not typing them because personally I choose not to swear. I can only remember breaking that personal rule a couple of times. The most famous was when I fired a guy named Sam. (He Also Deserved To Be Fired.)

My friend Dave (Heartmindcode.com) regularly swore but was trying to stop. We had a swear jar that Dave had to put $5 in every time he swore. He really wanted to stop, and he put a lot of money in the jar. I told him if I ever swore I’d contribute $50. When Sam expressed disbelief at being let go, after falling asleep on site at our biggest customer, I decided it was worth the money.

What the #$%@ were you thinking?

There are some people in computers who take it too extremes. My friend Janice was interviewing for a PM role at Microsoft. Our training team had been shut down and we were all looking for new jobs. She was really good and went through several rounds of interviews.

During the second or third interview the person she was talking to suddenly got up and started screaming and swearing in her face.

Odd? Yes. Even for Microsoft.

His explanation was,

If you can’t handle that level of confrontation, you aren’t cut out to be in this group.

Not really. He was just a misogynistic jerk who was a little too attached to the supposed “power” of his position. (Sometimes You Have To Be A Jerk – No, You Are Just a Jerk.) Fortunately, I’ve never been part of a team or a company where my aversion to swearing was seen as weak or ineffective. If anything, it’s viewed as a strength, since you sometimes have to have a more robust vocabulary if you are going to skip using the shortcut words.

I’m not sure your interpretation of Bill Gates is quite accurate.

What do you mean?

When someone has a new idea for a product at Microsoft, they have to present to Bill. It’s a make or break meeting, and typically managers will get someone to coach the new person if they’ve never presented to him before.

Why do they need coaching?

Because it can be a little unsettling when the richest man in the world gets up in your face and yells, ‘THAT’S THE WORST F&*%ING IDEA I’VE EVER HEARD!

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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