How much should we mind our language?

It has never been more important to choose your words carefully in the workplace.

We all have witnessed the heated debates in Parliament following the calm, carefully-crafted language used by the judges in the Supreme Court. Recent drama in Westminster raises many questions about what is or isn’t appropriate in terms of the language used. Many felt the Prime Minister’s language has been designed to inflame or provoke different sides of the debate. The intensity even recently prompted the country’s Bishops to call on people both in and out of Parliament to treat each other with greater respect.

The language issue is equally relative to what is appropriate or not in the workplace. Everyone should be aware of not only what they say but also how it could impact colleagues.

Foul language has become more common over the years but in the workplace it often comes with disciplinary consequences, including dismissal for gross misconduct. Bad or inappropriate language can lead to constructive unfair dismissal claims, as well as claims for discrimination and/or harassment.

As the ripple effects of leaving the EU are likely to hit many jobs, workplace communication is set to become more important. Employees will have questions and want to discuss po­tential changes and how these might affect their jobs. Conversations need to be handled sensitively to avoid employment law claims but companies should also take steps to promote awareness of the potential impacts of Brexit.

Companies should at least create and communicate clear policies on bullying and harassment so that staff understand what is or isn’t acceptable workplace behaviour. Employees who believe they have been talked to or treated badly should also be encouraged to raise their grievance and not bury their head in the sand for fear of victimisation.

This article originally appeared in The Times newspaper

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