27 February 2015

The F Word: To use or not to use?

This week I was alerted (thanks George) to this job ad for an Auckland-based VP of Global Marketing for a technology company called Vend.

The second paragraph opens as follows:

It's also a f***ing great place to work, with a global team of 200+ smart, driven, creative people working in cities like Auckland, Melbourne, San Francisco, Toronto, London and Berlin.

Except the ad had the actual F word!

The ad goes on to cover the normal territory and finishes:

There are very few SaaS companies in the world that have achieved what Vend has, and we still have a long way to go. So we need someone of a high calibre to help us get there. To find that person, we are prepared to cast quite a wide net, so if you're not currently living in New Zealand, but like the idea of spending a few years living among beautiful beaches and plentiful sheep, we want to hear from you.

Clearly this is a successful and ambitious company filled with, I would assume, smart and motivated people.

So why use the F word?

I know it has become less shocking to use the F word in society. When I was a teenager and into my early twenties there was no swearing on television. As we moved into the nineties, things changed.

In the 1990s Australian courts ruled that coarse language was no longer offensive due to its common usage and TV networks began allowing the word "f*k" to go to air, particularly where it was seen as vital to the storyline of a movie. 


If you watched any of the Underbelly series or Howzat: Kerry Packer's War you would be left in no doubt that the TV networks have embraced the F word as ‘vital to the storyline of a movie'.

So, if it's okay on free-to-air TV does that make it okay to use in recruitment?

Here's my view:

1.    In an interview: Never
 
2.    In a client or prospect meeting: Never
 
3.    In job ads: Never
 
4.    In a conversation with your boss: Depends (Never use it if your boss doesn't use it in conversation with you)
 
5.    Amongst colleagues on the desk: In context (ie not directed at a person, more as an adjective eg ‘This assignment is F...ed')

It actually takes a high degree of skill to, contextually appropriately, use the F word before an audience.

To listen to Greg Savage, in full flight addressing a room full of recruiters, drop the occasional F word and have the room explode in laughter is to witness the masterful use of the F word in both context and timing.

To listen to Momentum Consulting, Founder and Managing Director, Bede Ashby drop the F word three times, to awkward silence, during his ‘fireside chat' to Rob Davidson on stage at last year's RCSA Conference in Queenstown, was a cringe-worthy example of how not to use the F word in context.

I've been training and speaking for twelve years now and I never have (to my recollection) used the F Word in front of an audience. I don't have the skill to do so in a way that is contextually appropriate.

In a couple of my blogs (Recruitment PSAs gone mad: WTF is going on in Canberra? and Who the #&%! does Gen George think she is?) I have used F word substitutes. The latter of which attracted a decent slab of criticism (fair enough).

So, to whoever wrote the Vend VP of Global Marketing job ad; I think you've overstepped the mark. Your use of the F word is not contextually appropriate. It just comes across as look-at-me showmanship.

Not clever.
Not funny.
Not appropriate.
Not necessary.

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7 comments:

  1. Jacqui Barratt27/2/15 12:40 PM

    Ross, I was glad you picked up on this and couldn't agree with you more. I too read the advert when I was in NZ recently and wondered what was the point. This is not the first time this company has written adverts in this style and whilst they might argue that this is their culture and therefore people need to be comfortable with this. I also think every contact you have is a possible customer or advocate of your brand.

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  2. Yes I believe I know who writes this and I stopped following their tweets for the same reason. Potty mouth. A very successful company and a very successful person, but unnecessary and cringe-worthy.

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  3. I am more offended by Greg Savage using a selfie stick.
    On a serious note, was this blog post written in 1952?

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  4. Hear, hear, Ross, and well said.

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  5. Thanks for the free marketing Ross, working in the Vend Talent team I thought I would reply in my blog. http://troyhammond.co.nz/2015/02/27/my-reply-to-ross-clennentts-blog-about-our-use-of-the-word-fuck/

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  6. I believe that the use of the word creates the sense of the environment and culture at Vend. Maybe it's generational but when I saw the term used, I thought to myself "I'd love to work there"; it shows passion! I don't find the word offensive in the context used but I don't think just any place of employment posting a job can pull it off either.

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  7. Thanks everybody for your comments. It's been an interesting debate and it seems we are agreeing to disagree.

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