Sacred and Profane

Last night on my way home I passed a migrant from mainland China of the deeply blue collar variety being very expressive on the phone in the way that only those unshackled by higher academics can be, and for some wayward reason I started reflecting on the “softening” (I hesitate to say feminisation) of the workplace when it comes to knowledge work.

I can remember working in my university holidays in a chemical plant, and it was rough, in a masculine, John Wayne kind of way (think the “let’s make friends by getting into a fight in the bar” technique without the fisticuffs). Knowledge workers don’t seem to have that kind of gruff fun and trust building. We’re all supposed to be very genteel and polite to each other, and in the process we keep our distances.

And then Matt posted this very short and very funny podcast on swearing in the workplace, and how it can actually facilitate a more sharing environment. Dr David Vaine MUST have something to say about Matt’s APOD idea (Ambient Profanity Optimisation Device). There is, sadly only one profanity in the whole two minutes. Brilliant.

There must be a training workshop idea in there somewhere…

2 Comments so far

As a young chemical engineer I moved within some of those “rough” workplaces but was so obviously not “of” them (its hard to blend into a >99% male blue collar workplace as a 20something uni student/graduate). It was often a good sign I was becoming accepted amongst process workers if they did drop the odd (or the many) swear word around me. Within reason I was happier if they did because it meant they were sharing more of what they knew with me.

Posted on July 24, 2008 at 06:24 PM | Comment permalink

I could not agree more - it indicates you are no longer an outsider.  The Section I managed (librarians) was in the male dominated IT area for many years we all got quite used to the very masucline environment - they really were a bunch of boys.
It was only when we were moved to the social policy division that we all realised just how used we had become to the ‘boy’ environment.  In social policy we had the experience of the then Branch Head (Manager) presenting a video during a meeting. The video was an ABC production called ‘Harley, Kim and the Kids’ which looked at a family of long term social welfare beneficiaries where they sold the kids toys to buy cigarettes before their payment came though, lots of ‘real’ swearing etc.  Some of the solical ;policy staff put in a complaint after the event because they were not warned about the swearing and blatantly real life content - I did truly wonder who they thought their stakeholders were.  Of course the librarians all went ‘so what’ after being a somewhat rougher environment - and also being in positin where much of the research we did was for social workers and psychologists who had to deal with topics like incest, child molestation, self mutiliation.
And back on topic, I always tough having the IT guys swearing in front of me meant I was no longer ‘one of those damned librarians’

Posted on July 25, 2008 at 05:44 AM | Comment permalink

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