What to do about superior’s foul language?

Marie G. McIntyre
Marie G. McIntyre

Q: I work in a very small medical practice where one of the owners has an extremely foul mouth. Whenever “Dr. Smith” is upset, he curses at employees and frequently drops the F-bomb. This is highly offensive to everyone on the staff, but we’re afraid of losing our jobs if we complain.

What can we do about this?

A: The bad news is that small, privately owned businesses provide few options for dealing with difficult owners.

The good news, however, is that this medical practice is apparently owned by more than one person. Since another owner can approach Dr. Potty Mouth as a peer, that’s where you should take your concerns.

Because a single complaint could easily be dismissed and ignored, you need to present this problem as a group. Without becoming angry or upset, describe the negative effects of this physician’s crude behavior.

For example: “When Dr. Smith is angry, he curses at employees using highly offensive language, which is very demoralizing for the staff. If patients hear these outbursts, that could hurt the reputation of the practice. We’re afraid to give Dr. Smith this feedback, so we’re hoping that you can talk with him.”

This assumes, of course, that the other owner is a responsible individual who is also disturbed by these tantrums. But if not, then your only recourse is to find a more professional place to work.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.