Sometimes a Little Fucking Clarification is All You Need

Ben Horowitz had a fucking problem. There were people in his organization who had complained about all the profanity in the office. He was the CEO and had to make a decision: ban all profanity or allow it completely.

This was a difficult decision. It wasn’t something that would immediately make or break the company, but it was pretty important to the culture, and culture is fucking important. He knew that if he banned profanity, it would negatively affect the people who valued the anti-establishment culture. A ban would also limit Horowitz’s toolbox of communication, since profanity can be fucking useful for making a point. However, if he allowed profanity, he risked alienating valuable people who were being offended.

His solution was painfully simple. Profanity would be permitted, but it was never to be used specifically against someone or to make someone feel uncomfortable. He announced this policy, and the company moved forward without further issue.

Why did I like this story? Horowitz’s action had two effects. First, he actually addressed an issue publicly. As a leader, it’s pretty easy to think, “This isn’t a major issue – this doesn’t require any communication – I don’t want to make this a bigger deal than it is.”

I think communication rarely hurts a situation.

Second, Horowitz didn’t have to get creative and come up with a solution – he basically just had to clarify an existing policy. Clarification can solve a lot of problems.

“Sometimes your company doesn’t need a solution; it just needs clarification.” – Ben Horowitz