Don’t Say These at Work!

By Mel Sim

We repeat, don’t!

You know the phrase think before you speak? That should apply at work – always. Because unlike friends and family, people at work might not be as forgiving… and you don’t want to go down in the company’s history as that exec who swore/told the boss how he really felt/made an inappropriate comment.

So first, the things you should never say at work… and then one thing you need to do if you’ve already made the boo boo.

#1 “That’s not my job”
Hmmm…. You know what that sounds like to a boss when you’re asked to do something extra? That you’re not a team player and you’re kinda selfish. Which limits your chances of getting any kind of career advancement. Even if it is not your job, why not take it on as a challenge to learn something new? And if it is you are not paid enough to do that, well, you’re on the company’s pay roll so that’s a bit hard to argue.

Unless of course it is something unreasonable. Even then you need to practise some tact and say to your boss, “I am not quite sure how to do it, can you show me” or “I have to work on A, B and C first… or would you rather I work on this new assignment first?” That will go down better than “Are you kidding me?”

#2 “But I’ve always done it this way.”
Uhm maybe because your way is not effective hence there’s a need to try something new? Or maybe because you have a new boss who wants to introduce new ways to be more productive? Saying the above reveals that you are someone who is inflexible and closed-minded, and no company likes an employee who is not agile and adaptable, especially in today’s work culture .

Say this instead if you still want your way to be considered: “That sounds like an interesting approach. Maybe we can discuss both ways and see which would work better.”

#3 “You should have…”
Whatever follows that makes it seem like you’re trying to blame someone for something they did. Like “You should have come up to me first before going to the boss about this issue.” You should have been fostering teamwork and collaboration, not a culture of finger pointing (see how that sounds like I am blaming you for not doing the right thing?). So whenever you feel the need to point out something in this manner, say this: “In the future, perhaps you could do…”

#4 “Oh my god, you would never believe what happened to me over the weekend”
Unless you are really, really close, not everyone in the office needs a lowdown on your play-by-play. It’s TMI so repeat after us, sharing less is more. But if you need to share, then remember to also give the person a chance to share their weekend activity by asking how his went.

#5 “Oh no, I don’t think that’s a smart thing to do”
Filters have never been so important in your life, especially if you are in a client-facing role. Learn some tact so that you make constructive comments instead of things like, “I don’t think that’s going to work”, “Hmmm that’s a bad idea”, or that eye-roll gesture. Remember how the customer is always right? It rings true here too but your role should be offering respect even if you don’t agree with them.

What if your customer is really wrong? Then try this approach: “Thanks for sharing that idea. We will look into it. Can I also share a different approach?” See how it all sounds better!

And if you made the mistake of saying something before you think? Here’s how you recover: If it is an honest mistake, own up with a sincere explanation or apology. This will help build long-term credibility. Then move on. The damage has already been done and the only way to get back into the good graces of anyone is to simply do better in the future.

What was that one wrong thing you said at work? Tweet us here!

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

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