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10 Things You Should Never Say at Work

Topics: Work Culture

Emotions can run high in the workplace, but that doesn’t mean you should just blurt out anything to your workers at times of high stress. While we’re all under pressure from time to time, it definitely pays to think before you speak.

Here are ten cringe-worthy lines that you’ll want to avoid in the heat of the moment:

1. “That’s not my problem.”

Whether you work in customer service or you’re tackling an issue raised by a coworker, never flat-out pass the buck when a problem arises. You should always do your best to solve an issue, or at the very least, help the person presenting the problem find the best resource to fix it.

2. “It’s not that hard.”

You know what sucks? Having someone tell you that process or project is simple when they really don’t know much about it, or have never done it themselves. It’s also problematic when you’re trying to properly explain the complexity of an issue, and someone tells you that you’re crazy for thinking it’s anything but a walk in the park. Value your coworker’s expertise when they say something is complex/difficult/harder than you’ve expected.

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3. “I hate them.” 

Never talk smack about anyone. Not a boss, not a client, not a coworker. That is flat out a terrible idea that will come back and bite you in the tender areas one day. Also, it’s patently unfair to decisively hate someone. You can have bad days, sure, but think about the negativity and possibly toxicity that you’re infusing your workplace with when you talk that way. Not good for morale at all.

4. “We’ve always done it this way.”

Watch out! Your anchor is showing. Dragging your feet when it comes to change or potential innovation in the workplace is a one-way ticket to getting yourself in trouble. The negative, old-school person in the office isn’t going to see much in terms of promotion, new projects, or even longevity. That anchor can really weigh you down.

5. “This will only take a second.”

Ever heard the phrase ” The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”? That’s what we’re talking about here. Even if a task should only take a few minutes, you just won’t know what you’re dealing with until…you’re dealing with it. A simple repair of someone’s laptop can turn into a complete refurbishment. A presentation update turns into a two-day recreation when you find out the original file isn’t supported by your computer. It’s better to under promise and over deliver, or at the very least, leave yourself some padding for emergencies.

6. “Are you pregnant?” 

If you wanna get smacked in the face, go right ahead, I guess. A: It’s none of your business and B: What you’re really saying is “you look a little tubby in the tummy area.” (This goes for everyday life, not just the office.)

7. “Don’t take everything so seriously!”

If someone has just gotten done telling you that something you said/did/acted out in a pantomime offended them or bothered them, the absolute wrong way to respond is to tell them to basically “chill out, man.” Find respect in the workplace by not disrespecting others. It’s that simple.

8. “This may sound stupid, but…”

I’m telling you right now, you’re painting a picture that everyone is automatically seeing is dumb. Same as if you start off a sentence with “I think that…” or “Maybe if we….” Instead, command the room with statements. “It makes more sense if we…” or “We’d have better results if..” or “Our numbers tell me that….” You’re a smart cookie! Sound like it!

9. “I really don’t have time for this.”

You’re busy. I’m busy. Everybody is busy. Even if your schedule is jammed up, if someone brings you a task, it’s better to set expectations with your schedule, communicate the plan, and let them know when you expect to be finished (even if that date is a month from now). Flat out refusing to do anything isn’t the way to win friends and influence people. Nobody likes to be considered not important enough for you, Your Highness, or dead last on your To Do list, but not even making the list is far worse.

10. “Hey, can you keep a secret?”

No, I can’t. Don’t tell me something that is privileged, private, secret, or not to be shared. I’ll be telling Sheryl in Accounting and then she’ll let it slip to someone in the bathroom, and it’ll get back to Chuck in Payroll and then he’s going to blab to absolutely everyone. If it’s a secret, keep it to yourself.

Pausing to Think

A friend had this quote by Napoleon Hill, an American self-help writer on their wall, and I think it serves you well to remember it at work, and in life. “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” Seems like good advice.


Ever said something terrible at work? What happened? Share your stories with our community on Twitter, or leave your comment below.

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