3 Things You Should Never Say at Work

When it comes to getting ahead, sometimes it's not what you say -- it's what you avoid saying that really counts. As always, it's the little things that trip us up.

Steven Barnes at Levo League has a great list of these seemingly innocuous, but potentially career-killing misstatements. These were a few of my (least) favorites:

1. "That's not my job."

Everyone has worked with someone who says this, and no one has enjoyed it. While it's perfectly appropriate to ask your boss to help you prioritize tasks or to direct a colleague to someone who can better solve their issue, it's important to express it in a way that doesn't sound like you're telling your coworker that you don't care about their problem.

2. "Last night was so crazy."

Never give your boss a reason to think you might be hungover, tired, or less-than-focused on the task at hand. He or she is unlikely to be impressed with your keg-stand prowess anyway. Save those stories for your friends.

3. "This might sound stupid, but..."

It might not have sounded stupid, but now that you've said that, it will. Don't be your own worst frenemy.

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! What does this list leave out? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #MakeItHappen.

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  1. 13 Jackie 10 Sep
    What are people's views of a manager about to brief a Deputy on her plans for the future and opens the meeting aggressively with..,What are you smerking at? ... Response-Smearking?.... Yes why are you smerking? ... (This is to a 50 yr old responsible manager)
  2. 12 lard face 28 Aug
    You should not say "YOLO" either. YOLO
  3. 11 Victoria Driver 20 Feb
    Look up the PETER PRINCIPLE
  4. 10 Bro 09 Feb
  5. 9 absolute NO NO 29 Jan
    You absolutely never say "I quit" even if you intend to or do not intend to. You simply quit when you have had it enough and then after one year at your new job, you can get all that out of your system by writing a frank ridicule to your old boss.
  6. 8 ashish 30 Dec
    I wonder why its so important what we say than what we actually do. I agree we should avoid saying the things mentioned here and I am sure someone can always add some more to that list, but as long as there will be issues people may not react appropriately. Yes the problem is psychological but not of an individual but of the organization as a whole. What is required is not to change the verbal or non-verbal behaviour of individuals by framing civic rules but doing a root cause analysis of why this occurred. We just can't stop this by pre-crime predictions and by declaring everyone falling beyond the non-declared civic rules a criminal. There are solutions available such as training staff in psychoanalysis techniques such as Transactional analysis which will help individuals to improve their behaviour. But I think most of the time a clear transparent projection of the intentions and simple talk on part of leadership can do the job.
  7. 7 al 30 Nov
    Ed. You're just going to have to teach your superior how to do his job more effectively without being a condescenting ass like he may be. An MBA does not mean you're effective at a job. What they teach you at universities is how to read. push yourself mentally and to think and problem solve. If you get out school and cannot apply yourself due to the fact that you have no motivation then you did not learn much. Maybe a few more psychology classes could help us all.
  8. 6 Bostjan 17 Oct
    I agree only with no 1. 1. If you have a problem working that is a problem. 2. Luckily I had many night escapades with my boss, so "Last night was so crazy." is actually quite an appropriate response when trying to cheer him up in the morning ... 3. "This might sound stupid, but..." well if the company is on the edge, somebody in the room has to make stupid questions. Usually it was something the boss would say, but occasionally we stepped in.
  9. 5 karen 05 Sep
    Smoking is so disgusting! Never invade someone's space with nasty halitosis breath to tell them you might be allergic to perfume. Never Never Never talk about sexual escapades at the work place.
  10. 4 dave 31 Jul
    That spell "chack" is a tricky thing, isn't it, Joe?
  11. 3 No Spam 10 Jul

    In matrix management #1 is a given ... because half the time the guy handing you work doesn't have a clue what else you're working on, and will assume -- regardless of what you say or ask in the way of prioritization -- that _his_ task _will_ take _top_ priority because most of the time they're glorified bean counters with MBAs and think everything works on the LIFO principle (Last In, First Out) popular in accounting with regard to inventory valuation at the end of quarters. 

  12. 2 Joe 06 Jan


    Use Spell chack if you are going to complain about the education level of your superiors.  This would be one suggestion. 

  13. 1 Edward Zaccari 18 May

    The biggest problem with the corporation I work for is the management team is not truly composed of collage grads, who actually have management skills other then the road of hard knocks. Our company is purely political. In other words you have to know someone near or at the top, in order to climb the ladder. The goon we have for a president, was appointed by the mayor, to the post. In other words he's a bean counter and second grad politician... thus he doesn't know anything about transportation and hates his job, thus making everyone miserable. How would you tackle that one, Dear Pay Scale, staff?!


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