5 Things You Say During Work That You Should Ditch ASAP

We’ve all said things at work that we wish we could take back. Sometimes our faux pas are blatantly obvious, such as asking a coworker who has gained weight if she's pregnant or telling your boss he reminds you of Elmer Fudd. However, you don’t have to say something scandalous for it to be damaging to your career or reputation. Some words or phrases have a way of creeping into your daily dialogue without you even realizing they’re harmful. Take a look at our list of five things you might be saying on the job that you really should be keeping to yourself.

things you say at work

1.  “That’s Not Fair!”

The most likely response you’ll get when you complain that something isn’t fair is: “life’s not fair.” It may not be the response you want, but you can’t deny its validity. Complaining that something isn’t fair might be a natural reaction, but when you say it out loud, it can make you look childish and petty. It might not feel right that everyone else gets to go to lunch while you have to stay behind and answer the phones. But expressing your frustration isn’t going to win you any brownie points, and it won’t get you to lunch any faster either. So as hard as it may be, try to keep the unfairness complaints to yourself.

2.  “It’s Not My Fault”

When something goes wrong at work, no one wants to be blamed—especially if they're innocent. When your boss announces your top client’s order was late or sales have dropped 10 percent this month, the last thing he wants to hear from his employees is: “it’s not my fault.” Yet chances are, at least one or two workers will make this their knee-jerk response. Not only does being so quick to deny blame make you look guilty, it also paints you as someone who is only out for themselves—not a team player. A loyal, responsible employee will be more interested in how to solve the problem as quickly as possible than focusing on who will be blamed for the mistake. So while you might be trying to make yourself look good by denying culpability, you’re actually doing the opposite.

3.  “This May Sound Crazy, But…”

Most organizations are becoming increasingly open to employee input. They want creative ideas to spring from all levels of the company—from the corner office to the mailroom. This openness creates a host of opportunities for employees to express themselves. However, when you preface your input with “this may sound crazy” or “I don’t know if this will work, but…” you diminish your credibility from the start. You may not even be aware you're using these types of statements, so pay attention, and see if you're being unwittingly negative. Ultimately, you need to express your ideas with confidence if you want them to be taken seriously. 

 4.  “Not my problem”

There’s an old Polish proverb that goes, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Basically, it serves the same purpose as “not my problem” but in a funnier, more illustrative way. Yet even with a whimsical spin, claiming that a problem someone in your organization is experiencing is none of your concern is a bad move. It may not technically be your problem the copier is broken or your colleague’s secretary just quit. But that doesn’t mean you should utter the three most exasperating words in the employee vernacular. Unless you are really trying to get under someone’s skin, you should avoid saying “not my problem” entirely—both at work and in life.    

5.  “I Hate Change!”

It's perfectly natural to get comfortable doing certain things in certain ways. So when changes are forced upon you—especially those that seem to have come out of nowhere—resentment is probably going to ensue. You can't help the way you feel about change, but you can control how you express those feelings. Before you exclaim, “I hate change!” when your boss sends out a new procedural memo, take some time to accept it and see if it might actually be an improvement. If the change is truly counterproductive, explain your reasoning to your boss logically and rationally, but only after you've given it a fair chance. Coming off as perpetually resistant to change is going to make you seem inflexible and old-fashioned. So try to keep your mind open and your mouth padlocked next time an unexpected evolution comes your way.

Most people have a pretty good idea of what’s acceptable to say at work, and what is not. However, it's very easy to overlook certain habits and end up unintentionally painting yourself in a negative light. You don’t need to walk on eggshells, but try to be aware of when you might be committing some of these subtle yet detrimental missteps. You may find that a few small tweaks in your verbiage can make a big difference.

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