30 Things you should never say at work

By Courtney Jones

Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you, right? Maybe on the playground. But when it comes to your workplace, what you say matters. If you want to be seen as a leader in the office, besides following these rules, you can start by deliberately choosing to speak with words and phrases that are empowering to yourself and to others. The following, however, are not some of them and are best avoided if you want to avoid being seen as unprofessional--or a liability.

“It’s not fair”

Whether it’s a global crisis, personal issue or the fact that Suzie in accounting got a raise and you didn’t: Injustices happen around the world and in the workplace all the time. Don’t be an injustice collector. Complainers never prosper.

“It’s not my fault”

Nobody wins when you play the blame game. Take the onus for whatever role, no matter how small, you played in whatever went wrong. Be accountable.

“It’s how it’s always been done”

If you want to show a lack of ingenuity, this is the best way to do it. But If you want to grow with your company, you should always be looking for ways to improve efficiency.

“No problem”

You’re basically implying that a co-worker or manager’s request should have been a problem. This can make people feel like they have imposed on you.

“This may sound like a dumb idea.../This may be a stupid question/I may be wrong but…”

These phrases erode your credibility. If you’re not confident in yourself, how can anyone else be?

“I’ll try”

The word try can suggest you lack confidence in your ability. Take ownership of your capabilities. You won’t try. You will.

“That’s not my job/That’s not my responsibility/That’s not in my job description”

Showing you’re only willing to do the bare minimum required is not very conducive to performance reviews—or job security.

“I don’t have time/I’m too busy”

Even if it’s true, ain’t nobody got time for these statements. They make others feel less important than something or someone else.

“I sent an email last week”

Great. Congratulations. You reached out. If someone didn’t get back to you, the responsibility is also on you to follow up.


Prefacing your sentence with this can imply that the listener could be somehow wrong, and you don’t want to sound condescending.


There’s a reason why the Urban Dictionary defines “I’m fine” as the most used lie in the English language. It makes you sound vague and dismissive. Everyone knows.

“You guys”

Referring to a group in the workplace as “you guys” shows you lack confidence in your inclusion. It’s also a slang term that may offend any women present.

“You should have”

These are fault-finding words. They can inflict feelings of blame and finger pointing. Use words like “next time” or “in the future” instead.

“Impossible/There’s nothing I can do/I can’t”

Really? You’ve really attempted and exhausted every possible solution? And even if you actually may have, these words suggest a pessimistic, passive or hopeless outlook. Employers notice and recognize a can-do attitude.

“Don’t tell so and so but…”

So you want to be the office gossip? Don’t be. Refrain from saying anything in private in the workplace that you wouldn’t say in public.

“He’s lazy/She’s lazy…He’s incompetent/She’s incompetent”

Nothing good ever comes out of disparaging a colleague or manager. Announcing another’s ineptitude or lack of motivation may come across as an insecure attempt to make yourself look better. Also, if others disagree with your assessment, the negativity can come back to haunt you.


No swear words in the office.

“That’s so annoying/This sucks”

Insults have no place in the workplace—especially if they’re directed at an individual or company practice.

“I don’t get paid enough for this/I hate my job”

Negativity gets noticed. Managers know that naysayers bring down group morale, so if you’re looking to be replaced, these statements are the best way to do it.

Watching what you say are wise words of wisdom. You wouldn’t want to miss out on great opportunities because of a slip of the tongue.

by Courtney Jones

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