If you value your professional reputation and your workplace friendships, avoid saying these 10 phrases at the office:
- “Oh my goodness, did you hear what _____ did? or “Did you see what _____ is wearing?” Don’t earn the reputation of office gossip. If the person whom you’re gossiping about hears what you’ve said, it could lead to an awkward confrontation. But even if it doesn’t, your other co-workers will learn not to trust you. Instead, make a conscious decision to stop gossiping. Avoid spending time with other office gossips, and make sure that the comments you make about your co-workers are positive ones.
- “I heard that they’re about to start laying people off.” Like gossiping about people, spreading rumors about your organization isn’t going to do anything for your professional reputation. It will damage morale, making the workplace less pleasant for everyone—including you. If your boss finds out that you’ve been spreading those kinds of rumors, he or she will be upset. If you are concerned about your organization’s future, approach your boss calmly and privately to ask about the situation.
- “Don’t ask me! I’m just the _____.” If a co-worker asks you a question that’s outside of your expertise, that response gives two negative impressions. First, it indicates that you’re not interested in being helpful, like the uncooperative “That’s not my job!” response, which you also should avoid. Second, it undermines your importance within your organization. It tells the person that you’re not confident or motivated. Instead, if you don’t know the answer to something, say “Hmm, that’s a great question. Let’s ask _____. I think he/she will know, and now I’m curious too.”
- “This is probably obvious, but …” or “This might sound dumb, but …” If you have an idea to share at a meeting or one-on-one with a colleague, project confidence. You know your idea has merit, so act like it. Practice speaking without qualifying your ideas.
- “You always …” or “You never …” Avoid absolutes when talking to your co-workers, especially when the conversation is about their shortcomings. Absolutes are rarely true, so they make you look petty and exaggerative. Plus, they’ll put the person on the defensive, which won’t help solve the problem. Instead, speak calmly about a specific instance. Example: Replace “You never get your assignments to me on time!” with “Because you didn’t get your part of the report to me on time yesterday, I was forced to stay late last night. I won’t do that again.”
- “You look tired.” You might be saying it out of genuine concern, but your co-worker will interpret it as “You look bad,” and no one wants to hear that from a colleague. Instead, show your concern by asking “Is everything OK?”
- “You look hot.” Maybe you just want to give a compliment, but that kind of comment can lead to a very uncomfortable co-worker and possibly sexual harassment accusations. Also avoid “sexy” and “babe. “If you want to compliment a co-worker’s appearance, you can’t go wrong with “You look nice today.”
- “I’m so hung over.” File that one under “TMI” with stories about bodily functions and intimate details of your personal life. Sharing those kinds of things will damage your professional reputation and make co-workers uncomfortable.
- “I can’t believe this @*%&” I suppose it depends on the culture of your workplace, and there are some where cursing is not unusual, but as a rule of thumb, it’s typically considered unprofessional. And cursing at a co-worker is never acceptable.
- “So a _____ and a _____ walk into a bar …” Off-color jokes about ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation are never OK in the workplace. They could offend any co-worker—even those who aren’t members of the group in question—and will likely make those who are members of the group feel excluded, threatened or discriminated against. If you want to make a joke, choose a safe, inoffensive topic. Self-effacing humor is usually a good bet.
What other phrases do you avoid saying to your co-workers?
Enjoyed this post? Be sure to check out “10 things you shouldn’t say to your boss” too!
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