Last month we shared “10 things you shouldn’t say to co-workers.” Many of those can be applied to conversations with your boss as well, but here are 10 additional phrases to avoid when speaking with your supervisor:
- “That’s impossible.” When your boss gives an assignment to you or a goal to your team, don’t dismiss it as unattainable. Ideally you should find a way to meet your supervisor’s expectations, but if something truly is not feasible, suggest an alternative. Example: “I like your plan for moving up the newsletter’s schedule, but I’m not sure how we can make that happen this month with the other assignments we have. Is it OK if I postpone the XYZ deadline for a week to make the newsletter a priority?”
- “But we’ve always done it this way.” Just because you’re comfortable with a particular way of doing things doesn’t mean it’s the best way for your team or organization. Be open to change. Sure, there will probably be an adjustment period with some confusion and kinks, but once you’ve learned the new system, it should be worth it.
- “That’s not my job.” Your boss knows your team members, their responsibilities and their skills. Trust that if the boss gives you an assignment, there’s a good reason for it. Maybe your co-worker has another high-priority assignment, or maybe your boss thinks your skill set is better suited to the task. Impress your supervisor with your can-do attitude. If you’re feeling swamped with assignments, address the issue this way instead: “I can do that, but I also have this assignment … How would you like me to prioritize everything?”
- “I can’t stand _____” or “I refuse to work with _____.” Be willing to work with everyone on your team. Otherwise, the boss may see the problem as your bad attitude, not the other employee. When a co-worker acts in a way that makes it difficult to work together, speak with the person directly. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, ask your boss for advice. Example: “I’ve found that Carolyn has a hard time meeting deadlines, which makes it difficult for me to do my job when we work together. What do you suggest I do?” Note: If the issue is very sensitive—such as if the person is sexually harassing you or making racist comments—go to your boss about the problem immediately. Don’t wait until you’re assigned to work closely together.
- “Oops … I should have asked, but I didn’t want to bother you.” Don’t risk making a costly or time-consuming mistake just because you’re too intimidated to speak up and ask questions. If you don’t have enough information to complete an assignment well, ask follow-up questions until you feel confident that you understand what’s expected of you. Your boss would much rather you take a bit more time on the front end of an assignment than spend extra time cleaning up a mess afterward.
- “I figured you knew …” Nobody likes to be blindsided, so don’t put your supervisor in that position. Give your boss an opportunity to solve problems before taking them to his or her boss or to HR.
- “I’m taking off these days for vacation.” By all means, you should use your vacation days. But don’t assume that you can take off whenever you want; request time off. Your plans may coincide with another co-worker’s or with a major deadline, and in either case your boss may have to decline your request. Never commit to travel plans without receiving your boss’s OK first.
- “Why haven’t you accepted my friend request on Facebook?” It’s great to have a friendly relationship with your boss, but don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re buddies. Keep your professional and personal lives separate, and don’t seek to connect to your supervisor on social media platforms like Facebook (LinkedIn is an exception). Do you really want your boss to see everything that goes up on your Wall anyway? If your boss ignored your friend request, consider it a blessing and don’t mention it.
- “I don’t get paid enough for this.” That kind of statement makes you sound like an entitled whiner, which won’t impress your boss and certainly won’t make you a stronger candidate for future promotions or raises. If you’re feeling underpaid, undervalued or dumped on, schedule a meeting with your supervisor to talk about the issue calmly and respectfully. Have specific examples prepared to support your point.
- “If you don’t____, then I’ll quit.” When your boss can’t (or won’t) give you what you ask for—whether it’s a promotion, a raise, an enviable assignment or anything else—he or she knows that there’s a chance you might seek another job. Stating that outright will only lead to awkwardness between you and your supervisor and may embarrass you later if you change your mind or are unable to find a new job.
What other phrases do you avoid saying to your boss?
[Image Source: Jacob Bøtter]