Office argument

6 things you shouldn’t say at work

How you communicate in your workplace is instrumental in how you’re perceived by management and your peers. You’ll no doubt, want to be considered as a leader or innovator in the workplace so must choose your language, words and phrases carefully.

You should choose language that’s empowering to yourself and your colleagues, and use words and phrases that motivate and inspire, to create an image that instils confidence and credibility.

There are certain things you should never say, and phrases that trigger alarm bells for management and colleagues alike, so in this blog post we cover six things you shouldn’t say at work.

#1 – ‘This isn’t my problem/That’s not my job’

Not my problem businesswoman

You’re in desperate need of some help. Whether you’re trying to reconcile the month’s accounts or updating supplier information on your system – and you’re not sure how to do it. And you ask a colleague and they bat you away, saying: “It’s not my job to do this”. Or your boss wants you to undertake another task, but you feel that you shouldn’t be undertaking the work – how do you reply to both scenarios?

On paper, they’re both similar. For the colleague that doesn’t think it’s their job to undertake the work you’ve requested, what does their self-serving attitude say about them? Workplaces are team environments by their very nature and by openly rejecting to help you, without signposting you to where you can get help, is something that can limit career advancement. This is because this person if their behaviour continues, will earn a reputation for being someone that is self-serving and uninterested in helping the wider team.

And instead of immediately shooting down your boss – by flat out rejecting their request and complaining you’re too busy to help – perhaps consider placing the onus back on them. Say something like: “Sure, I’ll help. However, I do have the following tasks that I need to complete by X. Which of these should I de-prioritise instead?” This will demonstrate you’re happy to work as part of the team, while reminding your boss you still have work to do and that they need to be more realistic in their expectations.

#2 – Anything starting with ‘I think…’

authoritative business person

Prefacing anything with ‘I think’ puts you in a weaker position. You want to command authority when you speak and have a look at these statements and think about which one looks more authoritative:

“I think I will have that report ready by the end of the month.”

“I will have the report ready by the end of the month.”

“I believe that Wax Digital will be a good fit for your organisation, as demonstrated by our presentation.”

“Wax Digital will be transformative for your entire procurement process. We can’t wait to get started on this project.”

Statements two and four convey much more conviction than the other two. Instead of meandering around the subject with words like ‘think’ or ‘might’, using command words like ‘will’ or ‘believe’ help to convey passion for whatever it is you’re applying yourself to.

By using words like ‘think’ in your sentences, you aren’t demonstrating confidence within yourself and your colleagues, clients and peers will pick up on it.

#3 – Don’t complain about your colleagues/line manager at work

We all get frustrated at work, especially, when your boss is being unreasonable about a deadline, or your colleague is being especially irritating.

It might be tempting to complain to a peer at work about the target of your frustrations, but this is one of the quickest ways to damage your reputation in the workplace. Instead, evaluate how much of an issue your gripe really is.

Is it affecting your day-to-day? Is it stopping you from doing your job effectively? If you answer yes to either of the questions, speak to your line manager.

If you do have a legitimate complaint to make, that isn’t personal and doesn’t devolve into name-calling, consider tackling the issue yourself by directly communicating what the issue is, how it has made you feel and why you think it’s causing problems. Perhaps they won’t have realised the issues they were causing.

#4 – ‘That’s how we always do it!’

Perhaps one of the most dangerous phrases in the workplace, saying ‘But we’ve always done it that way’ can make you seem like a stickler for change.

Innovation, creativity and problem-solving are attributes most admired in businesses, and so, by being resistant to change, you’re not helping to encourage a positive culture within your business.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should mindlessly support suggestions that you don’t think will work. Instead, phrase your opposition in a different way – try saying something like:

“That’s an interesting idea, how do you think that will work?”

“That’s a different approach, can you tell me how you think we can implement that.”

This way, you’re not flat-out refusing to embrace change, instead, you’re encouraging everyone to think more about the proposed solution and whether it’s applicable to you or not.

5- ‘I’m too busy’

Saying ‘I’m too busy’ has become a bit of a cliché in the workplace. In fact, some people feel that saying those three over used words is a way of over-inflating your own self-importance.

While you might have a lot of work on, consider for a moment why this person needs your attention. Do they need help with something? Is it something only you can help with? Try and steer the conversation towards understanding why your co-worker needs your help and explaining to them what you’re busy with. Always a suggest an alternative time, so you come across as positive and not stonewalling your colleagues request immediately.

By letting your colleague know what’s high on your own agenda you’ll create some empathy that you have your own priorities to deal with too.

Try things like:

“I’d be happy to discuss this with you after I get this report done. Should I stop by your desk at 3 pm?”

“I’ve got a, b and c to do, but I still want to meet with you. Can we do things on x date when I’ve got them finished.”

“I’m in the middle of preparing for a review meeting. Is there something you need help with?”

6- ‘I may be wrong, but’

Prefacing what you say in the office with things like ‘This may be a silly idea, but…’ demonstrates a lack of confidence, and damages your credibility.

While you might be trying to come across as humble, instead you can appear unsure about what you’re suggesting and reveal to your colleagues that you don’t place a lot of confidence in what you think.

Instead, eliminate these sorts of phrases and be confident with what you’re suggesting. We’ve compiled a few examples below:

“This might be a silly idea, but maybe we could reduce procurement overheads by investing in an eProcurement system.”

“eProcurement systems have been proven to reduce administrative overheads in procurement teams. I recommend contacting Wax Digital for a demo of their software.”

I might be wrong, but I think maybe the accounts are incorrect because of figures from July.”

“The accounts are incorrect because of figures from July. I’ve enclosed details here that show you exactly why this is the case.”

How to build self-awareness and eliminate these phrases from your vocabulary

  • Record yourself – when you’re on the phone at work, record what you’re saying and listen back to what you’ve said. Be critical, did you say anything on this list, or similar, that could be construed as negative or self-deprecating? Write down the phrase(s) you used and think about an alternative you could use instead. Remember this alternative and coach yourself to use it.
  • Use your friends or colleagues – ask someone you trust to listen carefully to your language. Get them to objectively review your language and ask them to flag up anything you think that would come across negatively. It might be difficult for you to hear this coming from a friend, but remember, it’s for your own development.
  • Try and pick out these phrases when others speak – try and pick out when your colleagues use these phrases. What sort of message do you think it conveys? What do you think about that person now? In your head, perhaps think about how they could’ve worded what they said in a better way.

Are there any workplace sayings/phrases that really bother you?

Did anything we say here strike a chord? Head over to our Twitter and LinkedIn pages to let us know. Or, for more information about how Wax Digital can help your organisation please visit our homepage.

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