10 Things NOT To Say At Work

10 Things NOT To Say At Work

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Saying the wrong thing never feels great – but at work, it can be truly horrible. I know this feeling all too well, so I decided to give my insight and tips on what NOT to say at work!

Your work life is made up of crucial relationships built on shared values, goals and attitudes. Your ability to be successful and enjoy what you do depends a great deal on your personal rapport with others. Working within an office, especially a small one, means everyone hears everything and what you say can impact the entire team. I for one, am a culprit of saying thoughtless things like mispronouncing words or announcing to the team something embarrassing I did over the weekend. While these things merely damage my ego more than my work relationships, there are certain things that can slip out of your mouth in the heat of the moment when you haven’t had time to think, which can undermine all of this in seconds.


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1. “But we have always done it that way”

People can be scared of change and while there is value in experience, it’s not always a legitimate excuse. It can make you appear inflexible and stuck in your own ways. What I would recommend saying instead is - “that’s a different approach – can you explain why it is better, so I understand?”


2. “That’s not my problem”

We’ve all heard it before and when you’re juggling a lot of things, it’s easy to dismiss things that aren’t ‘your problem’. Unfortunately, you can potentially appear self-serving and not a team player. What I would recommend saying instead is – “I recommend talking to (insert name)”


3. “That makes no sense”

We all get confused, but rather than jump to conclusions it could be that you simple don’t understand. Instead of appearing negative, try to recognise what the other person is saying. Potentially reply to the person with – “I’m not sure about that one, can you tell me why it will work better?”


4. “There is nothing I can do”

Sometimes it really does feel there is nothing else we can do in a situation, especially if we’ve exhausted all possibilities. Adopting a “can-do” attitude would go much further than admitting defeat. I would recommend saying instead – “I’m a bit stuck, can you help me find any other options?”  


5. “You’re wrong”

This can slip out before we realise, the trouble is you have the potential to offend other staff and cause disharmony.  Trying a more diplomatic approach such as – “I disagree, can I explain why … what do you think?” will go down a lot better and not leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth.

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6. “I just assumed that…”

Every time I say the word “assume” I think of my year 7 English teacher writing on the whiteboard “ASSUME makes an ASS out of U and ME”. Mistakes are easy to make and can simply come from miscommunication. Nevertheless, it’s much better to never assume and always clarify what it is you need to do. You never want to be caught in a situation saying “I assumed this is what you meant” because there you have it – you have made an ass out of yourself!


 7. “I’m sorry, but…”

We are all guilty of saying sorry and following it up with an excuse, especially with family members or friends as you feel comfortable to give excuses and never want to be seen as in the wrong. However, following an apology with “but” undoes the power of a true apology. Own up to the fact you stuffed up at work, learn from it and move on. Chances are your boss or manager will be over it within 5 minutes anyway. The best way to apologise is to say “I’m sorry about that, next time I will…”


 8. “You should have”

Pointing out colleagues’ mistakes, especially when you aren’t a manager or superior isn’t a constructive way to build relationships at work. Telling someone what they should and shouldn’t be doing in the office not only comes across rude, but it can cause hierarchical issues within the team. Try to be more constructive and say – “here’s what I recommend you might do next time”


 9. “I haven’t had time”

There are never enough hours in the day for anyone and conflicting priorities always occur. It’s better to be proactive and say when the task will be done, rather than explaining why it hasn’t. Coming up with a solution rather than a problem is a far better approach when explaining to your superior why you didn’t finish what was promised.


 10. “I did my best”

I know the feeling when you honestly believe you did everything you could in a situation and couldn’t possibly have done anything more. When your best just isn’t good enough, use it as a lesson and learn from it, instead of getting defensive try for a more humble approach. Asking – “what could I do better next time?” leaves you open to feedback to learn from.

The best thing to do when you say something you regret at work are to apologise and be sincere for any upset you may have caused. State what you didn’t mean and admit your error, explain what you did not intend to do or say. Finally, explain what you actually meant and take your time to verbalise it clearly. You don’t want to leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth or leave an awkward giant elephant in the room.

Not every problem in the workplace comes down to careless use of language, of course. It can be a huge help to know how to deal with difficult personality types as well. Take the time to use a positive approach in everything you do at work, keep your cool and keep your calm and you will benefit across not just your professional life, but your personal life too!


By Olivia Buhagiar 




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