6 Things Not To Say In The Workplace

Posted by on Jan 25, 2013 in Career Advice | 12 comments

I read an article listing the top things never to say to your boss. It was a ridiculous article that focused on the boss’s needs and made employees sound like whiny self-centered complainers, which in my professional experience this is very rarely the case.

The vast majority of people I’ve worked with throughout my career have been hard-working and dedicated employees with frustrations, struggles, and occasionally negative phrasing that is the result of bad habits not a bad attitude.

For most of us, staying on good terms at work is important, but viewing work as work and putting your boss’s needs in front of your own is not the way to live a balanced, happy, and healthy life.

Instead, I take care of myself first and do no harm to others. When I focus on me instead of everyone else, I am a better employee and a better person. When I manage my mental, emotional, and physical health I am successful in just about anything I do!

I’m going to take the focus off what your boss wants to hear and consider common phrases that don’t show you at your best. It’s not about your boss- it’s about you. This is your life, don’t you want to rock it?! Hell yeah!

6 phrases to avoid in the workplace

Assuming you’re a conscientious employee with a few bad habits, let’s take a look at some phrases that don’t show you for the awesome employee you really are!

I can’t…

Saying no can be a good thing, but saying “I can’t” to imply you’re not capable is unfair and untrue. (You can!)

Many years ago I would often say “I can’t” and then go on to do the thing I said I couldn’t possibly do. Unfortunately even proving myself wrong wasn’t enough to give me confidence- I had to believe in myself first.

Believe you can do anything you decide to you- you may not do it expertly, you may not even do it well, but you CAN do it!

This may be a stupid question…

Don’t call yourself stupid and you won’t appear less intelligent than you really are. When you make self-deprecating statements other people may start to see you that way. Worse yet, you may start to see you that way!

I’m here to tell you you are not stupid! No matter who you are, you’ve got smarts! You’ve got skills! You’ve got talents! Don’t sell yourself short.

I’m sorry to bother you…

You are important and so is anything you have to say. Starting off a conversation by suggesting your presence is an annoyance is undervalues your contributions in your workplace and can set a negative tone for the conversation that follows.

If you approach a co-worker and you truly feel you need to justify the interruption try, “please excuse the interruption”. Simple, effective, and respectful to you and the person you’re talking to.

Did you hear…

Anything you’ve got to say that starts with “did you hear” is usually just gossip. Maintain your good reputation with customers and co-workers by sharing your news, not anyone else’s. If it’s not about you, don’t talk about it. You’ll be more successful focusing on making the best of your day instead of focusing on what happened to someone else.

Don’t tell anyone, but…

This goes right along with “did you hear” and “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this”. Just don’t go there! You’re too awesome for gossip and any topic that is confidential needs to be kept that way. Keep the focus on yourself and your work and you’ll make great contributions to your workplace!

I hate…

Complaining focusing on everything that’s wrong in your workplace and sets a negative tone to your workday. Sure, there are frustrations and annoyances at work but that’s what you talk about, that’s what you’ll keep getting. Stop complaining and you’ll enjoy work more!

3 awesome phrases to use often in the workplace

You’re awesome and you know it! Here’s some positive phrases that will boost your professional satisfaction and enhance your career success!

Thank you

Gratitude can make every day a great day. Being thankful benefits you as much as it others. Gratitude helps you gain perspective and reminds you there’s something good in every day.

Great job!

If someone did great, tell them! Everyone appreciates having their hard work acknowledged and it’s a great way to create a supportive, positive, and friendly workplace!

How can I help?

Being of service to others benefits you in more ways than one! When you help others you have the opportunity to share your expertise and become known as an authority on that topic. You also become part of a community that will no doubt help you some time in the future. Helping others is also a great way to expand your experience and grow by applying your expertise to new areas.

effective communication

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LLW-ICONS-e1310587621360I love your comments! What other things do you avoid saying at work? What do you wish you heard more?


  1. Absolutely right-on! Umm, Chrysta, I found something similar and I would share it… bu-ut I am not so sure this would be the place!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Amber-Lee!

      I, too, can think of a lot of things not to say in the workplace that aren’t appropriate here. 😉

      Have an awesome day!


  2. Hi Chrysta

    It would be so great to have not had a dysfunctional workplace that I got laid off at. It is still very dysfunctional, the boss was such a gossiper and she had the nerve to wonder why no one trusted her. People would say something to her confidentially and soon it would be all around the building.

    She would yell and scream if anyone messed up and rarely said thank you. After the shock of no more paycheck, I was sure glad to not be part of that environment anymore. Went back a couple of times, but it wasn’t so bad for me. It was still awful for the ones that counted on it for survival. The last time I went back was to replace temporarily for a guy that was quitting in their busy season. His words to me were, “I am tired of being treated worse than a dog and I will sleep under a bridge before I would ever come back and work for her again.” That is a very harsh statement and there was no way around the boss from hell. The owners were contacted and they didn’t care and you had to go through the boss to get to an outside HR company working for the company we were employed at. I know of many that will never go back there to work under any circumstances.

    I am sure most work situations are not like I experienced, but saying negative things can definitely hamper one’s chances for moving up, if that is what their goal is.

    Very insightful post.


    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Mary!

      I’m sorry to hear you were laid off- that’s never fun- but perhaps there was some good in it as you no longer have to work in a toxic environment every day.

      Unfortunately, I have also worked for a dysfunctional boss, as well as had dysfunctional employees reporting to me. You might think it’s easier to be a manager to a dysfunctional employee but, no, any type of negative and harassing behavior is disruptive to everyone (and firing someone isn’t as simple as it may seem for a responsible employer).

      Negative behavior not only touches everyone around the negative individual, negative self-talk can diminish otherwise productive employees, which is why I feel it’s so important to be mindful of the things we say- not because we’re trying to please our boss but because, as individuals, we’re too awesome to let anything diminish our potential!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Have a grateful day!


  3. I really had to chuckle when I read this Chrysta because when you said there were certain things you shouldn’t say to your boss girl, I’ve said it all. I’ve called them a liar, a cheat and a hypocrite.

    Now I can understand these specific phrases that you’re speaking of and for most people I get what you’re saying. I’ve just always been very open and honest and I’m not afraid to call someone out on something even if it is my boss. That’s one of the reasons I was hired in the first place because I was not afraid to speak my mind.

    But belittling others or sharing negative connotations in the respect that you’re implying here is understandable. Not everyone has the type of relationships I had with my former bosses or co-workers for that matter. I also never said I couldn’t do anything because I was always willing to give it 100% and figure it out. That’s just my nature though.

    Great share and spot on. Sorry for the blabbing…


    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Adrienne!

      I’m right there with you, Adrienne! As long as I am being respectful and professional there is nothing that I shouldn’t say to my boss which is why the original article I read fired me up! Pandering to your boss does not lead to career success. It is those individuals that are willing to stand up and stand out that most often enjoy success.

      The original article I read frustrated me so much I felt I had to write my own article addressing things employees might avoid saying for their own benefit and improvement. A boss may or may not like what I say or what I do but as long as I am being thoughtful and honest only good things will come (even if it’s a good thing in disguise like getting laid off from a crummy job).

      Thanks for bringing the straight talk to my blog today! Have a grateful day!


  4. Hi Chrysta,

    Those are great tips, indeed. Some people can’t seem to be able to speak up without excusing themselves and putting themselves down in some way. I really like that you are underlining this as a bad habit to get rid of.

    Just as being arrogant is bad, putting oneself down too much can be bad for you too.

    Thank you for bringing out this interesting topic!

    • Thanks for the awesome comment, Sylviane!

      I used to minimize or diminish my own voice when I spoke up and it never served me well. I’m fortunate to have learned to speak confidently and let my thoughts and opinions be enough!

      I agree overconfidence is bad and in my experience I see far more people who are underconfident than overconfident yet the issues with underconfident individuals are all too often overlooked instead of addressed.

      Thanks for stopping by today! Have a grateful day!


  5. Chrysta,

    Another great thing to say in the workplace is “I really liked the way you do this….” It is a mix of gratitude and reinforcing principles that are important to leading well and building the right culture. Great points!



    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Jon!

      Thanks for your awesome suggestion, too. I love using positive feedback to reinforce desired behavior. Too many managers focus on undesirable behavior and fail to note desired behavior. This common mistake by managers is what makes them a manager instead of a leader. Leaders inspire, motivate, and encourage the best in those around them.

      Have a grateful day!


  6. Great tips, Chrysta! Approach is everything. How we approach one another in the workforce, will determine the responds we get back in return. In fact, this post can and should be taken outside of the workplace as well. In our normal daily lives, we should be practicing these insightful tips. It would totally eliminate the need to try and make them happen at work. It will be a normal reaction for us to do, wouldn’t you agree?

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Deone!

      I absolutely agree these same phrases should be avoided in all communication for anyone that wants to be happy in life. I’ve certainly found the more I put myself down and focus on other people, the more unhappy I feel. Our words can hold great power and meaning and selecting them thoughtfully leads to a happier life!

      Have a grateful day!


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