Whether you and your boss are friends or just daytime acquaintances, there are some things you shouldn’t say to them in the workplace. Even if Kelly from Accounting was rude to you or you just broke up with your boyfriend, it’s important to remain professional, positive, and receptive at work.
Saying any of these 11 things to your boss can give you a reputation for laziness and prevent you from moving up in the ranks.
Problems (and solutions) might look very different from your cubicle than they do from your boss’ office. If you’re being asked to do something that you know won’t go well, then voicing your concerns is entirely appropriate. But using language that refuses to engage in a solution tells your boss that you’re not interested in problem solving.
2. “That’s not my job”
Responding to an ask with combative language shows your boss that you’re not willing to be flexible. Try and see these moments as opportunities to add more skills to your resume.
If you’re being asked to do something new and challenging, then asking for clarification or support is perfectly reasonable. If you’re regularly asked to do something you find demeaning, like getting coffee for the office, then maybe it’s time to look for a new job.
3. “I don’t know”
You’re expected to be an expert at your role. If your boss asks you a question, responding with “I don’t know” is never a good idea—it makes you look lazy and inexperienced. If you really don’t know the answer to a question, give it your best guess and try to lead the conversation towards a discussion of the problem.
4. “I’ll try”
Your boss isn’t going to feel comfortable assigning tasks to you if they think you’re only going to “try” to get them done. They assign work to get it off their plate—let them know you’re the kind of person they can rely on.
There are a lot of reasons you might want to say no to a request from your boss. Maybe you’ve got too much on your plate, or the task is not in your job description, or you’re just in a bad mood. The thing is, your boss doesn’t know why you’re saying no. If you really can’t take something on, explain why.
6. “I’ve got a lot going on”
Never bring your personal life into your workplace. Everybody has difficulties outside of work, but most people don’t talk about them. If you really can’t deal with work today, use a sick day. The group’s productivity shouldn’t be put on hold because you just got dumped.
7. “What will you do for me?”
You and your boss are not on equal footing. Never try and bargain with your boss, even if you’re being asked to do something difficult. Responding positively (and gently reminding your boss of your work ethic during an annual review) will yield much better results.
8. “I can’t work with them”
You’re expected to be a team player at work, even if you work with people you can’t stand. Act like an adult and put personal differences aside in the workplace. Doing so will show management that you care more about the success of the team than your own self interest.
9. “I’m thinking about quitting”
What you probably meant to say is that you need help. If you’re taking on so much that you’re thinking about finding a less demanding job, ask for help, don’t threaten your boss with your resignation. Doing so is a great way to burn bridges and even get fired.
10. “I’m bored”
It’s not your boss’ job to make you happy. If you think you can take on more responsibility, take initiative and show them.
11. “We do it this way”
In some cases, you may have been at the company longer than your boss. Guess what? It doesn’t matter. They were chosen for leadership for a reason, and your tenure doesn’t give you any authority over them. Respect the chain of command to avoid appearing insubordinate.
You only get one reputation in the workplace. Don’t let thoughtless comments lead to a reputation of self centeredness or laziness. Instead, be optimistic, engaged, and focused on the team to be successful at work.