Honesty is always a good thing, but sometimes—particularly when it comes to talking to your boss—it might not be the best policy. Thinking before you speak is always advised. Profanity and insults are to be avoided at all costs. We know you’re a grownup, but it must be said—you’ll need to be on your best behavior at all times.
Here is a list of phrases you should take care never to voice out loud when speaking to your boss. Eliminate these from your vocabulary.
1. “I’m doing the work of three people”
Even if this is true, say if your boss fired someone and your workload increased to pick up the slack, this is never wise to say outright. Instead try asking your boss to sit down with you and help prioritize your task list. Once she sees what you’re actually juggling, she’ll realize the work you’re doing is too much.
2. “I don’t have time.”
This may be true, but again, there are subtler ways to show your boss that you’re drowning in excessive work.
3. “I don’t know how.”/“I can’t.”
If you’re asked to do something, the worst thing to say is “I don’t know how to do that”—or even worse: “I can’t.” Your first move should be to figure out if you can figure it out. Within reason, of course. Show your problem solving skills and attempt to solve it on your own. If you need help, ask a colleague or mentor for guidance first. And never just say you can’t because you don’t feel like it.
4. “That’s not my job.”
Dismissing a task as outside of your job description or somehow not in your “area” is a great way to get a negative performance review and a bad reference down the line. Be willing to pitch in and humbly do what needs to be done, regardless of the pay grade.
5. “I don’t know.”
If your boss asks you a question, it’s fine to not immediately know the answer. It’s not fine to say that outright. Never shrug your shoulders and walk away when you could say “I’m not certain about that, but I’ll look into it for you right away.”
6. “I’ll try.”
As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Get it done. Saying you’ll “try”—even if you mean it—just makes it sound like you won’t really put your back into it.
7. “Ooh, did you hear about Steve’s weekend fling?”
Keep other people’s personal lives to yourself as well. If you must gossip, do it with your out of work friends.
8. “I’m sorry, but…”
The “but” is the real problem here. If you’re genuinely sorry, apologize for what you’re sorry about. No excuses or rationalizations.
9. “I just assumed that…”
“Assume” means to make an ass of ‘u” and ‘me.’ Don’t assume. If you have any doubts or questions at the outset of a task or project, speak up then. Don’t make assumptions that can cost you and your team (and your boss) valuable time and resources.
10. “At my last job…”
Sure, maybe your procedures were more streamlined and your boss was better, but this information is only going to get you in trouble with your current boss.
11. “I need a raise.”
While it’s fine to ask for more money at the appropriate time, saying you need one—particularly because you just had a baby or bought a house—is a recipe for not getting one. Play your review process a bit smarter than that. You deserve a raise because you’ve earned it. You’ve shown your value. Never just because you’re broke.
This is a no brainer. There’s always a better way to phrase this. If you ever need to say it, find a better way.
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