Phrases to Avoid at Work

When you have invested time, money, and education into your professional journey – you may hope to advance rather quickly. Unfortunately, there are instances where language and communication can undermine your goals without you realizing it. When amongst co-workers and management, it is best to consider what you say and how it may be interpreted. Negativity, over-apologizing, and sounding uncertain are just a few examples of how getting too comfortable with your speech can be career-ending. Here are a few tips on how to avoid saying the wrong thing when you are on the clock.

“I’m Sorry”
Some situations arise, such as a disagreement with a colleague, that may require an apology. Mistakes on the job that cause major setbacks can also warrant reparations. But, continuously apologizing during social interactions – for asking a question or for (politely) interrupting a conversation – can cause your intentions to be misinterpreted. If you are repeatedly justifying your actions and diminishing yourself as a whole, it can be regarded as insecurity and that you lack leadership qualities. A strategy to avoid this it to think before you speak; ask yourself if you are sorry or if you just need another word to make your point. Instead of offering an apology, try a phrase such as “Excuse me,” “I understand that you’re busy,” or “Do you have a moment?” These terms are polite and demonstrate that you are mindful of others, without saying sorry for communicating.

“That’s Not My Job”
In a lot of positions, there may be instances where the company is short-staffed and management needs to delegate a task to whoever is available. Sometimes a co-worker may approach you asking for assistance with their job or for you to take on a project of theirs altogether. In larger companies, other departments and colleagues may be unsure of who does what and ask you to complete a task that is not in your job description. Regardless of the reason, when asked to divert from your regular responsibilities, it is best to stray away from the phrase “it’s not my job.” This communicates an indifferent attitude and that you are not an ideal team player. Understandably, you may only have a specific skill set or may be unable to handle another project based on your workload – but it is a good idea to communicate that privately. If your responsibilities constantly shift without warning or if someone on your team is intentionally passing on their work, a conversation with your manager is key. Mention that you are happy to help but would like to define and review the expectations.

“I Think”
If you are interested in moving up in a company or being recognized for your decision-making skills: confidence is key. Phrases such as “I think,” “I don’t know,” or “I will try,” implies that you are uncertain. Even if you are not sure of how to approach a task or if you do not have the right answer – always air toward poise and assurance. Instead of showing doubt whenever you are put on the spot, stick to responses such as “I believe,” “I will find out,” or “I can work on that.” Behind the scenes, it is okay to ask for help or search for the right solution. It is crucial when asked a direct question that you demonstrate a determination to get the job done and that you are sure of your abilities.

“I Hate This Job”
Although it may seem far-fetched for someone to say this out loud at work, it happens. This can be detrimental to one’s career and reputation. There are situations where you may have issues on the job, such as a difficult co-worker, too many projects on your plate, or general unhappiness about the industry. Make sure you address those concerns in a manner that is productive and not detrimental. Considering upskilling to be fit for a higher position, seeking a mentor for advice, or even begin to look for a new job. If anything, consider your audience – complaining not only affects your accountability, but it also decreases office morale. Even venting to work friends is a risk that is not worth taking; someone in a position of power could overhear your sentiments, which could lead to termination. When in doubt, choose to discuss your feelings off-hours amongst your circle. In the meantime, stay positive, and focus on changing your situation for the better.

Ready to enhance your personal and interpersonal skills? Goodwill provides no-cost career services for anyone seeking employment or a higher-paying job. We offer soft skills courses that help improve teamwork and collaboration. Goodwill’s My Career Advisor is the best place to start if you’re planning for the future. Signing up is quick, easy, and free.




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