You know better than to spew blatant sexual harassment or discuss politics in the workplace, but there are plenty of circumstances where knowing what to say at work is pretty much less understood. Here are a number of things you should never say at work and why.
Anything you wouldn’t want to read in print
It is advisable to always talk as if everyone is listening because in today’s world, pretty much everybody is listening. Whatever you’re saying, ask yourself if you would want to read that attributed to you in the newspaper?
In general, you should steer clear of making references to religion, politics, or people’s physical appearance, or anything that could be construed as disrespecting somebody or stereotyping them.
“That’s a dumb idea,” to a client
OK, if you have any kind of filter, you probably wouldn’t say this out loud. If you think your client is going to make a mistake or has the wrong perspective, you can make your suggestion to them, but don’t be belligerent about their opinion.
You’ve probably heard the ‘Our customer is always right’ approach. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t gently push back if you think they’re making the wrong decisions or seeing things in the wrong way. You certainly shouldn’t say anything to make them feel like you don’t respect them, or that you think they’re making mistakes, or that you don’t respect their capabilities.
“This is boring”
A lot of the meetings you attend might seem unnecessary, a waste of time, and quite lame but don’t ever say that out loud in the meeting or whisper it to a colleague. It could make your boss think you’re not being a team player because you find them boring and think you have better things to do than be in that meeting.
“You look nice,” to a female colleague (if you wouldn’t say it to a male one)
You’re better off not commenting on the appearance and weight of colleagues. You shouldn’t say anything to a woman that you wouldn’t say to a man. When you tell a colleague, “You look nice today,” or “Your haircut looks nice,” you have to consider how it might be taken. Does that mean their old haircut looked terrible? Does that mean they normally don’t look nice every day?
Your intention could be an innocent compliment but it could get out of hand quickly.
“It’s not my fault”
When your boss comes to you with a concern they have about your work or a project you contributed to, not taking responsibility is something you should never do. When you blame other people, are hostile or defensive, and don’t take responsibility, it’s like you’re attacking the other people on your team.
This makes you sound childish when you blame others for any performance issues or problems. It’s also showing your boss that you’re not listening to them and taking constructive feedback.