By JACQUELYN SMITH Business Insider Staff
Honesty is the best policy in the workplace — with a few exceptions.
“It’s important to be cautious with what you say to your boss, as even the slightest slip up could make or break your career,” says Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, and author of “Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad.” “There are the obvious things to hold back from saying to your boss, but the key is to dissect the little things in your interactions.”
Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job,” agrees. “There are certain comments and questions based on negative perspectives that can set you back with your boss,” she says. “If they continue unabated, these phrases can sabotage an otherwise great job.”
A good practice is to first pause before blurting out something you might regret and examine what you’re trying to achieve, and the likely reaction you’ll get from your boss.
“If you think you may regret it, you probably will,” she says. “Better to err on the side of waiting until you can crystallize your thoughts into a more palatable and professional dialogue.”
In honor of National Boss Day, which is celebrated in the US on October 16 each year, we’ve compiled a list of the words and phrases you should never say to your manager.
Aside from the obvious — like profanity and insults — here are 28 phrases you should avoid:
A “can-do” attitude is always a valued trait. “I can’t” shows both a lack of confidence and unwillingness to take chances — neither of which will endear you to management, says Taylor.
“That’s not my area.” Or, “That’s not part of my job.”
No job description is ever set in stone. “As cross-functional teams remain the order of the day, you’re expected to be flexible and make your boss’ life easier,” Taylor explains. “As a side note, the more skillsets you accumulate, the more indispensable you are.”
Saying that you’re not willing to go beyond your role shows that you are also not willing to pitch in for the success of the company, Kahn adds.
“I don’t know.”
You may not have the answers to every question, but your best guess and a promise to find out is much better than a shrug of the shoulders, she says. “Anytime your boss would need to do the work for you, assume that’s not a path you should take.”
Your cooperation is expected, and so is a polite tone. “Telling your boss ‘no’ is a challenge, and is sometimes necessary — but it can be inappropriate if you don’t phrase it well with an explanation,” Taylor says. “For example, if your boss says, ‘Do you have time to work on the Smith project today?’ you shouldn’t just say, ‘No.’ Instead try something like, ‘Today will be a challenge if you still want me to focus on that company presentation. Would you prefer I work on this today instead?'”
Some people think that this is an acceptable response, as we all “try” to get things done to our best ability. But it leaves a manager feeling unsure, and when assignments are given, your boss is counting on you, usually with specific deadlines, says Taylor. “Imagine yourself asking, ‘Will you be signing off on my paycheck on the 15th?’ and your boss responding, ‘I will try.'”
“That’s not what I heard.”
Avoiding gossip and conjecture is a good idea, as it can backfire. If you’re not sure about something, wait, or you risk appearing unprofessional.
“How do I benefit from this?”
Sometimes your work involves helping others and other departments. Bosses have little tolerance for those who aren’t team players, Taylor says.