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9 Things Best Not Said to Coworkers

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May 13, 2019
Employees comically exercising silence with mouth tape

Introduction

A good portion of our lives are spent working.  Some estimates indicate that greater than 50% of our waking hours are spent at work.  Naturally we’re going to have relationships of varying degrees and types. Occasionally, coworkers even marry.  

Human beings are social animals above all – we enjoy communicating and sharing various aspects of our lives with the people we see every day.  The reality of life is that we don’t live in a sitcom where all situations converge on a wonderful end at the conclusion of 30 minutes.  Things are said, and without the slightest intent – someone is hurt, angered or worse and relationships that were built over a long period are damaged or destroyed.  We’ve all been there.  Without some boundaries not only do we risk personal damage, but also professional harm.  

Below we present 9 things to avoid saying in the work environment.  Many will be obvious, others less so. Some a bit humorous, others not so much. Smart employees stay away from these statements and any derivatives.  A short rationale is provided for each.

1.  “I hate my boss...”

It may well be that you loathe your supervisor.  You may have good reason for your feelings.  But in the final analysis – such thoughts are best kept in one’s own head.  Once this genie is out of the bottle, it’s not returning. Saying this to a coworker, even when you’re clearly venting, could have long lasting implications if heard by the wrong ears.  In our more modern times – posting that you dislike your boss on Facebook when the boss is your Facebook friend has proven counterproductive.  Note to self – bosses don’t like to be hated.

Even though you may adore your coworkers and boss, it’s wise to establish conversational boundaries and maintain them such that the conversations you share in will promote your professionalism, not hurt it.

2.  “I hate my job...”

Saying that you hate your job is exactly analogous to hating your boss and saying so.  Take item 1 above, swap ‘employer’ for ‘boss,’ and you'll get your employer and boss in one fell swoop.

3.  “I’m not long for this place...”

Tempting as it may be to share with a good friend that you’re planning to ‘pull the ripcord,’ it’s a good idea to keep absolutely quiet about this.  OK, you’re going where you will truly be appreciated.  But until you do – the last thing that you want is this information making its way back to management.  They may opt to hurry you out the door.  Be smart and let the company and all who work there know you’re leaving via the approved severance procedure.

4.  “Maybe you should join a gym...”

Any direct, indirect or even remote implication as to the physical or emotional appeal or lack thereof of any individual should be considered off limits.  It doesn’t matter if it’s directed at them or as gossip to another.  No one really cares what  one individual thinks of another’s attributes.  They care even less what corrective actions should be put into place.  It puts you first in line for the company insensitivity award, and it’s hurtful.

5.  “Those pants look great on you...”

Compliments are always nice, right?  Frankly, no.  When they become personable, you’re just firing blind – and you’re liable to catch a ricochet.  

employees comically whispering to each other

Pants contain a lot of things and telling someone they look good in them can have some off-color connotations.  The modern work environment is intolerant of loose comments, as well it should be.  Once someone is offended, you can’t take it back and it’s too late to say it was a ‘harmless gesture.’  

6.  “You look tired today. Are you okay?”

I’ve had this happen to me and you probably have to, what was your first thought?  “I must look like %$#@^& today.” Play it safe and don’t comment on a co-worker’s appearance. You may feel like you’re just being friendly and caring, but what the other person hears is a judgement.  Further, a person may well be tired, even exhausted – it could be they are going through difficult period.  Whatever the case, this comment really isn’t an up-check.

7.  “That’s not my job...”

It’s amazing how many times I’ve heard this.  I guess everyone has.  The boss or a colleague asks you to do something that is either beneath your position or simply not related to it at all.  Without warning, out comes the ‘it’s not my job’ card.  And when you’re done – you may well be considered the new office primadonna – dethroning the last person to utter these words.  Perhaps it’s annoying, but don’t fixate on the nuisance of doing something you don’t think is your responsibility, think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate a little team spirit and ‘can-do’ attitude.

8.  “I’ll try...”

The is the exactly the same as saying, ‘I am simply not up to this herculean task,’ regardless of its nature.  Plain and simple, if the boss gives you an assignment, either give it your best, or discuss why it’s difficult at present and provide some viable alternatives.  Don’t set yourself up for failure, but don’t be a whiner either.

9.  “It’s not fair...”

Pleeeeze…  Is this the schoolyard playground?  This is where I draw the line.  There is an unwritten rule in corporate America – if someone says this, you’re allowed to pummel them with any verbal abuses you feel necessary.

Seriously, saying this is makes you come across as immature and unprofessional. If you are being saddled with more work than your contemporaries, and you really can’t handle it, you may need to address it tactfully.  An honest face- to-face with your supervisor is always better than grumbling to coworkers.  

Conclusion

Remember, the office is where you work, and you need to maintain a professional attitude.  Even though you may adore your coworkers and boss, it’s wise to establish conversational boundaries and maintain them such that the conversations you do share in will promote your professionalism, not hurt it.

Written By:
Kerrie Gill, PMP, ITIL

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