After Hours

10 things you should never say on the job

Ever had one of those heart-stopping moments when you realize you've said just the wrong thing at work? Here are some guidelines to keep that from happening again.

In this era of political correctness gone wild, the last thing we need is more stuff we shouldn't say or do at work. We've got enough to worry about. Well, if you don't want more to worry about, pay attention.

There are some things that, if you say them in the workplace, you're toast. This is nothing new. Just age-old, battle-tested truths. Uttering one of these phrases will, best case, make you look like a dope or a crybaby. Worst case, it'll destroy your credibility or even get you fired.

Now, you and I probably think this is just common sense. But you know, there's never someone with common sense around when you need one. Besides, you may have friends and associates who aren't the brightest bulbs in the box, right? Wink, wink. Better show them this list.

Note: This article is based on an entry in BNET's The Corner Office blog.

1: Never say, "I don't need the money" or "I don't work for the money"

Whether you realize it or not, you're talking down to people. Plus it's probably BS and, even if it isn't, you sound like an idiot. Better yet, don't even discuss money... ever.

2: Never threaten, "If you [fill in the blank], I'm going to the boss"

For the most part, threats are a sign of weakness. If you have a strong position, act on it. If not, suck it up. When you threaten, you just sound like a whiny little brat.

3: Never diss or dress down anyone publicly

Not even if you're right. It's humiliating, offensive, and besides, you don't know who their friends are. Could be your boss. Seriously.

4: Never say anything privately you wouldn't say publicly

Of course, managers and executives have to discuss private matters behind closed doors. That aside, it's a good rule to follow. These days, anyone can be recording your conversation on a cell phone. Next thing you know, it's everywhere.

5: Never assume you're "in" with the boss

He may like you, but don't count on it mattering when it comes to business. For managers, business should and will always come first. It also makes you a target of coworkers. Nobody likes the teacher's pet.

6: Never say, "[fill in the blank] makes me uncomfortable"

If it's illegal -- discrimination and/or harassment that creates a hostile work environment -- report it, and if it's not fixed, sue. Otherwise, you're just whining.

7: Never say, "When I retire I'm going to... "

The whole retirement thing is off the table for a big chunk of the population and bringing it up just rubs people's faces in it. Bad Karma.

8: Never gossip, especially about office romance

It can only end badly. What if the couple in question is trying to keep it a secret? What if the person you're talking to knows someone or is himself involved with one of the people in question? Just don't do it.

9: Never say you have authority for something you don't

And don't make offers you can't back up. It'll destroy your credibility and make you look like a small, weak person who wants to appear big and powerful. Face it. You're not.

10: Never make a mistake you have to live with

An old boss once said this to me. He was referring to his ex-wife, who took him to the cleaners in a divorce, but there are certainly examples of work-related mistakes that can haunt you forever: 10 Ways to Destroy Your Management Career.

Other blunders?

Do you have any candidates to add to this list? Have you ever said something at work that backfired on you in a big way?

53 comments
fsoto
fsoto

Never ask managers from others departaments to help you to convince your boss to make something that you were asking for before.

SamFrench
SamFrench

Thank God for budget cutbacks! I haven't seen the inside of a mandatory sexual harassment seminar in ... a long time. The year I started my current job, I had to take it at one company, then another, within the same 4-6 months. Talk about trying purposely to get sick on the bagels they put out... (I even tried the Mentos & Pepsi thing.) Anyway, the ONE THING they wanted you to be sure to walk away with was the following mantra: "Sexual Harassment Begins with Discomfort." And any company that's doing the training is supposed to have that person you can "say anything to." I often suspect my name is on the wall outside of HR as "that person" because sometimes people say/ask/tell me the darndest things. For your consideration, I propose the following additions: - Don't ask me if I want to go out and get hookers with you after we're done with our break-out sessions at the next out-of-town conference --especially if I totally know your wife and have had your kids over at my place for the weekend. - Don't ask me for more than 3-4 cigarettes a day unless you and I frequently pick up smokes for each other on the way into work. - If I'm in the server room, swearing like a cheap sailor at what appears to be machinery, but you didn't realize this until you got inside and your hearing adjusted to the cooling system, TRUST ME, I already know your email isn't working, And if you insist on having a conversation about it with me now, we're ALL going to be experiencing that discomfort we're supposed to be keeping to ourselves (or Southern Comfort, or...) - If I'm NOT in the server room and I'm swearing like a cheap sailor at what appears to be machinery still in the boxes it was shipped in, someone whose face resides higher than yours or mine on the org. chart has apparently made purchases my department is expected to maintain, install, keep alive, integrate (and probably depreciate for the next five years as a fixed asset) --without my department getting a vote on the subject. I would rather be sexually harassed and contract a social disease from someone at the office than have to live with some of the decisions I've been vicariously asked to "support" over the years. ... which leads back to a whole array of things you should NEVER do at the office, many of which have been covered in this forum. But I do need my job --and the paycheck that comes with it. So somewhere between "Take this job and shove it" and "Would next week be alright with you?" you may catch the occasional anonymous rant, far, far away from my FaceBook identity and even further away from 5/9ths of those I see between 9-5. Oh, P.S. If we're supposed to go out for a beer or something after work, tell me ahead of time if you're one of those people who goes home and puts EVERYTHING on FaceBook, 'cuz the conversation we're gonna have just dynamically changed. And, come to think of it, I may have other plans.

cb.kaltelco
cb.kaltelco

Always remember that the toes you step on today, may be attached to the legs that support the backside you need to kiss tomorrow!

russelldlr
russelldlr

Never say "Yes I Can!" when you are not confident that you can. "Under promise and over perform!"

LawGratton
LawGratton

Add this one to your list (11 things): Never say: " Thats Not My Job"

hptorres
hptorres

If I have put in my time and I am able to retire, I am not going to apologize for that...whether I may have been lucky or good management of my retirement funds etc...just because I share what my plans are doesn't mean that I am "bragging" about it. If someone tells me what their retirement plans are, I am happy for them.

Craig_B
Craig_B

Here are some basic rules for any situation: Before you speak, ask yourself these questions: Is it Kind? Is it True? Is it Necessary?

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

Agree and disagree. But Number 10? If I can't make a mistake I have to live with, only make mistakes that kill me? I know that's not what you meant, but seriously we all have to live with our mistakes. I also like how 3 & 4 go together. Don't tell them off publicly, but don't say anything privately you can't say publicly. In other words, never tell anybody off? BTW: Don't worry about my management career. It never existed.

andymillman
andymillman

Honestly, most of us have known this since we were kids. And PS there is no such thing as karma and mentioning the word makes you look like an idiot.

plumbsue60
plumbsue60

The bottom line is that we should remember the golden rule. You should not belittle someone at work because that could backfire on you without you ever realizing it? Coworkers have tried to do that to me on several jobs and it always made me feel better than them inside and out but they could not see that. For example, I once was working at a fast food when a coworker called me "OLD STUPID A**" in front of 2 other coworkers and a room full of customers. I remained professional to the customers as if I did not hear her and I do not believe that she realized what she just did was about the most stupidiest thing that could have been said and done in front of a house full of customers. She certainly meant to hurt me, she did not but did hurt herself and this got back to management.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

even on the way out. It's a small world.

agrajag
agrajag

...we can still dream even if it will never happen.

irmaone
irmaone

if you lie about this or you are not a master, time will tell if you really a master, other will respect without you say that (experience with my boss)

Derek Freeman
Derek Freeman

16 years military, 12 years corporate... Military directs handling harassment at the lowest, informal level first, before pursuing formal complaints. Personally, I would handle it the same in the corporate world. Discriminatory and/or harassing behavior should not be tolerated even if it doesn't offend you personally. It's not whining to tell some knucklehead that their behavior is inappropriate. It IS whining to file a formal complaint without giving the offender the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately not everyone is aware that their conduct is inappropriate. That does not make the behavior okay, but talking to the offender first is the right thing to do.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Otherwise you are just sitting on a log marking time.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

For start it might mean you don't get the chance to perform, without that you won't build any confidence. The thing you must do when reigning back expectation which is what you are presumablly talking about, is you are also reigning in cost and or risk as well. If the only thing you are promising is less value, business heads will just mark you down as incompetent and quite probably stupid. Under promising is as risky career wise as over-promising in fact in corporate IT, it's more risky...

camcase
camcase

That should have been number 1.

Suresh Mukhi
Suresh Mukhi

I was asked to take charge of locking up and opening the warehouse. I'm the IT Manager. What's the connection? I said it was not my job but I'll do it as a FAVOR to the company. I'm still doing this "favor", though not every work day.

jdr_03
jdr_03

Taking away the "what if" game would be really depressing. This is what you are doing for the rest of your life? Unless you absolutely love your job (and I do but I don't want to do it "forever"!), thinking about doing it until your years are up is not exactly a vacation in your mind. Also, maybe reminding others that retirement is possible, isn't a bad thing? Perhaps if somebody was reminding all of the current retirement age people that you have been putting x amount away for the last 40 years so you can fund your retirement, they might have started doing it? So, my disagreement rests on two things: 1) You need hope for the future. 2) Perhaps someone will follow and start their retirement planning because of you. ...and, if they think you are bragging, my personal opinion is that is their issue, not yours. What are you going to say when you quit? Lie about having a new job? If you don't let them know about your plans, then they would just complain about you not letting them know and left them with little notice of your departure, even though you've had these plans for a long time. People who are mad at your success will want you to lose either way. I agree with hptorres, retirement is something we should celebrate with the individual!

plumbsue60
plumbsue60

I think Socrates was the first one to say that.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

There a plenty of true, necessary statements that aren't kind. "Joe, you're spending too much work time on Facebook." "Jane, I've reported your cocaine habit to Human Resouces."

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

You must minimize them first in your mind, then in everyone else's. Then live with it. As for #4, if your supposedly "private" conversation goes public, believe it or not, FCC and international communications law might be applied here. It is illegal to repeat radio communications without the permission of the person who created the message. Practical or not, it is supposed to be legally confidential.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

The terms "burning bridges" and "bite in the butt" come to mind here.

rpost
rpost

What could possibly be wrong with discussing that dream or, for that matter, talking with your coworkers about retirement issues (i.e. affordability, lifestyle, etc.)? Working with many who are approaching that time of life, that topic is brought up quite often.

rpost
rpost

Here, it is company policy and (I believe) the law requires it; the offender must be told that his or her actions/words/behavior is offensive. Then, if he/she continues, it's taken up the food chain.

sperry532
sperry532

If the matter actually goes to arbitration or the courts, one of the first things that is asked of the complainant is "Did you tell the 'harasser' that you felt harassed by his/her words or actions?" If the answer is "No", it goes against the complainant. Always, if possible, tell the person that you feel uncomfortable when s/he says or does whatever, preferably in front of witnesses. If that does not work, move up the food chain.

clcoronios
clcoronios

I co-train mandatory Sexual Harassment Prevention, and we absolutely encourage people to discuss an issue with the 'offending' colleague first. Caveat: this would NOT apply to extreme cases (of either sexual or racial actions). As Derek indicates, the person saying/acting/displaying a picture/?? that makes you uncomfortable might be astonished that anyone would ('mis')interpret him. In our classes, we do an exercise in which we tape numbers 1 - 10 on the wall (1 being 'so what' and 10 being 'outrage'), then read 10 situations aloud and ask participants to go stand under the number that represents what their reaction would be. Invariably, the range goes from 1 to 10 on at least one situation.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Workplace bullying sucks bigtime, also because it can be really difficult to do something about, especially if the bully is a boss or the pet of a boss. And some people will be vindictive brats no matter how you handle it.

Robiisan
Robiisan

The first time, tell the harrasser in private or with a single friendly witness. The second time, if there is one, make sure your supervisor (or if he's the perp, HIS supervisor)knows, at the very least, and if possible have several witnesses that you asked him/her to stop whatever is bothering you. In EVERY case, report it through channels as soon as it is practical to do so.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Thought, also, that if I encouraged him, he would take over the place. He's that good.

LawGratton
LawGratton

It Makes Sence if your office is in the warehouse. You are the company; If the Company prospers, You Prosper. You should be compensated if you have to work overtime.

santeewelding
santeewelding

On who is in charge of, "really". You ain't.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Unkind is saying "You're doing great", just waiting to hand over the pink slip.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

thing is, I make mistakes. I figure I have to live with them all one way or another. Sometimes I make the same mistake more than once. Unlike Wile E. Coyote, I am willing to test that spring trap more than once before giving up on an idea. :)

santeewelding
santeewelding

I spent what must have been a half-hour plotting a response on the basis of causality implicit in #6, made no less the basis of punitive law in one form or another over the whole world since olden times. Screw it. The whole things amounts to community mantra. You backfire big-time if you bring everybody to bad light. Gets you negatives, too.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

If he can put out a hundred posts a week with even close to that, I say we all pool our weekly pocket change as an incentive :)

Suresh Mukhi
Suresh Mukhi

No, my office is not in the warehouse. I don't get overtime because as IT Manager, I'm salaried.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...until he ran out of fingers!

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

Or watching different things to see what's going on.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Don't make the SAME mistake twice. You stated you did that above. Tweaking parameters = Different mistake, which is perfectly acceptable, nay it is to be encouraged! Good job...

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

there are many variables. If we quit trying just because we failed once, where would we be? I brought up Wile E. Coyote because it seemed to me as a kid, he gave up on a device that obviously could have worked. He just needed to tweak the parameters, pay more attention to safety and test beforehand.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

"Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Albert Einstein :)

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