10 Things You Should Never Say to Coworkers

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There are certain things that should never be said in the workplace. Sure, a statement may sound acceptable to you, and you may have heard coworkers say the exact same thing, but it can still be a recipe for disaster. And once those taboo words are out in the open, there’s no taking them back.

Whether they make others uncomfortable or they put your work motives in question, the following 10 phrases are a big no-no in the workplace.

1. “That’s not my problem” or “That’s not my job” – Nothing good can come out of saying this. In fact, saying these words can make you look stubborn, unmotivated or even lazy. In today’s society, going above and beyond shows initiative and can help you when promotion time comes around. Before you refuse to do something, consider your reasons why. Do you simply not have the time? Is someone else better qualified for the task? If this is the case, find a better way of phrasing this statement.

2. “You’re HOW old?” – Saying this to an older coworker could go badly. You may think you’re complimenting their youthful appearance, but no one wants to be reminded that they’re getting up there in age. It can create awkward tension and hurt their feelings. So overall, it’s not a good idea.


3. “It’s not fair.” – This may be true, but saying it won’t help matters any. Plus, it makes you look unprofessional and can come off as whiny. Instead of saying this, think of reasons why the situation is unfair and create a convincing argument. You’ll be taken more seriously as a result.

4. “Don’t tell so-and-so, but…” – Sometimes, a secret is just too juicy to keep to yourself, but telling it can have devastating consequences. Never share something in private at work that you wouldn’t want everyone to know. Word tends to get around, and something you said can come back to haunt you. Also, if someone at work confides in you, be considerate of their privacy and keep it to yourself.

5. “I’m here to work, I’m not here to make friends” – There’s nothing wrong with keeping your personal and professional lives separate, but that doesn’t mean you should be openly rude to your coworkers or go out of your way to ignore them. It may seem easier to bury your head in work, but in the long run, it will hurt you. Your coworkers are more likely to lend a hand when you’ve treated them kindly in the past. Make an effort to ask how they’re doing or, if you’d like, even go out in a group for happy hour or lunch.

6. “This may sound stupid, but…” – When you start a suggestion with this discounting phrase, it decreases the impact of the following statement. If you want people to take you seriously, you should sound confident and authoritative. Stand behind your ideas and believe in their value and others will follow suit.

7. “I don’t have time.” – You may be swamped with work, but no one wants to hear that you don’t have time for them. Instead of saying you’re too busy or flat out saying no, ask them if you can meet at a later time. If your morning is filled with meetings, ask if they can talk after lunch when you have some free time. Wear a watch at all times as a constant reminder of what time it is so you don’t miss the meeting.

8. “It’s not my fault.” – It’s all too easy to assign blame, but it never helps the situation. If anything, it makes it worse. Blaming others can destroy work relationships and hurt your career. Instead of pointing fingers, work on fixing the problem. Once things have calmed down, figure out ways to prevent it from happening again.

9. “It’s all my fault.” – This statement may seem innocent enough, but we advise against using it too often. If you’re taking the fall for every mishap, you may appear incompetent. Only take responsibility for the tasks that fall within your job requirements. If you feel the need to apologize for something, apologize for the situation that someone is in. Offer your assistance and help resolve the problem instead of taking the blame.

10. “Just calm down” or “Relax” – If coworkers come to you with an issue, the worst possible thing you can say is, “Just calm down” or “Relax.” This response tends to have the exact opposite effect. Even worse, it implies that the person is overreacting and can come off as judgmental. Instead of giving into the urge to say this, let them vent and show an interest in their problems. If possible, take the conversation to a private place to avoid eavesdroppers. Your coworker will appreciate that you listened and will feel better after letting off some steam.

Avoid these 10 phrases in future workplace conversations and always remember to think before you speak. Before you say something at your office or facility, consider how you would feel if someone said those exact words to you. If you’re unsure or if you would find it offensive, then don’t say it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Did you say something to a coworker that you shouldn’t have? Give them a thoughtful gift as an apology. It will make all the difference!

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  1. JUANITA LANDERS on

    Nursing has changed so much that about 25 yrs ago I decided that I had to get out of the area I loved, critical care nursing, and then nursing in general. There has been a remarkable change in the basic education of our nurses, from elementary school, through the professional nursing level, a change that has completely eliminated the teaching of respect for one’s self, and respect for others.

    My personal education was through the lens of the Catholic church, which taught that each and every person a nurse saw in any environment, or any person in any environment, was actually the representation of Jesus Himself. Of course to teach that today would immediately result in removal from one’s position, with strong recommendations that one seek psych management for delusional thinking.

    I feel that this philosophic element has sustained me through all of the 48 years that I have practiced. Seeing the patient in that light was not difficult as that individual, and their family, were desperately looking for the very best in care which would result in a speedy recovery. I started to notice, some 25 yrs ago, that the patient’s family felt an obligation to remain at the bedside 24/7 to ensure the proper treatment of their loved one, and to protect them from, what I saw to be a reality, the impaired nurse at the bedside, the nurse with anger management issues (working for the great salary…), and the nurse who was merely passed along and graduated without paying much attention, and who would try to dose the patient with improper medications and at improper times.

    To be truthful and to give honor where it is due, it is fair to say that nursing administrations and schools of nursing, have been aware of these problems, and have worked with state boards of nursing to correct the problems, such as those few listed above, and schools have looked to change curricula and standards of admission. But, there still remains a missing link; human kindness. This cannot be taught.

    Individuals are matriculated through systems and are granted degrees for doing the “work” of the nursing program, but, who in any school of nursing faculty is going to make a call on an individual’s basic sense of goodness and basic human kindness? The answer is: no one.

    This lack of kindness results in lack of self restraint, which furthers the current sense of the “I-Me” instead of giving for “the other”, as generations past held as a cultural norm.

    So, this leaves me to say, that until we, as a culture, begin to teach toddlers the essence of kindness and tolerance for the other our profession of nursing, and all other professions, will continue to turn out those who will leave lasting negative impressions on those around them. As I right this I recall a day which was going smoothly. I had given report to a covering nurse and left for my 30 minute high speed lunch. When I returned I was told by a bedside family member, that that her mom had been calling for help for chest pain that began shortly after I had left, only to be told that “Your nurse will be back from her break in 25 minutes”. No one seemed to be able to account for this. The fellow RN covering for me was not notified of the call, but, the call was taken by another nurse, as we had no unit secretary that day. I found that patient in severe chest pain and unstable vital signs, which lead to her ultimate death. No one knows for sure if that lady would have survived if that first call for help would have been tended to. But, that family will never again trust in nursing care. This is one incident of someone being too busy or not caring to do the right thing. This is one example of dozens that I can recall in my years, but, I always go back to the basic idea that we have a moral responsibility as though that person calling for help, is none other than Our Lord.

    Why not begin to teach this again, in our elementary schools, in our homes and in nursing? There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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