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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