You can never take back the words you speak. This fact is an especially important one to remember in the workplace, where your words define your reputation, relationship with colleagues, and future career path.
Though it’s human nature to make mistakes, the following five phrases definitely don’t belong in any workplace conversation. They may sound innocent, but they’re loaded with negative messages you should avoid whenever possible.
We Don’t Do It That Way
It’s easy to shoot down new ideas, especially when they threaten to disrupt the status quo. but declaring, “We don’t do it that way,” immediately isolates others. You might as well say, “We don’t do it that way, so why would you bring up such a stupid idea?”
Maybe you’re afraid of change or convinced that your current method is the very best. Even so, make an effort understand the new ideas being presented and assess whether or not they can improve your system.
Instead, try asking, “I’ve never thought of that before. Can you tell me why you think it’ll work?”
That’s Not My Job
This phrase is extremely cringe-worthy. Whether you’re declaring “That’s not my job!” or “That’s not my problem,” you’re identifying yourself as self-serving instead of as a team player.
If you’re asked to perform a task that’s legitimately outside of your job description, it’s probably because your boss or manager trusts your capabilities. You don’t want to undermine that credibility with a statement that sounds resistant or unappreciative.
If you genuinely don’t have the time or resources to complete the additional task in question, find a more productive way to voice your concerns. “I am happy to do this, but could I ask a few questions?” or “Is there someone who can help me access the tools for this task?” are both respectful and clear.
There’s Nothing (More) I Can Do
When you say you’re at the end of your rope, you’ll come off as either stubborn or defeated. A positive attitude is more powerful than surrendering to defeat. However, if you’ve truly exhausted all options and you’re not sure how to continue, consider asking for help. “I think I’m stuck, do you have any other ideas?”
You may have honorable intentions when you declare that you’ll try to organize the accounting department or you’ll try to land a new client, but the word undermines your confidence and ability to deliver results. Avoid using this phrase because it suggests uncertainty, undermining your competency in others’ eyes.
Instead, use a phrase like, “I will.” If you have any doubts at all, request clarifications and support to maintain realistic expectations.
It’s Not My Fault
Nobody wants to take the fall for mistakes or problems they didn’t create, but shouting, “It’s not my fault!” isn’t the best way to handle it. Employees who whine about fault and blame sound like children being reprimanded by their parents. You’re a professional with a reputation to defend, so find a better way to separate yourself from the blame game.
If it really isn’t your fault, start by owning your relationship to the problem. For instance, say, “I was there when the decision was made, and I should have spoken up about what I saw would become a problem.”
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