15 things Not to Say to Your Boss
“Think before you speak” is always a good policy, and in the workplace the maxim could be further refined to “think before you blurt out something to your boss that could hurt your career.” We checked in with some bosses, and came up with this list of 15 phrases bosses definitely don’t want to hear:
1. “I’m only doing this job for the money.”
No boss wants to hear that your sole motivation for showing up is your paycheck. She may know that money is your motivation, and you may know she knows, but it’s still better left unsaid.
2. “I’m broke/in debt/one step away from bankruptcy.”
Your financial woes are not your boss’s concern. Period.
3. “I’m going to quit after I (fill in the blank).”
No matter how noble your future plans are -- you may be saving to start your own company or go to grad school, for example -- it’s usually best to keep those plans to yourself or to refer to them only vaguely. If your boss knows there is a definite end date to your employment, she may start to shop around for your replacement before you are ready to leave.
4. “I partied a little too hard last night.”
Buck up and get through the day with some ibuprofen, extra undereye concealer and coffee. But don’t share the sordid details of your night on the town with your boss. He’s just as likely to react with (unspoken) disdain as sympathy.
5. “It’s not my fault.”
Are you a whiny 8-year-old or a take-charge professional? Assume responsibility and take steps to fix a problem that you did, in fact, create. And if you are being wrongly blamed for a problem, saying “let’s get to the bottom of this” or “what can we do to make it right?” is much more effective than saying “it’s not my fault.”
6. “I’m bored/this job is boring.”
Didn’t your mother ever tell you that only boring people get bored? If you’re constantly twiddling your thumbs, ask for extra work and be as specific as you can. And if you’re busy but think your assigned tasks are less-than-stimulating, start strategizing about how you can get the job you want, either within your company or elsewhere.
7. “My job is too easy.”
Sure, you may think a monkey could do your job. But don’t give your boss any ideas -- your company could probably pay a monkey less than it pays you.
8. “I can’t work with so and so. I hate him.”
Involving your boss in personality conflicts should always be your last resort. So unless you are being threatened, scapegoated, encouraged to participate in unethical behavior, or your colleague or customer is engaged in other egregious workplace conduct, try to work it out between yourselves first.
9. “I can’t do that because of my other job.”
In your boss’s mind, a second job is not a valid excuse for why you can’t stay late, work extra hours or finish a project on time. She may question your priorities, and rightly so.
10. “Oh my Gawd! How did you do this job before the Internet/text messaging/Skype?”
Although not a cardinal workplace sin, making your boss feel old will not score you any points.
11. Sigh. Grimace. Eye roll. Wretching noises.
Actions can speak louder than words. A poker face and silence are golden when you’re displeased with your boss.
12. “Do it yourself!”
No need for explanation. Just never say this. Ever.
13. “It’s always been done this way.”
You don’t want to gain a reputation as an inflexible dinosaur, so keep an open mind about how you do your work. And if you’re convinced that a new way of doing things is going to harm your company, present your case without using “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” to support your position.
14. “Let me set you up with...”
Avoid the urge to play matchmaker for your single boss. The potential benefit is far outweighed by the potential risk. For that matter, any socializing with your boss (even something as simple as friending him on Facebook) can cause you to share too much information, so consider limiting social interactions entirely.
15. “Sorry, I must have drifted off.”
C’mon, wake up! If you’re caught with your eyes closed, feign deep concentration rather than admit you were dozing.