10 Worst Things to Say in the Workplace

Revised January, 2011

Some people keep their private life private in the workplace -- which can be a blessing. Many workers, however, are forced to work in an environment where they hear about everything from a co-worker's baby-making plans to their estranged relationship with their father.

Talking about such topics might be fine to share over cocktails with your best friend; they are not fine for the workplace.

Because people spend more time at the office with co-workers than anywhere (or anyone) else, some workers have trouble drawing the line between business and friendship, says Susan Solovic, co-founder and CEO of SBTV.com, and author of three books, including 'Reinvent Your Career: Attain the Success You Desire and Deserve.'

"It's a social environment as well as a work environment. However, you must remember: While you can be friendly and develop a good rapport, business is business and friendship is friendship."

These days, your job security is unstable enough as it is. The last thing you need is to make an off-the-cuff remark that gets you fired (or shunned from the likes of your co-workers). To help keep your career on track, here are 10 things you should never say or discuss in the workplace:

1. "That's not my job."

When you boil things down, everyone does things that "aren't their job." If everyone complained that a certain task wasn't in the offer they signed, the labor force would be in more trouble than it already is. If someone asks for your help, take it as a compliment. He or she obviously values your input or thinks your skills would be good fit for the task. Not only will it help earn good office karma (you never know when you'll need help from other colleagues), but it never looks good to only do the bare minimum. And no boss wants to hear those four words!

2. "I don't mind helping you with that." (With a fake smile pasted on your face.)

There's nothing worse than someone who offers to help and then complains about it later. If you take on a task with a smile but don't really want to do it, your help is as good as no help at all. When you work without enthusiasm, it's never your best effort. Plus, don't say you'll do something if you have no intention of actually completing the task, or you'll earn a reputation as an unreliable person. Your colleagues are relying on you, so your decision not to follow through impacts their jobs, too.

3. "Don't tell anyone I said this, but ... "

Anytime you start a sentence with that phrase, you're asking for one thing: The recipient of your knowledge to, indeed, tell someone you said that. If it's really a secret, keep it to yourself. Whether you know someone in the office got pregnant by the mail guy or you found out what the boss makes, you're going to get credit for spreading the news. Plus, if a co-worker is gossiping with you, most likely he or she will gossip about you.

4. "I haven't gotten a raise, EVER."

Since most employers base salary increase on productivity (not longevity), asking for a raise based on how long you've been with the company or how long it's been since your last one will tell your boss only that you want more money -- not that you deserve it. Instead, prove the raise is merited.

5. "I'm so ... stressed out/busy/sick of working here."

Constant complaints about your workload, stress levels or the company will quickly make you the kind of person who never gets invited to lunch. If you don't agree with company policies and procedures, address it through official channels or move on.

6. "I have (insert weird, gross or inappropriate medical condition here)."

Nobody cares about your aches and pains, the weird fungus on your foot, your infertility woes or the bad gas you got from eating Chinese food last night. To your employer, your constant medical issues make you seem like an expensive, high-risk employee. And to your co-workers, you seem like an attention-seeking hypochondriac.

7. "Whom did you vote for?" or "What religion are you?"

The old adage that you shouldn't discuss politics or religion is as true today as ever before. People have strong, passionate views on both topics and you may alienate a co-worker or be viewed negatively based on your views in a way that could impact your career.

8. "I got so trashed last night ..."

It's perfectly fine to have fun after work, but don't brag about your drunken escapades to your boss. The fact that you showed up for work despite still recovering from a massive hangover might be impressive, but it means nothing if you spend the day recounting your activities instead of working. Not to mention, sharing that information makes you look unprofessional and unreliable.

9. "I don't have time for that."

In case you didn't realize, everybody's busy. If your boss asks you to do something, chances are it's not really an option. If your main concern is accomplishing the task on time, be honest and tell that to your boss. Mention how busy your schedule is but that you can accommodate the request if some other projects are rearranged. You'll show that you take each assignment seriously and only want to turn in your best work.

10. "I just bought a $1,000 watch for the boss."

While the spirit of keeping up with the Joneses is alive and well in the workplace, constantly sharing how much you spent on gifts, meals or outings will only have others annoyed. Not only will it seem like you're bragging, but you don't want others speculating on the lifestyle you're living -- or whether you're living beyond your salary bracket.

Next: 10 Worst Work Habits

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This is a nice rant, and a justifiable one for many of my generation that are sick in the way they handle their jobs. Ways to address this can be done in simple pragmatic fashions to the people you deal with on a regular basis that show these attitudes. As a person (me), not a generality, who now gets discriminated because of the actions of this generation, have been treated irrationally by bosses/coworkers asking me "can you do me a favor" as if I'll be inconvenienced.... It would be great for them to ask, can you take care of this for us with x amount of time? How much time is needed? etc...

Detail oriented, I double check everything I do before I send or "copy and paste" and get seen as a lazy degenerate worker but rarely have anything come back at me with mistakes. Never have I seen a job as a god given right, but am sorely given the spotlight that it is my expectation... it needs to stop. It is foolish and ignorant to treat workers this way based on age and a few bad apples that are roaming around the work place, comes back to make me look like those kids when I really am doing what I can with the little amount of guidance given initially based on attitudes like this rant shows.

I did janitorial work for god sakes and wasn't the best at doing it, I did it with a smile, but to be expected to know it all, do it all without any kind of input? With the attitudes shown kind of makes me wonder if you care about the businesses integration with its workers but would rather simply being on a high-horse of perfection and to hold the secrets as if they never should be in the hands of anyone but yourself. Ah who cares, he can't listen so fry the bastard... Is that the attitude that comes next with this kind of logic? Seems that way with just stating terminate us just to "put us in our place". Maybe see if he could get more advice after being "checked on" in his duties (as one poster stated). Forward thinking gets you places, asking what is done right gets you somewhere with foresight, the stuff that happens tomorrow. Just saying what is wrong with anyone is hindsight and foolish to lament on as if it accomplishes anything.

January 31 2011 at 7:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Workers too often forget the "Goal" is to satisfy customers. Who has the time for worthless office chatter??

January 04 2010 at 11:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


December 18 2009 at 10:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just try to leave it behind the door when you depart for day, otherwise it will drive to ambush 'em in the parking lot! Also,....I know a hit man!! Hee!

December 18 2009 at 6:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If bosses like to think of workers as slaves and not people, which most in this country do, yeah I can see them not liking to hear this stuff. It's a disgrace how much worker's rights have been diminished compared to previous decades, and now we have online know-it-alls telling us to be good little drones, how great.

December 18 2009 at 5:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

wow, number one is way off. 99% of the time, the reason the boss asks you to do something is because he/she knows you're a sucker who will do anything and are afraid to say no. that's why.

December 18 2009 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nice guy

4 more words to never use towards your boss...I, thought, of, it!

December 18 2009 at 4:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nice guy

4 more words to never use to your boss Go, Drop Dead, asshole.

December 18 2009 at 4:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a boss myself.. I would like to add " I love playing solitaire" I have had to disable and delete all games from all computers! If I catch someone playing games on my time, they will have a very bad day. ( Possibly a "last day"):)

December 18 2009 at 4:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

one more thing NEVER to say is: have you ever masturbated with fish sticks.

November 25 2009 at 5:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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