5 Things To Never Say To A Co-Worker

coworker boundariesGetting along with co-workers is important. You never know when you'll need their help or support. Thus, staying on co-workers' good sides should be a priority. And yet, it amazes me how many people don't think before they speak. The following five things should never be said to a co-worker. Have you made one or more of these communication faux pas?
1. Who's texting you?
Okay, so you are in a meeting and your co-worker's cell phone starts buzzing. He grabs it casually and glances at the text. You blurt out, "Who's texting you?" Clearly, you are annoyed that he chose to look at the text over sticking with the conversation. And yet, whoever sent the text is really none of your business. Putting a co-worker on the spot like that is a sure-fire way to get them to resent you. Yes, you called him out for looking at the text, but demanding to know who sent it is out-of-line. If you want to draw attention to the action without embarrassing the co-worker, try saying: "Is everything okay? Is the text important?" Not only, will he politely get the point to shut it off, but if it is important, he'll tell you and you'll look like a nice person for inquiring.

2. Why are you so dressed up today?
Your office is business casual, but your co-worker shows up in a suit. You and everyone else are thinking, "job interview." But, there are lots of reasons for getting dressed up. Maybe your co-worker has a date, wake, or non-profit event to go to? Okay, so we both know she is going on an interview, but you shouldn't put her on the spot about it. Questioning someone's motive for dressy attire looks like you are fishing for evidence to use against them. It's the fastest way to get a colleague to distrust you. So, the moment after she gives you her excuse, I mean reason for being dressed-up, she is also making a mental note you are not someone she should confide in. It's better to leave the fashion commentary to the pros.

3. What did you think of that meeting?
Your boss just conducted a horrible meeting. It was boring, contradictory, and in your opinion, a complete waste of time. So, you hit the lunch room and ask your co-workers for their take on the meeting. First, you look like you are seeking negativity. Everyone who was in the meeting knows it was bad, no need to ask. Second, you are opening yourself up for a discussion that will ultimately lead to some boss trash-talking. Once you've been part of a discussion around your boss' mistakes and flaws, your co-workers not only assume you talk about them behind their backs, but they will also use that discussion as ammunition should you ever be at odds-on-the-job. Up for a promotion? You'll be shocked what will get back to your boss.

Anything and everything you've said against her will suddenly be mentioned. So, get ready to do some explaining. It's better to leave bad meetings alone. Just be glad it's over and move on.

4. Will you cover for me?
Asking co-worker to help you lie to your boss is recipe for disaster. For starters, you are putting him in an uncomfortable situation. And more often than not, co-workers can't handle the guilty conscious covering for co-workers gives them. While he may agree to assist you, rest assured it leaves serious doubts in his mind about you and your ability to be honest. If you lie to your boss, what else are you capable of? Long after the situation has passed, your co-worker is feeling uneasy and starts to resent you. Before you know it, he's avoiding you at work and your boss is suddenly questioning you more than usual. Don't ask co-workers to do something they'll regret later -- you'll be the one regretting it even more!

4. Can you tell the boss I'm better for the job than ____.
You are up for a promotion, but so is someone else in the company. You go to a co-worker and ask her to talk you up, and talk the other candidate down. Getting a recommendation for the job is one thing, but asking a co-worker to criticize another co-worker so you look better implies you have doubts about your professional credibility. If you are capable and deserve the promotion, then you should win it on your merits, not on the weaknesses of your competition.

Don't succumb to the dirty tactics of politicians. Instead, ask your co-worker to simply put in a good word for you, but only if she feels you would do a good job. Stay clear of discussing the competition and you'll show your confidence and professionalism too.

What we say and how we say it on-the-job plays a larger role in our ability to develop working relationships that can serve us well in our career. Think before you speak. A little strategy can go a long way in keeping your relationships with co-workers in good standing.

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Career Sidekick

I'm glad point #2 was pointed out.

It just creates an uncomfortable environment when people question why someone is a bit dressed up. People have wakes to attend, formal dinners after work, and yes, they even occasionally go on a job interview to explore other options.

The best approach here, as the article states, is to mind your own business. That's my 2 cents and my approach.

November 13 2013 at 8:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is great information for any workplace, and it's appreciated. Also very true. But you put 4 twice, fyi. :)

July 25 2012 at 8:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sandra Gregston

A cell or smart phone at work? Really? Why even bring a cellphone or smart phone to work? I mean, this is work, not home and you are not shopping. See, I don't have to even worry about someone "texting me" since I don't have a cell phone and I think they are just something to keep all of us zombies to life around us - especially when we drive.

People don't need more cell phones and text messages. People need to open their MOUTH and TALK. We are becoming a generation of people that don't talk anymore. It's sick.

June 15 2012 at 7:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

also dont call your male workers honey or how handsom he looks and so on that alone can cost you your job. as a witness or the harasser

May 17 2012 at 4:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A pro always proofreads her articles JT, you have two numbers fours.

May 17 2012 at 3:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One thing I've learned about work is that there are touchie people at work ( usaully women ) and no matter what you say-- it's going to boomerang back to you; and not in a nice way . Even if you're trying to say something humorous to a woman, she's sure to take it the wrong way and freeze you out of the lunch-bunch.

May 16 2012 at 11:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Right, keep your nose to the grindstone and never talk to anyone. Then the boss will keep hounding you for a date 'cause to him you'll be perfection. Won't that be great.

May 16 2012 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have a co-worker who exhibits much of the above manners or lack thereof. It is very annoying to feel that you are being crossed-examined EVERYDAY. She will even go behind your back to obtain information about your personal life if you do not share it with her. But God forbid you ask her about her personal life. You are met with a "I rather not talk about that" or "that subject upsets me." Really??? I have resorted to having my family and friends call my cell phone, text me or email me during the day so as to avoid her inquiring about the nature of my phone calls.

Let's make it worse. I do believe that I saw a notation on her notepad that shows the time my girlfriend called me and the time I got off the phone. Needless to say I was VEXED.

And it's not just my calls, it is others co-worker's calls as well. She will even ask you what the person called for - personal or professional.

Talk about self-restraint.

May 16 2012 at 9:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Some of those items were pertinent, but I would say keep your personal life personal, and don't bad mouth anyone

May 16 2012 at 6:13 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

A friend of mine recently told me a co-worker of hers was confiding in her about the affair she was having with their married boss. I warned my friend to tell this woman in no uncertain terms that she did not want to hear about it and pointed out that if her boss found out that she knew these details, she could end up getting fired as she knew the boss's wife and he may have feared her exposing him. She didn't listen to me, kept allowing the gossip to continue and sure enough, a few months into it, she was fired.

May 16 2012 at 6:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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