8 Things To Never Say to Your Boss

You know that sage wisdom that advises you to always “speak your mind” or perhaps encourages that “there is no such thing as a dumb question”?  Well, at Simply Hired we’re here to put the record straight that when it comes to staying employed and in the good graces of your employer, those tried and truths are a load of hooey.  If you’re a savvy employee who is interested in career growth and future with your company or manager, sometimes it definitely pays to zip it. With that in mind, here are 8 of our top things you should never say to your boss.

1) “It’s not my job.”

Whether coming from a petulant child or an entitled employee, no person with authority ever wants to hear “no” when asking someone to perform a task.  Sure, it may sting a little to be asked to do tasks that you consider menial or outside the scope of your employment contract, but going above and beyond is what sets great employees apart from the mediocre ones.  

In addition to stepping up when requested, showing initiative and offering to help out when it looks like your skills or effort may aid a situation can make a huge impact in the way others view you.  Managers and superiors will take note come promotion day and your coworkers will be more likely to return the favor when you’re in need of assistance. Going outside of your comfort zone or defined job role on request is also a great way to pick up valuable skills that can help in your current or future positions.

2) “This isn’t fair.”

Chances are this line didn’t work so well when you busted it out on your kindergarten teacher over the amount of homework you were forced to take home.  As a general rule, the whole concept of “fairness” isn’t going to get you very far with your superior either. There will be times in any position where workload balance takes a turn against you.  Maybe you’ll even receive a bit of criticism that isn’t entirely in line with the situation. The reality is that in a healthy workplace what is right will tend to even out in the end. Be proactive in documenting and gathering evidence if you feel you’ve been wronged and always give yourself plenty of time before replying out of frustration.

3) “I will try.”

Take some inspiration from your favorite wrinkly green alien mentor and excise this non-useful saying from your conversations with superiors.  If you don’t feel up to a job or that you can make a deadline, communicate this up front. If you don’t have the resources you need, letting your boss know this will come off much better than a generic response that you’ll see what you can get done.

For any other reasons than lack of tools or time, “I will try” is a highly passive response that makes you appear lackluster over your position.  Instead, try to offer up enthusiastic replies with details on day/time for delivery. Throw in a comment about how you’re looking forward to getting this done and you have a recipe for practive sucess.

4)  “I cannot do that; it’s impossible.”

Similar to number 3, expressing that a requested task or assignment is impossible should never enter your vocabulary in conversations with your boss.  Harkening back to our childhood days (are you sensing a theme here yet) stating that a task is impossible is usually a gross overstatement for purposes of drama more than reality.  If a task is difficult or if you’re not sure you have the right manpower or resources needed, create a plan of action that lists these items out. In addition to coming off as the person who never met a goal they couldn’t conquer, you may also end up with additional responsibilities or team members which could lead to promotions and career advancement.

5) “But this is the way we always do things.”

If there’s one thing savvy bosses hate to hear as a reasoning for a specific course of action it’s the old “but this is how it’s always been” line.  Whatever the variation, saying this to your boss instantly pegs you as someone who is close minded and resistant to change. These negative qualities certainly won’t win you any bonus points come promotion day.  Always embrace change when its productive and take some time to consider new ideas or approaches. Sometimes the old way may be the best, but a solid reasoning behind that way of thought will get you further than sheer obstinance.

6) “I am too busy right now.”

Another wholly useful phrase to use when speaking to your boss involves pointing out how you’re unable to perform a task due to being “busy”.  For this statement, it’s less about the idea you’re communicating and more about the how. If you’re legitimately swamped at work, the time to discuss this with management or your supervisor is before you’re asked to take on an additional task.  Be sure to shape the conversation in a helpful and productive way. For example, instead of simply saying you’re busy, ask for additional resources or to have a conversation about how the scope of your project or overall job has expanded. Not only will your boss appreciate the candor, you may get a bit of a reprieve in the form of additional staffing or possibly a raise or promotion.

7) “No problem.”

This is another statement for the “needs more context” category when it comes to things not to say to your boss.  While many of us have gotten into the routine habit of replying to requests with “no problem” at work it’s far more efficient and beneficial to yourself and your colleagues to add a bit more into the response.  Instead of saying no problem to a request instead try delivering set timetables for completion, ask follow up questions or provide additional insight into your thought process. Conversation in the workplace is a gold star opportunity to collaborate so be sure not to miss the boat.

8) “Sigh.”

When it comes to the worst thing you could say or communicate to your boss, words aren’t always at the top of the list.  Gestures, body language and even that big exagerated “sigh” you take when frustrated could potentially send the wrong message and leave you appearing petulant or not a team player.  While we all feel the stress and pressure and often find requests ridiculous or confusing, there is typically a much more productive way to deal with these emotions than venting in an unprofessional manner.  If you’re experiencing repeated behaviors, obstacles or other impediments to workplace happiness it may be time to sit down and have a frank talk with your boss. As the saying goes, you attract more bees with honey…

Have any other no-go’s when it comes to speaking with your boss?  Drop us a line and let us know your favorite approaches to communication in the workplace that may help foster professionalism and productivity for yourself and the company as a whole.

Article Updated from the Original on March 27, 2018