Mind Your Manners: Things Not To Say In The Office

We spend most of our time at work that sometimes we tend to get too comfortable and overlook office etiquette. Maintaining professionalism in the office not only makes it bearable to cope with the daily grind at work but also affects career progression and success.

Here are some key phrases to bear in mind which may cause you to lose not only good friends at the workplace but also damage your professional reputation.

1. “We have always done things this way.” 

Making it a habit of using this phrase, shows your bosses and colleagues that you are not capable of adapting to change and progress. Always remember, sticking to the same method just because that’s how the company has managed in the past is never a convincing reason. If you truly believe in a particular method or strategy, explain why that method is more beneficial than the current one or vice versa.

2. That’s not my job.”

This is a common career-killing phrase we are all too familiar with. What this phrase actually indicates is the reluctance to be a team player. When you are requested by your manager to do a particular task which may not be within your job description or beneath your skill set, the best way is to keep an open mind. At the very least, treat it as an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and show your versatility. Alternatively, you could say, “I may not have done this before but I’ll try my level best to help.”

3. “This will only take a minute.”

When a particular task involves input from several individuals, saying this undermines the existing workload of other colleagues which may be equally urgent. Be mindful when you are disrupting another colleagues’ work schedule, it is more considerate to ask your colleague whether they have time to spare for a quick chat and to seek their advice, for example, “Are you free to chat for a few minutes? I need your advice on this matter”.

4. “It’s not fair.”

As we are well aware, life is not always fair. Using this phrase often shows immaturity and the lack of professionalism. If you feel overloaded with work, set some time to meet with your boss to discuss how to get the assistance you need.

5. “I can’t stand my boss.”

Be mindful of negative comments as you would be surprised how fast such statements spread around the workplace and before you know it, you may end up in an awkward conversation with your boss about it or worse case, you might even lose your job. It is best to discuss and resolve issues directly with your boss if he or she is being unreasonable instead of making disparaging remarks. Alternatively, learn some useful tips from other colleagues who work well with your boss and make an effort to put it into practice.

6. “You look tired. Are you okay?”

It is advisable not to comment on a co-worker’s appearance to avoid sounding judgmental. If you are concerned and trying to be friendly, ask if you could get them any refreshments on your way out for breakfast or lunch, for example, “I’m heading to the cafeteria for breakfast. Can I get you anything?”.

7. “You’re all dressed up today! Have a job interview somewhere?”

Saying this to a colleague implies that he or she usually doesn’t dress well to the office or you suspect they are trying to leave the company. Always remember, commenting on a co-worker’s appearance even in a positive way may backfire as it comes off as being judgmental. Perhaps, it is in line with office etiquette to just leave it out or keep it at, “you look nice today”.

8. “Are you pregnant?”

Never ask this question in the workplace or even outside of the office. Leave it to the person in question to reveal it at their own time. Asking a co-worker this question creates an uncomfortable situation, especially if you got it wrong! The office is a place where you work and despite being close to your colleagues and boss, it is important to maintain a professional attitude at all times instead of conducting yourself in a manner that may hurt your reputation.

9. “You’re how old?”

This happens quite often at the workplace. Once you realise the actual age of your co-worker, you tend to find yourself in a tricky position – if they are younger, you may have commented that they look older. If they are older than you thought, you may have hinted at their level of maturity or experience. It is best to avoid remarks about age and other details in relation to gender or ethnicity in a professional setting.

10. “I’ll try.”

In actual fact, this is the same as saying “I can’t do it”. When you are faced with a new task, etc saying this comes off as sounding like you are genuinely disinterested but you have no choice but to complete the task. It is best to be honest and just say, “I may need extra help to meet this deadline but I will get it done”. Don’t set yourself up for failure at the outset by showing your lack of interest.