Saying the wrong things to your boss can damage your career in ways that are hard to recover from. It’s important to think before you speak, even when you are upset or passionate about an issue. It’s the first step in keeping a positive relationship with your boss, and while it might sound easy, you’d be surprised how many struggle with this idea. Throwing away certain phrases that most bosses hate is the second step.
So to save you from sticking your foot in your mouth, here’s a quick list of five things you should never say to your boss.
1. “I can’t” or “That’s impossible.”
Never tell your boss that something cannot be done. Choose to speak about what can be done instead, and always think of how you can solve problems instead of falling victim to them.
“It can’t be done by Friday” can be turned into, “This may be difficult to complete by Friday, but I know it can be completed by Monday,” or, “We could meet this Friday deadline, but we may need to bring in extra help to do so.”
If you can create solutions for what seems like an impossible situation, your boss is more likely to help you achieve it.
2. “But, we’ve always done it this way.”
Don’t get stuck in the past. If you have a new boss who wants to do things a new way or an old boss who wants to try something different, meet the challenge straight away. If you say, ”But, we’ve always done it this way,” you run the risk of looking stale and combative.
Be a part of the brainstorming process and be open to new ways of doing things. If you are gravely concerned about a new process, present it as a challenge by saying, “In order for this to work, we may have to…”
Don’t kill your boss’ idea with a stubborn or negative attitude. Show you are open to growing as an employee and willing to work with your boss, for better or worse. Who knows? You may just learn a valuable new skill or find a better way of doing something.
3. “That’s not my job” or “That’s not my department”
If your boss comes to you with an assignment or a request, don’t shut him or her down with, “That’s not part of my job description.” Your boss needs your help and has come to you, because he or she has faith you can do that task. If you’re concerned a new assignment is out of your regular responsibilities, ask who you can turn to for help.
By taking on an outside responsibility, you have the chance to not only shine in your boss’ eyes, but also learn a new skill set. It’s the perfect opportunity to show those in charge that you are a team player and a bold employee who rises to the challenge.
4. “It’s not my fault” or “It’s so and so’s fault, not mine.”
If you make a mistake, own up to it. If you didn’t make a mistake, explain that fact without pointing fingers or sounding petulant.
Never point fingers at another coworker or someone else. This is not only in poor taste, but makes you look unprofessional. If you believe someone else could clarify the situation, refer your manager to them directly.
Bosses know that mistakes happen. The sign of a confident and professional employee is one who can honestly admit to a mistake – and offer solutions to fix it.
5. “I don’t know…”
No one expects you to know everything, but saying “I don’t know” and leaving it at that can be a career-killer. If you don’t know the answer to something your boss asks, say instead, “I’m not sure, but I can find out.”
By offering to discover the answer to whatever question your leaders have, you show them you are eager, curious, a problem-solver, and committed. You’ll learn something new too, and by volunteering to find the information, you’ll end up as a vital resource to your company.
Saying the right things at the right time
No employee is perfect all the time. Everyone sticks their foot in their mouth in front of their boss now and again, but avoiding the career-killer phrases above will help minimize any damage.
Do you have phrases to add? Did we miss anything on this list? Let us know in the comments section below!
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