5 Dangerous Phrases That Will Make You Look Weak at Work


If you want to progress in your career and move up the corporate ladder, you should never use the following  dangerous phrases.

  1. Just – The word just is used to diminish the importance or difficulty of a certain activity, which is why it is a very dangerous phrase. When asking for help, you may be tempted to say something similar to “I just need 5 minutes of your time to answer this question”, when in fact you really need at least 15 minutes of the person’s time. By adding the word just in your sentence you have implied that whatever you are asking should not be difficult, but in fact it may be extremely difficult for somebody to do. Not only does this word imply that you will ask a lot more, it also implies that you plan on wasting somebody’s time. Instead of asking for something using the word just, simply drop it from your sentence. Start by checking all of your emails for the word using the CTRL+F feature and eventually you will stop using it in your daily conversations after not seeing it your emails. In fact, doing so will make you aware when other people use the word and after a while you will see that what they are saying in their emails seems less credible whenever they use the word just.
  2. “I am sorry about that” – Do not apologize about mistakes you make at the workplace, instead acknowledge the mistake and own up to it. Instead of apologizing you should say something similar to “I realize I made a mistake, what do I need to do to correct it and make sure I do not make the same mistake?” A statement which proves you know what you did was not right, will gain you bonus points with your boss because he or she might be mad at your, but at the same time they can clearly see that you want to never make the same mistake.
  3. “Sorry to bother you, but…” – When you begin a conversation with this statement, you are putting yourself in a hole. Although you want to be polite and show your boss or colleague that you are sorry about interrupting them, you should not start the conversation with a statement that tells them or reminds them that you are in fact interrupting their time and stopping them from doing what they were doing. Next time you feel compelled to use this statement replace it with a statement similar to this – “Hey! I was wondering if you have ‘X’ amount of minutes to look over these documents with me”. By using this type of statement, you are showing your colleague or boss that you need their help and at the same time you give them an opportunity to either accept your request and help you or decline your request and help you at a later time. This type of phrase is not a dangerous phrase because it allows the person who is in front of you – the person whom you need to help from, to not feel pressured into helping you. While you may absolutely need their help, they are not required to give it to you and by using this dangerous phrase “Sorry to bother you, but…” you are not only looking weak in their eyes, they begin to slowly dislike you because you never give them a chance to make a sound decision.
  4. “I can’t do this…” – If you say this you will not succeed in your career. Bosses and colleagues want people who can do the things they ask them to do. Although there may be some tasks that you are unable to do because you do not have the necessary skills, you should never say that you can’t do something. Instead you should point out that at the moment you are ill-equipped to do the task, but you will do it as soon as you gain more information or knowledge about how to do it. For example, if you boss asks you to make copies and you have no idea how to do it – you should let him or her know that you have not worked on the type of printer that the company is using and that you will make the copies, but it may take you some time to figure out how to do that. This way you are still saying that you can’t do it, but you don’t come off as aggressive and you show your boss that you have the will to learn.
  5. “That’s not my job” – This is a no-no. While sometimes you may be dumped somebody else’s work and you don’t want to do it, you should never say that whatever was given to you was not your work to do. You should instead mention that the work that you are provided is not within the scope of work that you are capable of performing at the moment and ask if you should put your work on hold to learn how to do the extra work given to you. This way you turn the dangerous phrase into a not so dangerous one because you allow the person who gave the extra work to prioritize your work and in a way take responsibility for any incomplete work.

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