Seven things to stop saying at work

Woman shouting in to a megaphone

By Denise Mooney
(Sydney Morning Herald)

What kind of impression are you really making at work? Could your language be hindering your career prospects?

If you find yourself repeating phrases like, “I killed it”, “awesome” or “amazeballs”, it might be time to expand your vocabulary.

While it’s important to be authentic, you should be aware of the implications of the words you choose, says Jennifer Frahm, director of Conversations of Change.

“The worst [phrases] are the ones that diminish your personal power,” she says.

Here are seven words and phrases you should stop saying if you want to get ahead at work.

1) Sorry, but …

When you preface a request with an apology, for example: “Sorry, but can you just take a look at this report”, it shows a lack of confidence, says Frahm.

“Don’t apologise for being curious or merely being present. You should have authority in the office”.

And if you’re not feeling confident, “fake it till you make it”, she says. Stop saying words like “sorry but” and “just”. Your sentences don’t need those modifiers.

2) I’ll try

The problem with saying “I’ll try” is it implies you might not succeed. It’s a way of protecting yourself against blame.

Frahm recommends using a variation, such as: “yeah, I’ll give that a crack”.

“No one ever says, “I’ll give it a crack” in a tentative voice,” she says.

3) F— that

The occasional f-bomb may seem harmless enough. But there’s no place for colourful language in the workplace, according to Executive Coach, Stacey Ashley of Ashley Coaching & Consulting.

“If your language is super casual, your ideas could be dismissed because they don’t come across with any credibility,” she says.

“It impacts … your ability to influence.”

4) I’m too busy

These days everyone with a pulse is busy, so it’s best to avoid stating the obvious.

Rather than focus on your busyness, give yourself time to consider whether the request is within your priorities, advises Frahm.

You could say something like: “I’d love to help. Let me have a think about how I might do that.”

“This gives you time to work out whether you should do it and whether you can do it.”

5) I killed that

Words like “kill”, “battle” and “war” are increasingly used out of context, and depending on the culture of your workplace, could cause offence.

“It’s best to censor anything that can be inflammatory”, says Frahm. “Some of the really violent language can be a trigger phrase for people and if you don’t know them well, it’s not going to make a good impression.”

6) Awesome, amazeballs and amazing

While “amazeballs” is often used ironically, the chances are you hear words like “awesome” and “amazing” bandied about every day.

“Sometimes to get attention, people will overdo the adjectives”, says Ashley. “They’ll talk about this “amazingly wonderful” project. But often it’s not appropriate, especially in a more formal setting.”

“Awesome is a great word when you’re truly in awe of something,” says Frahm. But it can make you look quite dumb. You’re going to look like you’ve led a pretty sheltered life if you’re using awesome all the time.”

Do acknowledge a positive event, but do it without the excessive use of superlatives, she suggests.

7) “It’s not my job”

Another variation on this is, “but that’s the policy”. Both phrases should be avoided because they show a lack of initiative, warns Ashley.

It’s OK to admit that you don’t know how to do something, but you should always try and offer another suggestion or find someone who can help, she says.

Another word to use more sparingly at work is “yes”.

If you’re a “yes” person, you’re not asserting yourself or putting any value on your time, says Frahm.

“Being discerning about what you say yes to will get you promoted, but indiscriminate use makes you a patsy.”

We could all benefit from concentrating a little more on what we’re saying, says Ashley.

“We’re all multitasking so we’re not very good at being present in a conversation.”

“Sometimes we open our mouths without engaging our brains. It’s worth taking a couple of seconds to really figure out what your thought is before you share it.”

What else should people stop saying at work? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.


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