You are currently viewing 10 Phrases You Should Never Say to Your Boss

If you want to make your boss angry, guarantee that you won’t get promoted, or get fired, then use one of the 10 phrases described below when you’re talking to her.

If you want to keep your job and position yourself for positive reviews that lead to promotions, make sure you never use these phrases in any of your communications with your direct boss or any other leaders in your company.

Even if one of the phrases below is true and accurately describes your thoughts or situation in the workplace, avoid saying them. They’ll raise an instant red flag in your boss’ mind causing her to tune out everything else you say. Of course, not all bosses are alike, but there are fewer exceptions to the rules below than there should be. Tread cautiously if you want to keep your job.

1. That’s not my job.

Your boss needs something done, and he asks you to do it. Don’t disappoint him. You need to find a way to get it done either by doing it yourself or working with another employee to complete it.

2. I’m too busy.

Telling your boss you’re too busy to do something is like telling him you’re incapable of doing your job.

3. I can’t meet that deadline.

If your boss gives you a deadline to complete a task or project, he expects you to deliver it on time. He doesn’t want to hear about your problems in meeting the deadline. If you need help in juggling your other projects to fit this new project in, then ask him to prioritize the projects on your plate so you can meet all of his expectations.

4. That can’t be done.

Saying these four words to your boss is as bad as waving a red cape in front of a bull. Don’t do it. You’re being paid to do a job, so you need to find a way to get it done. You might not like the projects your boss assigns to you, but you’re not allowed to pick and choose the projects you work on each day.

5. We’ve tried that before.

When a new leader joins a company or team, it’s inevitable that she’ll want to try new things. However, some of those things will be projects and initiatives that have been tried at the company before and didn’t work. Bosses don’t like to hear about what was done before. If your boss wants to try something that you’ve done before, she’ll likely tell you that it failed in the past because it wasn’t managed properly. In other words, you won’t win this argument, so instead of fighting against trying the same things again, determine why they failed in the past and try to make them better this time.

6. This is how we’ve always done it.

People typically don’t like change, and employees rarely like change. New leadership teams often want to make a variety of changes, and employees respond negatively to those changes. They wonder, “What’s wrong with the way we’ve been doing it?” Whatever the reason is behind a change that your boss is requiring you to make, it’s unlikely that you can fight against it. Instead, learn to navigate through inevitable changes that are out of your control.

7. I can’t work with that person.

Your boss expects you to do your job, and sometimes you have to work with people you don’t like in order to do your job. Don’t show your boss that you’re difficult to work with by refusing to work with specific individuals. Doing so ends up hurting your reputation in your boss’ mind.

8. I didn’t do it.

Claiming ignorance when you’re guilty will end in disaster, because the truth will likely come out. If you made a mistake, claim responsibility and do whatever is necessary to fix the problem and ensure it won’t happen again. Communicate with your boss and tell him everything you’re doing to mitigate the effects of your mistake.

9. I don’t know why that happened.

“I don’t know,” is never an acceptable answer for your boss. Instead, tell your boss you’re working on getting a complete answer to his question and give him a time frame for when you’ll have an update for him. In other words, show him that you’re trying rather than giving up.

10. I need a raise or I’m leaving.

No one likes to be given an ultimatum, and that includes your boss. If you want a raise or a perk, don’t threaten to quit if you don’t get it. This behavior is unprofessional, and is practically guaranteed to end in failure. Brush up on your salary negotiation skills instead.

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