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10 Things You Should Never Say to the Boss

Mary Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com writer

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Somewhere between winning the lottery and hearing your name called on "The Price is Right" is that other common fantasy: Telling off your boss. 

While telling your manager what he or she can really do with that quarterly report is tempting, you'd like to keep your job.  Still, you may not be aware of how other things you say to your boss can make you come across as lazy, disrespectful or careless, sabotaging your chances of getting a promotion, a raise or a better job later on.  

Here are 10 phrases employers say they hate to hear and why. 


  1. "I really need to talk to you, it's important." "One person's importance is another person's triviality," says Richard Laermer, CEO of RLM Public Relations.  In today's fast-paced workplace, managers don't have time to personally attend to every little need.  If you have to talk to your boss about something important, explain what it's regarding first.

  2. "I don't need anyone to teach me." Be careful here. It's one thing to already know how to perform a job; it's another (irritating) thing to think you already know all there is to learn.

  3. "I don't understand." On the other hand, while a little on-the-job training is standard, someone who continually needs instructions on how to perform a certain task can be, in a manager's eyes, more effort than he or she is worth.

  4. "Could you repeat that?" A forgivable offense if it's a one-time occurrence, but continually asking your manager to repeat him or herself indicates you don't care about or respect what he or she has to say.  

  5. "I just never got around to it." Sometimes "it's not so much that you said the wrong thing, but that you didn't follow through," says Nicholas Aretakis, a career coach whose former employee "Fred" constantly overcommitted, subsequently ruining his chance to be promoted. An employee who is unreliable will be remembered when it comes time for evaluations or promotions -- in a bad way.

  6. "That's not in my job description." Unless the task your manager is asking you to perform has nothing to do with the actual workplace, you should keep this thought to yourself. "In today's workplace, there's nothing that can not get done," says Laermer, whose company policy emphasizes teamwork and flexibility.  Everyone needs to do his or her part to pitch in, which sometimes means performing work that may be a departure from your day-to-day duties. 
       

  7. "Don't blame me -- it's not my fault." One thing that's sure to tick off your boss is trying to cover up a mistake by blaming someone else, Aretakis says. This behavior proves to your boss that you're not only unreliable, but deceptive as well.

  8. "Can you tell so-and-so to shut off that annoying music?" It's not up to the boss to solve your personal problems.  If you can't resolve a problem with a co-worker on your own, you can ask your boss for advice, but don't expect him or her to respond to whining and complaining.

  9. "Yeah, right. I have a family. I'm going home." True, the work day for most officially ends at five o'clock, but a little overtime work every once in a while is standard in many workplaces. Make sure you understand your company's policy on overtime before you speak up.

  10. "Get yourself a slave." Laermer was rendered speechless when an intern once said this to him on her last day on the job. Even if you're leaving, be careful where you burn your bridges.  A former boss can be a good professional reference for future positions, so you may regret leaving on such bitter terms.

The bottom line is that if you're unsatisfied with any aspect of your job, from the amount of work you're taking on to the way your chair squeaks every time you move, it is up to you to take the first step to change your situation; otherwise, you're likely to just carry your unhappiness to your next job.


Last Updated: 03/10/2007 - 5:31 PM


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