Words can pack a punch. Sometimes, when you "assume" something or use a label like "obese" in the workplace, you are essentially setting off a ticking time bomb. These words are laced with toxin; they stick out in casual conversation, emails, texts, and phone calls.

1. Infer

The word "infer" tells everyone in the office you have not done your homework. It's technically defined as deducing something without real facts, but people just assume you are guessing.

2. Blame

Here's an obvious word to avoid. When you say "blame" you are generating quite a bit of buzz. It's just one of those loaded words, even if you are trying to use it in a healthy way.

3. Corral

You might be tempted to say you want to "corral" the troops. I've heard this phrase a few times, but I know someone who feels it's offensive. We "corral" cows, not people.

4. Assume

Assumptions lead to misunderstandings. Avoid saying you are "assuming" anything, whether by email or in person. Just let people know you are still making up your mind.

5. Herd

Can you get away with saying you are herding cats? Sure. It's funny. But keep in mind, the minute you say you are "herding" anything, someone could be offended.

6. Dumb

Is that guy in accounting dumb? Maybe. But when you use the word, remember it's so easy to misconstrue. It's a putdown. Just say what is bugging you about his work.

7. Fat

Everyone has a different definition of what it means to be truly overweight. Don't bother leaving it open to interpretation. In fact, don't bother describing people by their weight at all.

8. Obese

By the way, if you make the mistake of describing someone by their weight, the only word that will get a more negative reaction than "fat" is "obese"--it's better to just avoid the subject.

9. SOL

OK, it's not really a word but you might be tempted to use it in conversation or by email. It means "shit outta luck" but it's just a bit toxic--and too easy to misconstrue. It's best to explain why something is not going to happen the way you expected.

10. Gunning

Sales people might be "gunning" for a new customer, but remember that the word has a few obvious implications, all of them pretty negative.

Published on: Feb 4, 2015
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