Over the years I've destroyed a few workplace relationships without even realizing it. There are a few words and phrases that we're programmed to say on a day to day basis that prevent us from having strong relationships with our coworkers.
The average American spends 8.9 hours working per workday. Some of us entrepreneurs spend upwards of 12 hours. Because of that, it's only natural that you would want to be as comfortable as possible at your workplace. And the best way to be comfortable at work is by building strong and healthy relationships with your colleagues.
Unfortunately, you can quickly ruin those workplace relationships by saying any the following 25 phrases.
1. "I know, right?"
First off, do you really know what you're coworker is going through? There may be some circumstances that you can relate to them, but if you don't, you're coming off just a bit insincere. Obviously, if it's a scratch on a monitor that everyone gets, this phrase would not be offensive nor insincere. However, if it is an experience of feeling your coworker is having, that is another issue. The other problem with this phrase is that you're feeding into their complaints and not helping them resolve the problem at hand.
As Kira Asatryan says in Psychology Today, "'Why' is the language of accusation ("Why did you do that?"; "Why do you feel that way?")." Instead use "why" or "what" to help them understand the root of the problem. Kira suggests that you try "why" out on yourself. Like, "why did I just sit down? Why am I eating this?" A person will immediately notice themselves feeling defensive. Try other words that indicate that you are willing to listen or that you want to understand what someone is thinking or feeling, such as, "What did I learn from this?" or "How would you do this project differently if given the chance?"
3. "In my experience..."
This phrase is basically letting your coworker that you know more than they do. A better approach may be to ask them a question like "Have you thought about...?" Or, "Could I help you with...?" If you are older in the workforce, it just makes you look -- well, older.
4. "That's a stupid idea."
This phrase might fly with your friends, but not in the workplace - and actually not with your friends. No one should be told their idea is stupid -- even if it is. And, if it is a stupid idea, there are better ways to indicate that you don't see the value of this particular idea, however, someone else might. The use of the words, "stupid idea," undermines the coworker or friends' capabilities and can prevent them from assisting you in future projects since they'll believe that you'll immediately write their ideas off.
5. "It's not fair."
Dr. Travis Bradberry, the cofounder of TalentSmart, says; "Everyone knows that life isn't fair. Saying that it's not fair suggests that you think life is supposed to be fair, which makes you look immature and nave. If you don't want to make yourself look bad, you need to stick to the facts, stay constructive, and leave your interpretation out of it." This statement belongs on the "why" shelf. It also feels accusatorial.
While learning to say "no" is important if you want to prevent getting stressed out, immediately telling a coworker "no" is a turnoff. Give them a chance to explain either their request or opinion first. Especially don't break in and interrupt your coworker mid-sentence with "no" as they are explaining their idea or concern to you.
7. "Who are you voting for?"
Politics never belong in the workplace. It can divide people, paint you as a bully, make you sound opinionated or foolish, or even get you fired. Save the political talk for outside of the office. And, it may be advisable to have a non-committal answer to give when you are the one being asked.
8. "That's not my problem."
How gut wrenching does it feel when you come to someone with a problem and they respond with "It's not my problem?" It's a lousy feeling that leaves you also feeling unsupported and lonely. The person using this phrase is also saying, "Get lost!" That's not saying that you have to get too involved with whatever's going on with this coworker -- most people just want to get something off their chest -- they don't need you to fix the problem. You may want to at least attempt to listen and if they ask for it, offer the best advice possible. If it's truly a serious issue and you really don't want to get involved, or can't get involved, you can still be more empathetic and transparent and say that you'd rather not get involved.
9. "Don't tell anyone..."
No one likes the office gossip. If it's that big of a secret then keep it to yourself or if the information is eating a hole in you, go ahead and confide the "big secret" to someone outside of the workplace.
10. "Does that make sense?"
This may not be intentional, after all you want to make sure that your colleague understands, but this statement it really implies that you believe your coworker is not capable of understanding a concept. "Does that make sense" is also admitting that you may be incoherent in your ramblings.
11. "Just trust me."
Don't force your colleagues to trust you just because you said so. Let your actions prove they can trust you. Better not to try this phrase on your friends, either. I've even gotten the blank stare from my spouse for using this one.
12. "You need to..."
Asatryan says that phrases like this can "hinder closeness because they imply that your partner should change in some specific way, based on your opinions." It also "creates a mandate that will drive a wedge between people." Again, this is a phrase that puts a person on the defense.
We often use "but" to offer a balanced point of view, as we may suppose. However, it really implies that you're colleague isn't right. Be aware most people only give their true opinion after the word, "but." I really like her, but...
14. "Check your emails."
Instead of demanding that your colleague read your email, which may be important to you but isn't their top priority, send them a follow-up email, quick call, or visit and ask if they had the chance to read the email that you sent. If they ask for information from you, that was in your previous email -- don't merely refer them back to that email. Just answer the question anew.
15. "This is the way that it's always been done."
The perfect phrase that illustrates how much you're reluctant to change. As opposed to resisting change, be receptive and embrace differences. It may actually make you more productive and efficient. Often, the way its always been done is out of date, and there's a better way.
16. "Just calm down."
Dianna Booher, author of 'Communicate With Confidence: How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time," says "This statement sounds parental. Worse, it implies that the person has lost control and has no right to be upset and that you're judge and jury."
17. "I'm so tired."
Well, we're all tired. What makes your exhaustion worse than your coworkers?
18. "I'll try."
Whenever you tell someone that you'll "try" you're implying that there's is a possibility that you won't come through. This forces them to handle the situation themselves - even if they could really have used your help. Consider that if someone is saying, "I'll try," to you personally -- you are probably putting too much pressure on them, or asking something unreasonable, or giving them an unreasonable time frame.
19. "Yeah, no problem."
A simple enough phrase that is often a brush-off, proving you are unreliable. Better to be clear with, "I'm happy to do that for you, or, if you can't help them out, politely inform your colleague. But, don't commit to something that you aren't able to do. It could seriously impact their career.
20. "This will only take a minute."
We're all busy. If you know this is only going to take a minute, then do it yourself. And, if this is going to take up more time than literally 'just a minute,' then give your coworker a heads-up so that they can plan accordingly. "This will only take a minute" is usually code for, "this will take hours so I'm putting you down and shaming you into doing this task." Really, don't say this. How about, "I know this will take some work and time, but can I impose upon you to help me?"
21. "Now what?"
We all have those days when we're overwhelmed. Guess what? Your colleagues are in the same boat. Don't take your stress out them when they just asking you a quick question, or asking for your assistance. It's even more imperative not to ask this question if you are in a management position.
22. "Let's just get this over with."
This is a dismissive phrase that gives the impression that whatever you're coworker is coming to you with isn't worth your time. More than dismissive, it's berating.
23. "He/she is so lazy/incompetent/rude."
Darlene Price, author of 'Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results' tells Forbes, "Not only does it reveal juvenile school-yard immaturity, it's language that is liable and fire-able." Speak well about everyone to everyone, and watch the measurable results.
24. "I wish I could go home, but I'm swamped."
There's plenty of times when we get bogged down with work. But, that isn't always your coworkers problem that you either can't manage your time more effectively, you do have too much work - or you just need to complain. If you get overwhelmed, you could always ask them for a lending hand instead of whining. If you hear this from a coworker, try asking if you can help.
25. Anything sexual
I once had colleague who frequently made inappropriate sexual remarks about a female team member. While this is obviously a fire-able offense, it was infuriating and disrespectful to me as well as my colleague - who was excellent at her job and awesome to work with. After hearing those remarks from this person, it was hard to work with him. What negative remark did he have about me? Needless to say, I wasn't all that disappointed when I no longer had to work with this person.