US News and World
Report – Saying the wrong thing to your boss can really damage
your career. From refusing to work with a colleague to bragging about your
irreplaceability, here are 10 things you never want to say to your manager:
1. "Can you write that down for me?" When you're talking about
the details of a project, writing notes to consult later is great. But you need
to take them yourself, not ask your boss to do it for you.
2. "I just booked plane tickets for next month." Never book
time off without clearing it with your boss. There might be a major project due
that week, or she might have approved others to have that time off and therefore
need you around. Check with her first before you do anything irreversible.
3. "My bad." There's nothing more frustrating than an employee
who has made a mistake and doesn't seem to think it's a big deal. When you make
a mistake, take responsibility for it, figure out how you're going to fix it,
and make it clear that you understand its seriousness. Responses like "my bad"
sound cavalier and signal that you don't take work seriously. Don't use it for
anything other than the most minor mistake (like spilling something in the
kitchen, which you then promptly clean up).
4. "I can't work with Joe." Refusing to work with a colleague
is an unusually extreme statement and may mark you as difficult. Instead, try
something like, "I find it hard to work well with Joe because of X and Y. Do you
have any advice on how I can make it go more smoothly?"
5. "I don't know what you'd do without me." No one is
irreplaceable, even the head of your company. Statements like this mark you as a
prima donna who feels entitled to special treatment ... and will make a lot of
managers want to show you that you're wrong.
6. "Do this, or I quit." Whether you're asking for a raise or
requesting a day off, don't threaten to quit if you don't get your way. If you
don't get what you want, you can always think it over and decide to quit, but if
you use it as a threat in the negotiation itself, you'll lose your manager's
respect and poison the relationship.
"I have another offer. Can you match it?" Using another job
offer as a bargaining chip to get your current employer to pay you more money
may be tempting, but it often ends badly. First, you may be told to take the
other offer, even if you don't really want it--and then you'll have to follow
through. Second, even if your employer does match the offer, they'll now assume
you're looking to leave, and you may be on the top of the lay-off list if the
company needs to make cutbacks. If you want a raise, negotiate it on your own
8. "What's the big deal?" Statements like this are dismissive
and disrespectful. If your manager is concerned about something, you need to be
concerned about it too. If you genuinely don't understand what the big deal is,
say something like, "I want to understand where you're coming from so we're on
the same page. Can you help me understand how you're seeing this?"
9. "I can't do X because I need to do Y." Don't say that you
can't do something your manager is asking of you. Instead, if there's a conflict
with another project, explain the conflict and ask your manager which is more
10."That's not my job." Protesting that something isn't in your
job description is a good way to lose the support of your boss. Job descriptions
aren't comprehensive, and most people end up doing work that doesn't fall
squarely within that job description. (That's what "and other duties as
assigned" means.) You want to make yourself more valuable to your employer, not
Alison Green writes the popular
Ask a Manager blog,
where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's
also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to
Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit
organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and