10 Scary phrases that will make you unpopular in the office

8th October 2018

In the run up to Halloween (31 October) we thought it prudent to do something to focus on some of the creepiest unprofessional things that you can say that could land you in trouble at the office.

If you keep repeating these phrases, you’ll probably not progress through the ranks too quickly and you’ll lose any pals in the office that you had. You may, in extreme cases even get your marching orders (especially when it comes to point 10).

So, unless you want to live in an environment that feels like Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s best to avoid saying any of these:

  1. This is how we’ve always done it

Ah, the common fall back to ‘the way we are’. Some companies, groups or individuals are so used to doing something the same way that they often don’t see a reason to change. When a new idea crops up from someone new or already established in the business the phrase ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ is used.

Ask yourself why you’re using this phrase. Are you afraid of change? Can you justify why the business has always done the certain task at hand in ‘this way’? And is it truly the best way? Perhaps that new person whose made that suggestion has brought something new to the table – something that hasn’t been explored already that could in fact save time and make more money for the business. And instead of being open to the idea you use ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ as a shield. In some cases, it may even be a case of you feeling inadequate and using this phrase.

How it will make you look: It will make you look old (even if you’re not old). A paper dinosaur holding onto the last unwilling to try something new.

What should be said instead? No rules are absolute. Rather hear the person who has made a new suggestion out. If there’s no major risk involved give the suggestion a try and see where it leads you. It may lead you to conclude that the old method is indeed the best. Or, it may result in you making more money than ever before!

  1. I’m not to blame

If an error is big enough and it looks like you’ve done it, you may immediately want to shift the blame onto someone else. You may want to say this because you’re working in the department/sector where the fault occurred. Admitting to it may make you seem inadequate in your job.

How it will make you look: Shifty. Very shifty.

What you should say instead: No one is telling you to fall on your sword or apologise for that matter. People make mistakes. Horrible mistakes that can even cost the business money, especially in this digital age where fraud and cyber-crime are rife. The best thing to do (even if you’re not at fault) is to find a solution to the problem.

  1. It’s not in my job description

Nobody wants to do everything all of the time. But there will come a place and time where you’ll be asked by someone senior or another colleague to do something that you may not want to do. Saying ‘it’s not in my job description’ is a tough way to bat someone off and you’ll find that eventually no one will want to pass anything onto you, even if it is fun

How it will make you look: Indifferent and selfish. Like someone who doesn’t want to do anything beyond what they signed up for.

What you should do instead: Help out. And if you believe that someone is taking advantage of you then speak to your manager in private about the situation. You may need more training to do the actual task or your job description may need to be redefined.

  1. I hate Jane, she’s such a w*tch

She may be the office banshee who screams at everyone when they let her down. But that doesn’t mean you should gossip about her to your colleagues.

How it will make you look: Insecure. It’s easy to tear someone down to make yourself look good or to laugh at someone when they’re having a bad day. Rise above the antics and stay out of the ghoulish gossip circles. You’re just better than that.
What you should do instead: Say nothing. There’s a saying that goes something like this: If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all. Even if there are other people that may agree that Jane is the office w*tch it won’t really bring any benefits to you at all.

  1. Using ‘like’, ‘literally’ and ‘seriously’

People often use ‘crutches’ also known as ‘sentence fillers’ to steer themselves through conversations when they’re trying to think about what to say next or are embarrassed.

How it will make you look: Lacking in confidence. You’ll come across like you never quite progressed beyond your High School universe. You’ll be passed over for tasks such as representing the company as a spokesperson on TV, and the like (see what we did there).

What you should do instead: Make a conscious effort not to use these words. Practice on your friends and ask them to highlight the words you repeat or use as sentence fillers. They don’t have to be ‘like’ and ‘literally’ – anything can be used as a crutch.  

  1. I’m bored

Admitting something like this will probably be frowned upon. Even if you meant it in an innocent way to start a conversation or to hint at your manager that the task at hand is as dull as ditchwater.

How it will make you look: Boring. Like someone that can’t start something on their own and get on with it.

What you should do instead: Instead of saying you’re bored why not come up with some ideas of your own to follow through on or to suggest to your manager. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The worst your superior can say to your suggestion is ‘no’. If that happens, it’s still not a good thing to admit boredom.

  1. I’m busy

These days we’re all busy. If we’re not working our butts off we’re hooked on our social media timelines, watching television or rushing home in the evenings to do our side gigs. Saying you’re busy is just another fob off similar to ‘it’s not in my job description’.

How it will make you look: Like the office snob. Unapproachable. Aloof. The office gremlin.

What you should do instead: Even if you are busy there are many other things you can say that will not make you come across as self-centred. Find a time in your diary to help the person if you can’t help them when they ask.

  1. I have a great plan

This is a dangerous thing to say because what happens if your ‘great plan’ falls flat or fails to make the target? There are so many people who start off with great intentions only to be left with egg on their face when it all goes pear-shaped. Politicians often fall foul of this sort of thing and then end up resigning when things don’t work out quite the way they intended it to go.

How it will make you look: Egotistical.

What you should do instead: Don’t label it a great plan from the outset. Suggest it and see if it gets taken up. If it does then execute it and make sure it succeeds. If it does well or shoots the lights out, then it can be labeled a ‘great plan’.

  1. F*ck it!

There are so many curse words in the English language nowadays that we’ve lost count. But in this instance, we’ve highlighted one of the more common ones. We’ve all cursed from time to time but using swear words in the office is a big no-no.  

How it will make you look: Common and crass.

What you should do instead: Don’t us swear words when liaising with colleagues. It’s just so unprofessional and so unnecessary. Yes, we’re all adults at the end of the day but curse words are best left at home if they must be used at all. Keep conversation clean and tidy in the office, even if others are not. They may not say it, but they will respect you more.

  1. John/Jane is looking rather sexy (followed by a wolf whistle or any other unwarranted attention)

Don’t get us wrong, a compliment in the office can go a long way. In fact, it can make someone’s day. But if you’ve learned anything from the #metoo movement is that locker room talk is just not acceptable anymore.

How it will make you look: Creepy and sleazy.  

What you should do instead: If Jane has a smart looking blouse on and you compliment her on her fashion sense then there should be nothing to worry about. But if you happen to add that the cut of the shirt accentuates her bosom it’s probably safe to say that it’s not something she’s wanting to hear. We’re not singling men out her by any means. The same goes for the ladies! Keep it clean. Keep it polite. And if you think something may come across the wrong way – rather don’t say it.


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