‘At my last job we did it this way’
No manager likes a know-it-all, so you must tread lightly if you think you have a better way. “You’re better off phrasing sensitive or challenging responses by turning them into questions versus being confrontational,” Taylor says.
‘It’s really not my fault; it’s John’s fault’
The blame game is a treacherous path. If you’re innocent, then explain why. Don’t implicate others if you bear the primary responsibility, Taylor says.
“Taking responsibility is key,” adds Kahn. “If you’re always seen as someone pointing the finger, eventually your boss is going to question who is really to blame.”
‘If I don’t hear from you, I’ll just do …’
This has a threatening tone. It’s better to wait than be admonished later.
‘[Your predecessor] did this differently/better’
“Bosses usually feel that their methods are preferred over their predecessors because they now hold the position,” Taylor explains. “Unless a method is clearly a mistake, don’t challenge your boss with the ‘old ways of doing things’ just because they made things easier for you.”
‘I can’t work with him/her’
Not playing well with others isn’t good in elementary school, nor is it acceptable in the workplace. It’s assumed that you are capable of getting beyond personality conflicts in the interest of delivering excellent results.
‘He’s a jerk’
“The golden rule is something your boss expects you to observe, and casting aspersions on others has no redeeming value. It just reflects badly on you,” Taylor says.
‘Why does Jane always …?’
Whining is annoying. “If you have a gripe, better to ask how you can attain a certain privilege and leave others out of the discussion,” she suggests.
‘Can I speak with your boss about this?’ or ‘I want to speak with HR about this’
“Going over your boss’s head challenges authority — a usually no-win situation, unless you’re about to quit (or be terminated) and have no other recourse,” says Taylor.
If you’re going to HR, don’t threaten in advance, she says.
‘I don’t have a solution’
Don’t tell the boss about problems without presenting potential solutions, says Kahn. “Leaders talk about solutions; followers talk about the problems.”
“You may have a weak moment and share your boredom with the wrong person: your boss,” says Taylor. “You’re being paid to be productive and remain enthusiastic. It’s your responsibility to find ways to make your job interesting.”
‘I’ve gotta tell you about last night’s hookup!’
Sometimes a boss-employee relationship blossoms into a friendship. But sharing intimate stories at work may not be a wise move, Randall says.
“What if a coworker overhears the sizzling conversation? That may open you or your boss up to a sexual harassment or inappropriate conversation write-up,” she explains.
‘Why does Jim have this and I don’t?’
Focus on your own career, not the salary or promotions of others — unless you’re witnessing blatant favoritism. “If that’s the case, you can opt for a more professional discussion once you’ve collected your thoughts about the facts,” Taylor says.
‘I’m pretty busy. Can it wait?’
It’s your responsibility to ask your boss if priorities have changed, as your objectives must stay aligned with your manager’s. “Priorities are rarely stagnant, so as in most cases, your better option is to ask if you should reshuffle them,” she recommends.
Your manager doesn’t want to hear negativity or a lack of conviction. If you have concerns, state what they are and ask for input.
One of the best approaches in deciding whether to share your thoughts with your boss or ask sensitive questions is to put yourself in their shoes, Taylor suggests. “Do your comments and questions reflect a positive, can-do, and confident demeanor? Remember loose lips sink ships — so choose your words carefully when you feel challenged at work if you want to thrive in your career.”
‘Can I leave early today since things are slow?’
It’s fine if you have to leave early. But don’t say it’s because “things are slow” or you have “nothing to do.”
“There are always more projects in the pipeline. Bosses want you to show initiative,” Taylor says.