32 things you shouldn’t say to your boss
32 things you shouldn’t say to your boss

32 things you shouldn’t say to your boss

Honesty is a good perk in any environment, and it probably holds good intentions whenever we use it, but you have to know how to use it properly. Your intentions can be pure, but the outcome is never predictable. Even the basic lines we got used to say in our workplace can damage your reputation at work, not even mentioning your relationships with your boss.

Business Insider compiled a list of 32 phrases that are not the best ideas to show off in front your boss:

You’re wrong.

If you see your boss making mistakes, you might want to search for softer way to express it. Pointing out your manager’s flaws can isolate your future ideas from bringing them to life, so you should use better choice of words.

I can’t…

A get-go attitude is highly appreciated at any workspace, but the opposite approach might ruin your reputation of unconfident and unreliable person. And, of course, it won’t give you any good points in front of your manager.

That’s not part of my job.

Okay, so, think it over and try to remember at least one job description that is utterly set in stone. Can you remember any?

One of the keystones in the functional and successful workspace is the team of flexible people who can adapt themselves to growing number of tasks.

The more skill sets you accumulate, the more indispensable you are.

I don’t know.

You cannot know everything, no matter how hard you try. Nobody is asking you to, in the first place. Don’t say words “I don’t know” but just try to promise searching for a solution. Guesses are in any way better than simple shrug of the shoulders.


A simple but very strong word we use daily without thinking. Yes, sometimes negative answers are essential (and, most of all, you have to know how to do it right when it comes to your boss) but it brings more damage than a solution if you address it without proper explanations.


I’ll try.

This is one acceptable response for some people as we all “try” things to get them done with our best ability. But it can leave your boss unsure if you’re able to tackle the given task – he is counting on your abilities, remember.

That’s not what I heard.

Gossips are never good, especially at work. You’re not some bored housewife, so stop listening and spreading something you’ve heard from someone a while ago. If you’re unsure about something, ask your boss (or just ignore it all and show yourself unprofessional). The rest is up to you.

How do I benefit from this?

Sometimes your work involves helping others, and managers prefer to see the teamwork rather than have tolerance towards someone who is running after personal profits.

I’m sorry, but…

This phrase is good (especially if you really screwed up in some way), but the last part with “but…” kills everything from genuine apologetic nature you could have in your head. A simple “I’m sorry, I’ll be more careful next time” works much better. Moreover, this response is expected.

My break-up has got me all messed up. My heart’s just not in it today.

Everyone has personal problems here and there, but here is a point where you can show where you draw the line between work and personal life. While you can’t say that this phrase may have real basis behind it or not, you’d better be careful how to operate it in front of your manager. Consider taking a “sick day” in case something like that happens.

Well, I did my best.

Just think it through: if you made a mistake or reached an unsatisfactory level of work, but claiming it as your personal “best”, that doesn’t speak lightly of your abilities. So, try to use it, like, never.

I’ll leave.

Never threaten to leave a company. You’ll be considered as unprofessional and not a trustable employee, at least.

I just assumed that…

That phrase causes frustration for many bosses, as they’d rather hear that you made an error in judgment and learned from it, rather than excuses. Deterring the blame is the sure career killer.

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At my last job we did it this way…

There is no “other job” for you when you are employed in another company. No one likes loudmouths who know everything, so try to tread it lightly.

It’s not my fault; it’s X’s fault

Blame is one path that is treacherous, you must remember that. If you’re really innocent, then explain why, there is no harm. Don’t complicate things by pushing the blame for failures to others. You’re carrying the responsibilities, so try to be responsible for whatever happening because of you. If you point the blame for mistake to someone else, your boss will naturally wonder who is really to blame.

If I don’t hear from you, I’ll just do…

You don’t respect your manager’s authority, obviously. And it sounds like a threat! Don’t go there.

[Your predecessor] did this differently/better.

Bosses usually feel that their methods are preferred over their predecessors because they now hold the position, obviously. So, this phrase is similar to the very first one in our list. Unless you want to challenge your boss, but it can become a “death sentence” for you career, not every manager is up for challenges.

I can’t work with X.

Remember your school days! You were always encouraged to play and learn with others, as well as prefer teamwork against solo projects. Same goes for work: lone wolves are not acceptable in the workplace. If you’re accepted to work with something, it’s automatically assumed that you’re capable of getting beyond interpersonal communication difficulties.

He’s a jerk.

Don’t be like that. Boss expects you to observe, and if you cast aspersions on others, it won’t have any redeeming value. It hits you back.

‘Can I speak with your boss about this?’ / ‘I want to speak with HR about this’

Going over your boss’ head to complain to someone higher than him is a good solution… if you want to perform the public career suicide. There are probably a few people who can accept questioning his / her authority, and something tells us that your boss probably isn’t one of them.


I don’t have a solution.

Leaders talk about solution, but just try to keep it silent if you don’t have the answer to some situation.

I’ve gotta tell you about last night’s hook-up!

It’s good that sometimes a boss-employee relationship grows into a complete friendship, but don’t get carried away with such a case. It might bring complications.

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.

Why does X have this and I don’t?

Don’t be a spoiled kid. Focus on your career movement, not the salary or promotions or anything else.

Unless there’s the case of a blatant favoritism, of course.

‘I’m pretty busy. Can it wait?

It’s your responsibility if your priorities are changing, not your manager’s. So, be able to adapt to the changing schedules, your best bet is to ask if you can reshuffle your responsibilities.

That’s impossible.

Your boss doesn’t want to hear negativity or a lack of conviction. If you have concerns, state what they are, and ask for input. Don’t leave any chances out, management won’t like it. Choose your words carefully if you want to succeed in your career.

‘I’m going to be out these days.’ Or ‘I’m leaving early tomorrow

Don’t leave the fact that you’re leaving early or going to vacation – ask your manager politely. It’s more professional and won’t complicate things in unneeded directions.

Can I leave early today since things are slow?

It’s fine you have to leave early, just talk politely to your boss. But saying that “things are slow” means that you have “nothing to do”. There must be always something to do, and boss needs to see your initiative.

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