Finding the right things to say to your boss can be unsettling and frustrating; you want to get your point across without raising any red flags. However, it's important to know that there are a few things you shouldn't say to your boss, no matter how casual your work environment is or how friendly you and your superior are with each other.
For instance, according to Refinery29, Rank & Style founder Sarika Doshi believes it's not always a good idea to constantly agree with your boss's ideas, "I thrive on getting dissenting opinions from my team. Hearing an agreement too quickly or too often can be a red flag. While I think reaching a consensus is important in how companies make decisions, I thrive on getting dissenting, sometimes critical opinions from my team. When we all agree without much back and forth, it leaves me to wonder if there is a better way we haven't considered," Doshi said. While every boss is different, one of the best ways to figure out how exactly your supervisor likes to communicate is by simply asking them directly.
But in addition to this, there are a few other things that you really shouldn't say to your boss. From "I don't know" to "I'm working on something else right now," here are 11 things you need to remember not to say to your supervisor.
1. "No, that's not my job."
"Seriously, this is one of the toughest lessons for young people in the workplace to learn, especially when feeling burnt out," says career & business coach Rachel Ritlop in an interview with Bustle over email. "Millennials are used to being trophy kids and we don't typically do well when we feel insecure in the workplace, so if we don't know how to do something, our knee jerk reaction may be 'No, that's not my job' when it should be 'Sure, can you show me how?.' Employers want people who are willing to learn and grow." Even if your boss is asking you to do something that isn't necessarily in your job description, view this as a learning opportunity to gain more skills and to be a team player. Your supervisor will appreciate your flexibility, especially on a last-minute assignment.
2. "I don't know."
Saying you don't know to your boss when they ask you a question is initially showing them that you don't want to put the effort into solving the problem. Even if you honestly don't know, express that you'll try to figure it out and come back with a solution. "If you are being asked a question, it's because they expect you to know the answer or don't have the time to find it out themselves, so try saying 'I'm not positive, let me find out for you,'" says Ritlop.
3. "But so-and-so didn't have to."
Don't bring other employees down with you when you're discussing important matters with your boss. Your supervisor usually has a reason for everything and it's best to just focus on your relationship with him/her rather than their relationship with everyone else. "Anything that makes you sound like a whiney kid should never be said to your boss. Too often I hear people crafting arguments based on comparing their behavior to others or justifying their behaviors based on others. Your relationship with your boss should be based on exactly that, the relationship between the two of you. If you don't agree with something you absolutely cannot use somebody else as an example to make your point," says Ritlop.
4. "It wasn't my fault."
"Most of the time bosses don't care whose fault it was. They care about the situation being remedied. If something goes wrong, let your boss know that you're dedicated to making it right and swallow your pride knowing the past is the past," says career coach Kim Wensel in an interview with Bustle over email. When a problem arises, your boss will appreciate it if you're coming up with a solution and fixing it, rather than putting blame on the other person. It will only create tension and animosity if your boss sees that you only care about your well-being instead of the company as a whole.
5. "I've already tried that."
"Responding this way when giving a suggestion just makes you come off as a know-it-all. If you really think the approach won't work, chime in with a specific instance in which you tried to proceed similarly in the past and it didn't work. Then ask your boss how they think you can tweak your approach to make it more successful this time. That alone may help them realize another approach may be better," says Wensel. While you may think you're right, approaching your boss with another creative solution can open new possibilities when it comes to solving the problem. Don't shut down ideas completely until you thoroughly discuss it with your boss.
6. "I'm working on something else right now."
"Even if you're busy, you still need to be accommodating to your boss's requests. Instead of saying you can't pitch in because you're working on something else, let your boss know what else you're currently working on and ask them to name what they see as the priority. You're honoring their request to fill in while also covering your own butt by asking them to choose what's most time sensitive," says Wensel. The reason you're at your job is simply because you're working on things, so telling your boss your busy is simply a no-brainer. Be empathic to your boss' request and learn to communicate if you have a tight deadline. Most likely, they will know which item takes precedent.
7. "I don't have any updates."
"If you don't have any updates, your boss is going to wonder what the heck you've been doing all day long. Rather than saying you don't have any updates, share what's been impeding progress on a specific task. Let them know how you've been working to solve a particular issue and clue them in to the steps you've taken. Just because you haven't met the goal yet doesn't mean you haven't been working," says Wensel. Communication is key when it comes to giving your boss the 411. Let them know what your agenda is and acknowledge their professional input if they decide to give you any. Either way, you always want to keep your boss in the loop, no matter how bad or good the situation may be.
8. "I need a raise."
"People don't get raises because they need them. They get them because they deserve them. Back your request for a raise with specific reasons why you've gone above and beyond in your role while also highlighting feedback from clients or colleagues that prove your worth," says Wensel. If your annual review is coming up and you believe you deserve a raise, make sure to create a folder that exemplifies all your hard work to show them when the time comes.
9. "So-and-so isn't doing his/her job."
Like I said before, it's never a good idea to bring other coworkers down. Your boss is just going to think you're not trustworthy or doesn't care about the team if you're snitching about what someone else is not doing. "Your co-worker's performance is honestly none of your business. If it's impeding your own performance, a better way to address the situation is to ask your boss for advice on how to approach a tough situation you're facing, without naming names. By framing it as your desire to produce high quality work, not put down others, you're showing your boss initiative and that you're not afraid to ask for help," says Wensel.
10. "I was offered another position, but didn't take it."
Whatever you do, don't threaten your boss, especially if you're unhappy at your current job. While you might have been offered another job, it doesn't mean you need to throw it in their face to get what you want. Find a kinder path to achieve your desired perks or raise. Most likely your boss is willing to work with you as long as you communicate with them. "Your boss is immediately going to wonder why you were looking elsewhere in the first place and will start to question your commitment. It's better to keep this information to yourself," says Wensel.
11. "You're wrong."
According to Business Insider, etiquette and civility expert and author of Don't Burp in the Boardroom Rosalinda Oropeza Randall said, "Openly criticizing or pointing out your boss's mistake is a sure way to be excluded from future meetings or ignored the next time you raise your hand to speak." While it's a good idea to bring different ideas to the table, you could offend your boss if you flat out tell them no. Find an eloquent way of expressing your concern instead of critiquing them and pointing the finger.
While communication in any relationship can be hard, it's especially tough with your boss. There are so many boundaries you need to keep in mind because even if you see them more than your family, they're still your superior. That type of relationship can get confusing, but as long as you know what you shouldn't say to your boss to maintain a healthy, professional relationship, then everything should work out just fine.