Words are powerful, and in the workplace, they can potentially make or break your career. The right words can build your confidence, enlighten other approaches, and change, for the better, the way people look at you. The wrong words, however, even despite your best intentions, can convey unintentional negative messages to your boss, coworkers and clients and keep you stagnant, or worse, result in you getting fired. A lot of autopilot responses to requests and demands in the workplace are often packed with hidden insecurities and self-defeat. Set yourself up for success and break the habit of using the following words and phrases:
1. “That’s not my job.”
If your boss asked you to do it, it is part of your job. If you are overburdened with work, ask a coworker for help or speak to your boss about delegating duties. Be eager to contribute to your team any way you can. This speaks volumes to those around you.
2. “I did what I could.”
Although this mantra might be self-assuring, it limits your growth. It’s a cop-out. Challenge yourself by asking “what can I do differently next time to achieve better results?” Asking this of yourself might shed light on a new approach you hadn’t before considered.
3. “I don’t have the time.”
Employers and clients alike appreciate a can-do attitude. It promotes a positive atmosphere and demonstrates your ability to get the job done. Ditch the “don’t” words and choose “do” words. If you can’t get it done now, state when you will get it done.
4. “I’ll try.”
This downgrades your abilities, not only to yourself, but to your boss, coworkers and/or clients. It makes you look weak and implies you might fail. Be decisive in your language by using words such as “I will”.
5. “They are so lazy!”
Gossip and name-calling, even names such as “lazy” are juvenile and harmful to the work environment. Focusing on the habits and personal lives of your coworkers is counterproductive. You are there to work, period. And whether or not your comments are directed at the person in question, your words have power. Even what appears to be an innocent joke can easily lead to a hostile work environment. If you have an issue with a coworker, polite confrontation is key. Remain calm and professional.
6. “This doesn’t make any sense.”
While this might be true, it is counterproductive to focus on the problem. Instead, focus on possible solutions. Be a problem-solver. If you don’t understand an assignment, ask for clarification. Rather than jumping to a conclusion, know that there is almost always more than one way to look at something. Use statements and questions like, “I’m not sure this is the best direction. Can you explain it further?”
7. “It’s not fair!”
You’re an adult, and as such, you ought to know by now that life isn’t fair. If you have been wronged, document what occurred and present your case in a professional manner, otherwise it will come off as whining. Stop complaining about what is wrong and take the necessary steps to solve the problem.
8. “I may be wrong, but…”
Don’t discredit yourself and don’t give others permission to discredit you, either. Voice your ideas with confidence, and then instead of admitting you could be wrong, inform the other party, that with their approval, you will move forward with your idea. And never apologize for asking a question. Use confident, straightforward language. Say what needs to be said and leave out the filler words such as “I just”, “I’m sorry, but”, “um,”, and “well”. These words deflate your credibility.
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