We’re all human. That means we occasionally make mistakes at work.
Most of the time, we’re able to bounce back and move on from these silly gaffes.
But as it turns out, there are some easy ways to ruin your career for good.
For instance, there’s a handful of words, phrases, and questions you may be using at work that can seriously damage your reputation forever.
Some of these are fine in certain contexts. However, if you’re already a bit of a problem employee, repeating them over and over again can be toxic for your career development.
Here are 24 phrases (aside from the obvious, like cursing out your boss) that you should probably avoid in the workplace:
‘That’s not part of my job’
No boss ever wants to hear those words.
Remember, your job description is never set in stone. “As cross-functional teams remain the order of the day, you’re expected to be flexible and make your boss’ life easier,” Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job,” tells Business Insider. “As a side note, the more skill sets you accumulate, the more indispensable you are.”
Saying that you’re not willing to go beyond your role shows that you are also not willing to pitch in for the success of the company, Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, and author of “Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad,” tells Business Insider.
‘It’s not my fault’
If you make a mistake, own it. Don’t conjure up lame excuses. Consistently shirking responsibility for your mistakes and failures will catch up with you. It’s a terrible career habit to get into. Bosses want accountability and competence, not excuses.
‘I’ll do it later’
Putting off projects until the last minute not only puts stress on you, but it hinders the progress of every other person relying on your portion of the work.
If something goes wrong, you’ll likely be the first one blamed.
‘I didn’t do anything wrong’
Your boss doesn’t expect you to be perfect, but getting defensive when receiving negative feedback makes you look unprofessional, according to US News & World Report’s Alison Green.
If you’re unwilling to listen to constructive criticism, it tells your boss that you’re unlikely to push yourself to improve.
‘I don’t have any questions’
You might be just fine coasting along without making any meaningful contributions to the team, but your boss will call your bluff eventually.
‘That’s a stupid idea’
Honesty and bluntness aren’t necessarily bad traits to have in the business world, but there’s no need to be rude or start fights with other employees. Ultimately, your managers will be less impressed with your candidness, and more annoyed by your abrasive personality.
Don’t threaten to leave the company, says Kahn. It’s unprofessional, they’ll consider you a flight risk, and you might just find yourself preemptively fired and without references for the future.
If you’re bored at work, complain to your spouse, friends, or family. Don’t complain to your boss.
“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.”
‘Sorry I’m late — again’
Frequent tardiness signifies to coworkers that something else is more important to you and that you don’t value their time. It paints you as disrespectful and uncaring, making people wary of trusting you.
No matter what it takes, always find a way to be punctual. Ruth Zive wrote in the Muse that lateness can kill your reputation overtime, “no matter how smart, competent, or capable you might be.”
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 says.
“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,” she says.
‘Drop what you’re doing and check out this funny cat video’
Funny cat videos are great, but there’s a time and place.
Yes, it’s nice to get to know your coworkers, but if you’re constantly socializing, it prevents everyone around you from getting their work done.
Keep the chatter to your lunch hour and breaks to avoid annoying others and becoming the person no one wants to work with.
‘How do I benefit from this?’
It’s great to act as your own advocate, but try not to come across as self-centered.
Sometimes your work involves helping others and other departments. Bosses have little tolerance for those who aren’t team players, Taylor says.
‘I want to speak with HR about this’
“Going over your boss’ 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 adds. “And you should avoid it unless you’ve exhausted all the options with your boss.”
‘I’m suing the pants off this company!’
“Whether the charge is legitimate or not, spreading it around will not serve you well — just ask your attorney,” Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, an etiquette and civility expert and the author of “Don’t Burp in the Boardroom,” previously told Business Insider’s Rachel Gillett.
If you’re actually planning on suing, but unable to conduct yourself with discretion and dignity, you should consider resigning, Randall says. “But if this is your go-to threat when you’re unhappy about something, stop it!”
‘Sorry I forgot about your email’
Failing to answer emails in a reasonable time frame doesn’t just frustrate those who need responses from you.
According to the Muse’s Katie Douthwaite Wolf, neglecting your inbox signifies to colleagues that they aren’t worth your time, can cause you to miss deadlines, and generally paints you as unprofessional.
Although answering each one as soon as it’s received is impractical, making a conscious effort to stay on top of your inbox goes a long way.
Doing good work doesn’t matter if no one wants to work with you, Green wrote in US News & World Report. Not only does rudeness alienate coworkers, but most managers won’t tolerate abrasive and inconsiderate employees.
Remember, being polite is a key to winning people over. And it’s never a good idea to assume that you’re just the eccentric, abrasive personality that they can’t afford to fire.
‘Did you hear the rumor about the CEO’s husband?’
Not all office gossip is terrible. In fact, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst encourages his employees to partake in some workplace gabbing, as Business Insider previously reported.
Sometimes, working the workplace rumor mill is the only way to get information on what’s happening at the company.
Still, it’s probably a good idea not to become the office gossip. It’s a great way to get snared in needless drama, which will in turn damage your career.
If you don’t take yourself seriously at work, who will? Check your insecurities at the office door. Otherwise, your negative thoughts will drag your professional development down.
‘I can handle this’ (when you know you can’t)
This phrase itself isn’t necessarily an issue. Telling people that you can handle something is only a problem if you, in fact, can’t handle it.
It pays to be honest and realistic about what you can do. If you have to, under-commit and over-deliver. Never over-commit and under-deliver. If it becomes a habit, it’ll make you look incompetent.
‘Respond to this ASAP’
Brusque emails are not the way to go. No matter how friendly you are in person, terse language can easily be misconstrued in an email.
Even if it’s unintentional, rude emails immediately sour your reputation around the office and keep others from wanting to interact with you, Liz Wolgemuth writes in US News & World Report.
‘I can’t work with them’
“Not playing well with others” isn’t good in elementary school, nor is it in the workplace. It’s assumed that you are capable of getting beyond personality conflicts in the interest of delivering excellent results.
‘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,” Taylor says.
Plus, this phrase just sounds rude.
‘You people are always causing problems’
Randall told Business Insider that negative comments about any group or person is unwise and unprofessional, and it could get you in trouble for harassment.
‘Please don’t tell my boss I said this but…’
In the office, sometimes it’s better to just keep your mouth shut. “No matter how you think you can manage secrets, words often have a way of getting around,” writes Catherine Conlan in the official blog of job site Monster.
So resist the urge to say things that would be devastating for your career if they got back to your boss. Because they probably will.