Today, with so many people working remotely, the words you use may be risking your chance for a promotion. Without a video meeting solution—which may or may not reveal your body language—your coworkers and manager are pretty much forced to rely on your emails and phone conversations. The wrong choice of words, however innocently intended, can cause problems.
Stephanie Vozza, who writes on career matters for Fast Company presents a list of eight phrases you should avoid using. (Thanks to Crystal Barnett of HR service provider Insperity whose ideas contributed to this article.
Avoid these words and expressions
Seems harmless enough, doesn’t it? But Ms. Barnett says it can come across as an attack when talking about others. I wasn’t sure I got that until I pictured a scenario where you may be pointing out a colleague’s habitual tardiness and start your comments with “honestly” or perhaps “to tell the truth.” Use “honestly” only when you’re talking about yourself.
Initially, I didn’t see much of a problem with this. I find “I think” much more palatable than expressions like “my thought is” or variants thereof, but I stand corrected. Ms. Barnett says that “I think” immediately diminishes your credibility. She recommends saying “I know,” or “Based on my experience, my recommendation would be …” I’d 86 “would be” in favor of “is” because it sounds more direct and less hedge-y.
“ … always defer to the team when sharing your success,” says Ms. Barnett. Otherwise, you come across as arrogant and not collaboration-minded (my term), which is unappealing.
Yeah, but …
Use this expression and you may be considered negative, combative, or unwilling to follow instructions. You’ll need to find a more congenial way to ask clarifying questions or identify issues. Ms. Barnett suggests saying something like “I understand your point of view. Let me provide you with another perspective of what we can accomplish.”
“Just” is a filler word that can sound negative if you’re on the receiving end. When someone says, “I’d just like you to get this done,” they’re essentially saying that they’re not asking for much but you typically have not delivered. Kind of like a parent saying, “ I’d just like you to clean up your room.” To Ms. Barnett, “just” diminishes the hearer’s confidence and the importance of the message.
Say “yes” to a managerial request too often, and you can get stretched too thin. Instead, suggest making a list of priorities. This way, you’re not saying “no” to a new task and you’re helping ensure that everything doesn’t take on the same level of importance. When I started my career, we were told to ask our managers to assign priorities when they asked us to take on a new project, but this method sounds a lot more empowering.
Saying “sorry” isn’t enough, especially when talking to an authority figure, notes Ms. Barnett. Always follow it with what you’ll do to fix the problem. A super-busy manager won’t be happy that you messed up, but they’re bound to be at least somewhat relieved that they don’t have to come up with the solution themselves.
That’s not my job
Ouch. “Passing the buck in today’s work environment can be extremely toxic, especially if you’re working with customers and clients. If you receive a request that’s outside your scope, wheelhouse,
Your managers and colleagues are insanely busy, and their attention spans are truncated. All the more reason to be very careful of what you say. Talk is not cheap; in fact, your promotion may depend on it.