In general, if you wouldn’t print out something and hang it over your desk, you probably shouldn’t say it at work – not out loud, not on email, not over the collaborative messaging technology of your employer’s choice. This is even more important when it comes to what you say about your manager – and not just the bad stuff. Strike these sentences from your vocabulary, and save yourself a lot of headaches at work.
1. “We’re like family!”
Employers want workers to feel like family, because no matter how you feel about the folks back home, they’re probably pretty important to you on some level. Your bosses hope that this level of investment will keep you loyal, happy at work, and ultimately, more productive.
There’s just one problem: your aunt probably never threatened you with a layoff because your Thanksgiving feast didn’t turn out exactly as planned.
Invest in your work, love it if you can – but don’t make the mistake of thinking that anyone at work is family, from the CEO to your manager.
2. “OK, maybe not family, but we’re definitely friends.”
If you’re lucky enough to love your job, you probably have a lot in common with your co-workers. It’s natural that some of them will become friends. Some of those friends might even get promoted, and become your boss.
This is not to say that you have to sever ties with anyone who jumps above you on the org chart. Just be aware of where the boundaries are while you’re on the job. Don’t assume that you’ll have your choice of plum assignments or get a break on a deadline just because you and your boss like to play golf on Saturdays. In fact, be prepared for the opposite: especially if your higher-up was recently elevated, he might be harder on you than he is anyone else, just to prove that you’re not receiving any favors.
3. “Scratch that, [boss] is my least favorite person on earth.”
Venting is good for the soul, but it’s not appropriate for the office – and that especially goes for electronic venting. Whatever you do, do not leave a blood trail of complaints about your manager on email or messaging. It’s too easy to send something to the wrong person, or misjudge someone’s loyalty to you and wind up the victim of a sneaky forward.
Alliances shift, and in some workplaces, they shift in a hurry. Don’t put yourself in a spot where you have to rely on someone’s good grace not to rat you out to the boss.
4. “Also, did I tell you what she did?”
Gossip is deadly for careers, and not just for the subject of the scuttlebutt. Become known as the office gossip, and you might find yourself cut off from opportunities, as well as juicy bits of news. Sensible people will know not to trust you, because you’ve shown them that they can’t. If you’ll say something about the boss, you’ll say something about the person you’re talking to, as well.
Telling tales out of school also creates a culture of negativity that can impact everyone’s work. Don’t bring everyone down; keep a lid on the chatter.
Finally, there’s always the chance you’ll be caught. Unless you relish the opportunity of trying to talk you way out of an ugly confrontation with your manager, steer clear.
Some workplaces are swearier than others, but generally speaking, you can’t go wrong by keeping it PG. Whether you’re talking about your boss, or the intern, or the quality of the sandwiches down in the cafeteria, keep it clean.
You never know how the person you’re talking to feels about cursing, even if it’s just for the sake of being colorful, and not intended to harm. The first rule of interpersonal communication is not to make anyone uncomfortable.