6 Things You Should Never Say to Your Boss

We all know the basics:

–        Dirty 4 letter words

–        No

–        This makes no sense

–        I’m too busy

–        I don’t like it when you…

–        Why do I have to do…

I want you to actually use these concepts, but not be a jerk about it. When your significant other asks you how they look in their jeans, if they recently gained weight you don’t respond, “Holy crap you look huge.” You respond with tact and decorum so you don’t hurt their feelings. When you learn to do the same thing at your job you will build a relationship that will help both sides grow.

Dirty 4 Letter Words

When your boss angers you to your core and makes you feel like screaming, you don’t respond with a rant that would make Paris Hilton blush.

Instead you should respond with:

“Ok, please stop.” Wait for them to stop ranting. “Please explain what is really going on.”

A calm mind. It’s the simple rule of fighting fire with water. When they are acting like a spoiled child that’s when you take a deep breath and try talking to them rationally. If they or you are too worked up then walk away and come back after the situation cools.


No boss wants to hear the word “no.”

Instead you should respond with:

“Sure, but let me finish this because it’s really important and I’ll do it as soon as I’m done. When do you absolutely need it by?”

A “sure, but.” is one of the best ways to say no without actually saying it. What I like is the ability to set the goal on your terms.

This Makes No Sense

A boss likes to have a resourceful employee. If you absolutely aren’t able to problem solve on your own and need more information then it’s time to ask the boss for help.

Try this:

“What are the three most important goals for this project?”

When you can rephrase something so they have a direction on how to properly explain it to you then you look like a solid employee who is willing to go a little deeper into the task.

I’m Too Busy

Never tell a boss that you are too busy, that’s like saying that you don’t care about the project that they want you to do.

Instead you should say:

“That sounds great. I’m right in the middle of this project and it’s urgent that I get it done (This only works when it’s true), but as soon as I am done I’ll get started. I was going to work on “insert project here” next, but I can push that off until next week if that’s okay.”

When you are honest about the other work that you have to do your boss should be respectful of your time and what you are legitimately able to get done.

I Don’t Like It When You

Never come right out with “I don’t like it when you (insert dislike here)” (ex. make comments about my body.)

Instead you should say:

“It makes me feel uncomfortable when you make comments about my body. I know I’m hot (always nice to throw in a compliment for yourself), but please be more respectful.”

When you come out with accusations of the person being a bad person of course they get defensive. Put the burden on how you feel, so they don’t feel attacked.

Why Do I Have To…

An employee that questions every move can become really annoying.

Instead you should say:

“I’ve noticed that we enter these contacts into the database, I call them to see if it’s a legitimate lead then give it to the sales person. I think we should try giving them directly to the sales person so the company can be contacted by someone who will deal with them in the future.”

Always offer an alternative solution to a problem instead of just complaining about a task that you hate to do.

If you get labeled as a whiner or a complainer, it’s hard to shake this tag. It’s best to learn the subtleties of phrasing problems or questions into constructive sentences that your boss can use to help improve your work experience.

How have you used a “rephrase” to make your response easier to handle?

Other Articles that will improve your work communication:


Image courtesy of Alicia

8 thoughts on “6 Things You Should Never Say to Your Boss”

  1. Karl: It’s a good strategy to let your boss know what else you’re working on and let him/her decide whether you should temporarily postpone one of the two tasks or if they should just assign the new project to someone else. Just saying that you’re busy or taking on more work than you can handle just to please your boss are bad strategies.

    Marelisa’s last blog post..How to Make Decisions

  2. Not just to a boss, I think your 6 points also apply to a family situation. Reframing our usual built-in negative responses can sure help turn the mood around, as you’ve shown! Thanks!

    Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..An Enchanting Vision From My Angels

  3. This is a good reminder Karl on the importance of what we say and how we say it can really have an outcome on what others think. Thanks!

    Lance’s last blog post..What We Learn From Winning

  4. Hey Marelisa, it’s all about making sure you find that ground where you can explain your needs and balance the boss’s need too.

    Hey Shamelle, thanks for the link.

    Hey Evelyn, it’s true. We need to make sure we frame our answers with everyone in our life. When we make ourselves as clear as possible and not react form the gut then we can send the message that we want the other person to hear.

  5. Hi Karl,

    These are all great tips. One thing I also learned is that if your boss gives you a project to do, move it to the top of the stack. There’s nothing worse than having a boss ask about the status of something they gave you, and you have to answer “I haven’t started on it yet”.

    Although we may disagree with our bosses, they are the ones who sign our checks. They can just as easily sign our “pink slip”.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..You Have The Whole World In Your Hands

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