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10 Phrases That You Should Never Use at Work

Updated on March 25, 2020
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Prachi has worked as a freelance writer since 2012. When not writing, she helps people with web design and development.

Formal communication requires lots of thinking and needs to be balanced carefully. Keeping up with the latest technical jargon is a good thing, but make sure it does not force you to step on someone’s toes.

The phrases discussed below seem to be really helpful and not at all objectionable, but have you ever thought about what they really convey to others?

For your best communication next time, here are some common phrases that you should avoid using at the workplace.

1. “Let me know”

The most commonly used phrase at the end of every email, but it does not properly convey your thoughts. If you want an effective response, then go for some initiative:

Don’t: “Let me know when you are free to discuss the issue.”

Do: “I am available for discussion on Tuesday at 2:00 pm or 4:00 pm. Which time is suitable for you?”

Don’t: “Let me know if I can be of any help.”

Do: “I will ask Prachi to get an estimate for you.”

2. “You Look Tired”

If someone has a dull face and looks sad, then they would obviously look tired – you should not point that out. Also, the phrase sounds quite similar to “you don’t look nice” or “you look terrible”, the person might not reply you with positive thoughts.

If someone looks tired and you are actually concerned for them, then go for one of these phrases:

“Hi, how are you doing?”

“I am going for a coffee break, would you like to join?”

“You have been working hard on this project for a very long time. Is there anything that I can help you with?”

3. “Just”

“Just” is a word that we use with most of the sentences to soften our tone, but it may also show that your message is not quite important for others to pay attention.

Avoiding the use of “just” shows confidence in your words. If you are in need of something, then go ask for it straight away.

Don’t: “Sorry to interrupt. I just wanted to know if your work is ready for tomorrow’s presentation.”

Do: “How much have you progressed with your work? I will look forward to see your presentation tomorrow.”

4. “I feel” / “I think”

These qualifying phrases are quite safe to use, but they tend to degrade your credibility. So, this is the time to get rid of this security blanket. The constant use of these phrases communicates your lower confidence level about your abilities and ideas. Instead of these, it is better to be assertive in your thoughts and use statements like:

“I can send you my completed documents by 4:00 pm.”

“This is the best approach for the new project.”

5. “It’s not fair” / “That’s not fair”

We all do not want to face injustice, but it entirely depends on us the way we choose to respond to the difficult situations.

Instead of turning our face red like a tomato, it is better to channelize those emotions into the useful actions. So, what should you do to address the problems? Instead of arguing, use facts to show disapproval.

Don’t: “It’s not fair to choose Alex as the lead presenter at the conference instead of me.”

Do: “I have given more than 20 hours to create the presentation and am the most knowledgeable person to talk about this topic. It is sensible for me to be the lead presenter at the conference.”

6. “OMG, did you hear about Alex?”

Who does not love to get involved in the office gossip? But doing such things can bring poor results to your work and may impact your career negatively.

If you feel the urge to discuss something, then do it with someone who does not work with you in your office. And if you feel distasteful about someone, then go talk to them directly or discuss with HR department (if appropriate).

7. “I’ll try”

So, will you be able to get it done or not? Instead of using such phrases, cheer up your colleagues’ confidence by clearly stating your expectations.

“I won’t be able to complete the task by this evening, but I will send it to you by afternoon tomorrow.”

“I’ll research about the topic and its requirements. If I need assistance, I’ll check in with Alex.”

8. “It’s not my mistake / fault”

We are all mature. It doesn’t matter who did the mistake, if you deal with the situation and explain it professionally, then you will receive more respect.

Always take charges for your own actions and explain the faults of your co-workers without damaging their reputation. Be honest and clearly state what went out of your team’s control and what was accomplished successfully.

9. “Maybe it sounds stupid, but…”


It is human nature to fear the chances of criticism from others, but making use of such qualifier depicts your lack of confidence in yourself. It has already put a negative mark on your idea before you gave the chance to others to evaluate your idea.

Instead of criticizing yourself, state your ideas in front of others with confidence.

“I have a thought for our new campaign. It’s different from our previous ones and I understand this could boost our productivity.”

10. “Sorry”

It is a respectable habit to convey your apology, when you have done something wrong. It shows you are responsible enough to handle your mistakes. But, if we take a break for a moment and think about how badly overused this little word is.

Don’t: “I’m really sorry, but will it be possible to deliver the presentation by evening?”

Do: “I need the presentation by evening so we’ll have enough time to review it. I highly appreciate your hard work on this.”

Don’t: “I am sorry to arrive late to the meeting.”

Do: “Thank you for your patience. Let’s get started!”

Don’t: “Sorry, I won’t be able to complete the article on time.”

Do: “I have to postpone the article submission till Wednesday. One of my colleagues is not available for work, today.”

Have you ever used these words / phrases in your professional life?

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    • DominiqueCM profile image

      Dominique Cantin-Meaney 

      10 months ago from Montreal, Canada

      These are definitely good points. It does make a lot of sense why these phrases should be avoided while at work. Definitely worth the read.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I'm glad I clicked on this hub. It has plenty of actionable ideas for specific situations in the office. I am guilty of using words like "just" and "I feel" or "I think".


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