There are plenty of things your boss loves to hear you say—you know, things like, “I’ll get it handled!” or “Here’s a hot morning coffee and a free donut!”
However, there are also a few phrases that do nothing but grind your manager’s gears—whether you realize it or not.
Fortunately for you, not many people will fly off the handle and totally write employees off just because they let a few irritating sentences slip out every now and then.
But, does that mean you shouldn’t be aware of these cringe-worthy sentiments? Absolutely not. The more you understand the communication mistakes that get under your manager’s skin, the more likely you are to avoid them entirely.
So, let’s take a look at four common phrases that annoy most leaders, so that you can stay on your own boss’ good side. By the way, that hot coffee and free donut won’t hurt!
1. “That’s Not My Job”
When it comes to complaints that are sure to inspire smoke to begin spewing out of your manager’s ears, this one has to be at the top of the list.
Sure, maybe he or she has asked you to do something that doesn’t fit the traditional duties of your role. But, pointing it out and then whining about your misfortune will only hurt your reputation and your relationship with your supervisor in the long run.
Ultimately, following the directions your boss doles out is your job. So, even if that task you’ve been assigned makes you grit your teeth and clench your fists, you’re usually better off swallowing your pride and doing it anyway. After all, proving that you’re respectful of leadership and willing to take one of the team is never a bad thing.
2. “I’ll Try”
This phrase in and of itself isn’t bad—used in the right context, it can have all sorts of positive connotations. But, when it follows an exasperated sigh with a tone that reflects how much this request inconveniences you, your manager has every right to be annoyed.
Why? Well, not only does this phrase not-so-subtly share your displeasure, it also excuses failure. If you don’t end up fulfilling the request, you aren’t really at fault—you only told him you’d try, not that you’d actually get it done.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to enthusiastically respond with a, “Absolutely, I’m on it!” to every single ask. If you feel like you can’t adequately handle something, be forthright and say it. That way, you can work together to find a solution or approach that works for both of you.
Being direct is always better than being passive aggressive.
3. “That’s Exactly What I Was Thinking”
We all like to know that others agree with us. So, what could possibly be so unnerving about this phrase? While it’s not always obnoxious, there are a few instances when the use of this statement is sure to make your boss frustrated.
Let’s say you had to approach your manager to get some insight and direction. You were at a total loss, and you needed her clarity. After she gave you a thorough and detailed explanation, you responded with, “Good, that’s exactly what I was thinking!”
That sort of reply only makes you look like you’re trying to save face and pump yourself up, even though you didn’t have an answer or a plan of attack yourself. If you really were planning on that same approach, you likely would’ve said so to begin with.
Another time that leaders become annoyed by this sort of phrase is when brainstorming. Maybe your boss has just shared the details of an idea he had. Instead of asking any questions or contributing suggestions to push the conversation forward, you simply nod along, praise his ideas, and let him know that your thoughts mirror his exactly—you wouldn’t change a thing.
Your desire to be supportive is admirable, but you really aren’t contributing anything to the conversation—which is exactly what your supervisor is looking for. Remember, most people would prefer someone who adds value over someone who’s an expert brown-noser.
4. “What Do I Do?”
Your boss is there to provide insight and guidance—it’s quite literally his job. However, all managers appreciate when their direct reports take a little bit of initiative.
Let’s say you’ve run into a problem and are feeling stuck about how to proceed. Your first inclination might be to run to your boss in a panic and ask her to provide step by step instructions for how you can see your way out of this mess. Chances are, she’ll be willing to help out.
But, this sort of approach would’ve been even better than that: Thinking about what you think the logical next steps should be, and then running those by your supervisor for suggestions or approval.
Instead of constantly coming up with problems, also make the effort to suggest a solution. That will go a long way in your manager not only respecting you, but trusting you.
Your boss is only human, which means he’s bound to have a few things that annoy him in the office. But, in an ideal world, you won’t be one of those things.
Improving your communication is a great place to start if you want to stay on your supervisor’s good side. So, make your best effort to stay away from these line, and you’re sure to start building a better relationship with your manager.
Are there any irritating phrases that I missed? Let me know on Twitter!
Photo of people talking courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author