But according to Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, an etiquette and civility expert and the author of “Don’t Burp in the Boardroom,” your chummy coworker relationship can become problematic when you don’t keep it professional.
From unprofessional, awkward, or impolite remarks to harassing comments, there are a lot of things you shouldn’t say that could turn a work relationship ugly or even get you fired.
“In conversation, use a little common sense and discretion, especially when there are others present,” Randall suggests. “The general guideline is that if you wouldn’t say it in front of your boss, don’t say it.”
Aside from the obvious — like profanity and insults — here are some words and phrases you should never utter to your coworkers:
‘That’s it! I’m ditching this place and moving to Canada!’
You may have some strong feelings about the 2016 presidential election results, but the workplace isn’t the best place to express all of them. And threatening to abandon ship doesn’t exactly show you to be much of a team player.
“Don’t rant and threaten to quit and move out of the country,” Randall says. “Leave that to the celebrities.”
‘You people are always causing problems’
Topics like politics, religion, ethnicity, and child-rearing will occasionally come up in the workplace, Randall says. But to negatively comment about any group is unwise and unprofessional, and it could get you in trouble for harassment.
‘Please, explain to me why on earth you voted for that candidate’
Stop. Just don’t.
Passionate discussions are to be expected in the workplace, but they should really be focused on work-related issues.
At the end of the day, you’re at work to do work, and arguments about whose candidate was better can be distracting to both you and your coworkers. You’re not doing your best work when you’re more focused on defending your political stances.
Barbara Pachter, an etiquette expert and author of “The Essentials of Business Etiquette,” says that drawing attention to your honesty at that moment can lead people to wonder, “Aren’t you always honest with me?”
‘Did you hear …?’
“Negative comments about a coworker to another coworker will make you look worse than the person you’re talking about, and guess who will be the one who looks bad when it gets back to the person you’re talking about?” Randall says.
‘I’m sorry to be a bother’
“Why are you saying you’re a bother?” Pachter asks.
And if you were truly sorry about something you haven’t done yet, why would you go ahead and do it anyway?
“Excuse me. Do you have a moment?” works much better, she says.
‘How much do you get paid?’
“This question is not only unprofessional, but awkward,” Randall says. “Why do you want to know? Will you complain to your boss if you find it inequitable? Or will you speak to your boss on your coworker’s behalf insisting they get a raise?”
‘Can I borrow some cash?’
Most of us have forgotten to bring cash or our wallet to work once or twice, and, Randall says, in this rare occasion it might be OK to ask your understanding coworker to borrow some money for lunch.
“But if your wallet is always in your ‘other purse,’ don’t be surprised if you’re excluded from future lunches,” she says.
‘I like the way those pants fit you’
A compliment isn’t against the law, Randall points out, but be selective about what you compliment.
Commenting about a coworker’s physical appearance is considered unprofessional, she says — and worse, could be construed as sexual harassment.
‘Are you pregnant?’
This question rarely results in a positive outcome.
“If your coworker is not pregnant, you have insulted her,” Oliver says. “If she is pregnant, she probably isn’t ready to discuss it yet. Keep observations like this to yourself.”
‘I’m looking for another job — do you know of anyone who’s hiring?’
“Sharing this with your coworkers may cause them to instinctively distance themselves, knowing you will no longer be a part of the team,” Randall says.
“They also might unintentionally leak the information to your supervisor, which could explain your lack of productivity and absences, resulting in a poor reference or an invitation to pick up your paycheck earlier than you expected,” she says.
‘See this rash? I’m expecting the lab results tomorrow’
“Except for maybe your mum or spouse, no one really wants to see or hear about peculiar rashes or any nausea-inducing medical conditions,” Randall says. “Limit your sharing to a cold or headache.”
‘I think …’
Saying “I think” is sometimes acceptable, but only if you truly are unsure.
“Using ‘I think’ can make you appear wishy-washy,” Pachter says. When you know something, state it directly: “The meeting will be at 3 p.m.”
‘Wow, I was surprised to hear that they asked you to give the presentation’
You might as well say, “It should have been me.”
“The professional response would be, ‘Congratulations,'” Randall says.
‘Do you mind covering for me while I’m in Bora Bora?’
Flaunting your luxurious lifestyle with your colleagues may set off a jealousy epidemic, Oliver says. In general, it’s best to avoid bragging about how great your life is.
‘Am I invited?’
“This is the grown-up world — not everyone will be invited to everything,” Randall says. “Besides, are you prepared for the answer?”
‘So do you want to hook up this weekend?’
“If you mean ‘get together,’ then say so,” Randall says. “In some circles, a ‘hook-up’ has a sexual connotation, which could land you in a sexual-harassment seminar.”
‘No one will notice if I take a box of the coffee packets for my girlfriend’s new office’
You just admitted to stealing, a cause for termination and, at the very least, loss of trust, Randall says.
‘Ugh! My boyfriend [did XYZ] again’
“Intimate details about your personal relationships can divulge unfavorable information about you,” Randall says.
Sharing intimate details about your love life falls into the “too much information” category, she says, and “if it doesn’t enhance your professional image, or enrich workplace relationships, you should keep it to yourself.”
‘She’s such a credit snatcher’
Maybe your colleague or boss took credit for your work, but carping about the problem to your coworkers rarely helps, Oliver says. Instead, it’s best to address the issue with the person who took credit for your idea.
‘Got any deodorant I can borrow?’
Really? Sharing is caring and all, but no one at work should be that close.
‘I’m suing the pants off this company!’
“Whether the charge is legitimate or not, spreading it around will not serve you well — just ask your attorney,” Randall says.
If you’re really suing your employer, it’s best to conduct yourself with discretion and dignity and continue to perform your duties to the best of your ability. If this becomes impossible, you should consider resigning, Randall says.
“But if this is your go-to threat when you’re unhappy about something, stop it!” she says.
‘Your kid may not be college material’
“Oh no you didn’t! Making a negative or contrary remark about anyone’s child is an absolute way to make enemies,” Randall says.
Always keep your remarks about a coworker’s child or children positive, or keep them to yourself.
‘You know, when I started putting on weight, I joined a gym’
You may think that you’re giving helpful advice, but unless your coworker has asked you about your gym or how you lost weight, this topic is off limits, Randall says.
Your coworker will likely see your comments as more hurtful than helpful, and hurt feelings make for an awkward work relationship.
‘Aren’t you ready to retire?’
For some people, the subject of age is touchy, and, just like assuming someone’s pregnant is a huge no-no, making assumptions and comments about someone’s age rarely results in a positive outcome, Randall says.
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