5 Things Not to Say at Work, and What to Say Instead

Written by: Becca Paskerian

Navigating the workplace can be tricky. Especially in recent years as offices have become more relaxed and casual and Millennials have taken the working world by storm. With all of these changes, it can be hard to find the perfect mix of professionalism, leadership, and flexibility in the workplace. Good news, we can help.

Shaunna Keller

Shaunna Keller, head of Digital and Social at Brand Content, contributed to an article on Best Life outlining what you should avoid saying in the workplace. Keller has been an excellent leader and forward thinker at Brand Content, inspiring change and growth while evolving the agency’s overall strategy. She chose five phrases that you should never say at work, and included alternatives of what you should say instead.

1. “We’ve Always Done It This Way”

There is always room for change and improvement. This should never be an excuse unless the changes you are being asked to make would create unnecessary problems. Thinking out of the box is important and necessary for growth.

Instead say: “How can doing this differently be beneficial?”

When starting a new role, or growing in a current role, innovation is key. A true leader is always thinking about how he or she can make improvements that not only benefit themselves, but coworkers as well.

2. “I’m On It Right This Second!”

Although it’s great to get tasks done right away, it can be a slippery slope. “No matter how well-intentioned this statement is, it sets expectations with your coworkers that you can perform said change anytime that they desire, very quickly,” says Keller. “It really makes it nearly impossible to say that you need more time the next time a similar request comes along.”

Instead say: “I’ll start this as soon as I get the chance.”

That way, you make it clear that you are making this change or assignment a priority, but that it won’t be an instantaneous turn around.

3. “Personally, my favorite is…”

If you are reviewing several proposals, candidates, or options, you should be evaluating in terms of the goals the selection should accomplish, not your own personal opinions. “Your comment could be the most informed opinion out there, but it’s interpreted as what YOU personally want and almost nobody cares about your personal feelings — they care about what the people they are creating the work for care about, want, need, desire.”

Instead say: “I think this will work best for you because…”

Keller urges that you frame any decision or selection in terms of the audience it is meant to reach. “It’s a trained skill, it takes a lot of diligence and preparedness to speak though the lens of someone other than yourself.”

4. “I might be wrong, but…”

This phrase is what you say when you want to avoid negative feedback or blame should something you suggest fail. “Nobody hears you when you say this,” says Keller. “The people’s ears you need so desperately to hear you have tuned out and turned off at the sound of these syllables.”

Instead say: “Respectfully, I think…”

This is a much more successful way to take a humble, direct approach when giving feedback.

5. “I just assumed.”

You know the saying. Assuming anything rarely ends well. “If you assume that a deadline for a certain task is the end of next week because that’s how long you had last time, and it turns out your manager needed it by Thursday afternoon, you are in the wrong,” says Steve Pritchard, an HR consultant for mobile phone network giffgaff.

Instead say: “Could you clarify this for me?”

Instead of assuming something, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Pritchard recommends sending an email — getting everything in writing should there be a discrepancy, so you don’t end up looking like an assuming a**.

To read the complete list of what not to say at work, click here.

If you’re interested in learning more about what we do and who we are, check out our website: BrandContent.com and follow our Medium channel Brand Content.




We are a creative, Boston-based ad agency that takes the things we know, learns the (many) things we don’t, and puts them to work for our clients’ success.

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Brand Content

Brand Content

We are a creative, Boston-based ad agency that takes the things we know, learns the (many) things we don’t, and puts them to work for our clients’ success.

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