Work Relationships

23 Things Not To Say To Your Coworkers

Written by Peter Jones

It’s important to get along with your coworkers. You don’t have to be best friends, but you do have to make sure you don’t alienate or offend anyone; you never know when you might need a favor or a contact or a helping hand.

Here are 23 things you should absolutely avoid doing or saying at all costs. Keep your conversation non-contentious and keep your work life drama free.

1. “How much do you make?”

This is an awkward and unprofessional thing to ask. Even if your motives aren’t jealous and competitive, it puts everyone in an awkward position. If you really need to find out, there are probably other ways.

2. “Can I borrow some money?”

Okay, so you forgot your wallet in your car or in your other purse. Every once in a very little while it’s okay to ask someone to spot you, provided you pay them back the next day at the latest. But if you’re often “misplacing your wallet,” don’t be surprised if you never get invited out for lunches or happy hours anymore.

3. “Honestly”

This little word can do a surprising amount of damage. If you feel the need to say it, people might wonder why. Are you not always speaking honestly?

4. “Did you hear about…?”

Just don’t gossip. It will only reflect badly on you in the long run. Especially if it’s a negative comment about a coworker. Keep your mouth shut and stay above the fray.

5. “Those pants look great on you”

Compliments are always nice, right? Just keep them neutral, and not based on someone’s appearance or physique. You never want to be accused of sexual harassment. Compliment someone’s earrings or briefcase instead.

6. “You people always…”

Any complaint that lumps people together—breastfeeding moms, religious people, political parties—is best never said out loud in the workplace. These kinds of comments can also get you in trouble for harassment.

7. “When are you due?”

If you haven’t explicitly been told by a woman that she is pregnant, don’t mention it—no matter how obvious you think it is. When she decides to share with you about her pregnancy, then (and only then) you can comment. This will save you from awkward moments when you make assumptions that don’t turn out to be true.

8. “I’m sorry to bother you.”

Why? If you’re really sorry, you won’t do whatever it is you’re going to do. Chances are, you have nothing to be sorry about. Try “Pardon me; do you have a sec?” instead.

9. “I’m outta here”

If you’re looking for another job, resist the temptation to ask your coworkers if they have any leads. At best, they’ll start writing you off as all but gone. And at worst, they’ll spill it to your boss.

10. “Look at this rash.”

Even if you think you have a fascinating medical problem, nobody at work really wants to be involved. It will probably just gross people out. Feel free to share if you have a headache, but not a boil or wart.

11. “I think”

Don’t preface everything with “I think,” particularly if you aren’t trying to express being unsure. If you know what you’re talking about, go ahead and say it directly.

12. “Wow, I didn’t think you’d get that”

Whether it’s a big project or promotion, you’ll win nothing expressing surprise that a coworker got chosen over you. The only acceptable answer here is “Congratulations.” Keep your shock to yourself.

13. “When I’m in … [insert fancy vacation spot]”

If you’re lucky enough to be taking trips to fancy places, try not to brag. “While I’m away” is just fine for work purposes.

14. “Am I invited?”

Everyone is heading out to lunch and you’re still at your desk. Chances are, you weren’t invited. Don’t make things awkward. Give them a chance to ask you along, but if they don’t, then don’t make a scene.

15. “Hook up”

Even if you’re just innocently asking someone if they want to grab coffee over the weekend or after work, don’t use the words “hook up.” “Get together” will do just fine and spares you the weird sexual overtones.

16. “They won’t miss these”

You pocket some goodies from the snack room to take home to your roommates. All well and good unless you get caught—a fire-able offense. Never mind the fact that you shouldn’t steal from work; talking about it will only increase your chances of being caught.

17. “My boyfriend blah blah blah”

Constantly indulging personal details is not going to win you many work pals. It’s okay to talk about this with your actual pals, but keep your mouth shut when unsure of the company. You don’t want to be the TMI coworker voted “mostly likely to overshare.”

18. “She took all the credit for my idea”

Even if it’s true, you’ll look like a sore loser if you say it out loud. Keep it to yourself, or address the credit-stealer individually in a more appropriate circumstance.

19. “Can I borrow your [personal toiletry]?”

No coworker is close enough to share deodorant. Just don’t ask. If you need some, go buy it in your lunch break.

20. “I’m suing.”

Don’t make empty threats. If you have a legitimate grievance, talk to your lawyer about it, not your coworkers. Don’t compromise your case by blabbing off.

21. “Your kid doesn’t seem…”

Just say no to ever making critical comments about your coworkers’ children. If you don’t have something nice to say about them, keep your mouth shut—or lose the popularity contest before you’ve even begun.

22. “Maybe you should join a gym”

Unless you’ve been asked directly for fitness or diet advice, don’t broach this subject with anyone. Even if you think a bit of exercise could help them. They will almost always be hurt.

23. “When are you retiring anyway?”

Answer: NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Plus, it’s very unwise to make assumptions about a coworker’s age.

About the author

Peter Jones