Actions may speak louder than words, but in the office, what you say can really affect your chances of success. You’ve already aced the interview questions, so chances are you know exactly what to say – but what about what not to talk about? Here are some things you’ll never hear a truly successful person say in the office.


“Did you see that picture on my Facebook page?”

There’s just too much on your Facebook page that might be incriminating, from an outfit you wore to the bar to pictures of when things got…interesting later that night. Whether you thought there was no way anything could be inappropriate or not, it’s just not worth the risk.

Instead of worrying about everything you post and how your coworkers might perceive you as a result of it, simply don’t connect with them there. Use LinkedIn for work connections, and don’t talk about your Facebook shenanigans.


“Sorry, I just didn’t have time.”

Excuses, excuses. By now, you should realize that no one wants to hear them. Even if all of your excuses are true – maybe you really didn’t have time to finish that presentation because you were working on something else for work – it won’t make a difference.

Mistakes were still made, so own up to it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. That shows you’ve learned from the experience and understand that there’s really no excuse after all.


“I don’t know.”

So maybe you really don’t know how to solve a particular issue or run a certain program. But you can find out, can’t you? While it’s OK to admit you don’t know something, say you’ll work on learning how to do it or finding out the answer. People will appreciate that you’re being proactive and taking the initiative instead of just passing the task on to someone else.


“I’ll just do it myself.”

I hate to break it to you, but you’re not a superhero. Don’t try to take everything on by yourself. Delegate when necessary and see if some of your coworkers might be willing to take on a few tasks for you.

It’s also fine to say no to doing things. If you’ve got two assignments due by the end of the day and someone asks you to take on a third, politely say that you’re already up against some deadlines but would be happy to deal with it tomorrow.

You don’t have to do everything, and trying to will only stress you out so much that you’ll lose sight of your priorities.


“I like my own idea best.”

You’ve still got a lot to learn, so take a step back and listen. Taking the time to consider other peoples’ ideas, input and advice will not only help you gain a new perspective on the issues at hand, it’ll also show that you’re a team player who values coworkers’ contributions.

If your idea really does seem like the best option in the end, explain why without putting other people down and then leave the final decision to the person in charge, or ask a third party to decide.


“I hate it here.”

Nothing brings morale down like someone constantly complaining about his or her job. It shows that you probably don’t care about the work you’re doing, making it difficult for anyone to really trust you to do a good job or take responsibility on projects.

Make the best of your situation and then gripe about it in private. If you really hate it, that’s a sign that it’s time to move on and find a new job.

And if you do decide to start looking for a new job, be sure not to talk about that, either.


“I don’t read.”

Studies show that people who read are wealthier, less stressed and more creative than those who don’t. Reading about your field can help you better understand it and give relevant advice or ideas to the table.

In general, it can improve your vocabulary and shows you’re interested in learning new things. If you don’t read, don’t admit it, and try to scan through the headlines every morning on your commute to work or listen to an audiobook.


“That’s not my job.”

If someone asked you to do it, then it is your job. Your responsibilities might change over time, and that’s OK. If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed with all these new to-dos, schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss your role and see if there’s a better way to divide up these new tasks.


“I don’t believe in that.”

Religious and political beliefs are not the greatest thing to chat about at work, no matter how progressive your office appears. Disagreeing on beliefs, or worse, attacking someone else’s as wrong, can seriously affect the way they see you. You’re not going to change someone’s deeply held beliefs about anything, so don’t even bother bringing them up.


“This might be a dumb idea, but…”

Discounting your own ideas is a surefire way to diminish your own credibility. Say what you want to say, and let your ideas speak for themselves. Nobody is going to tell you that your ideas are insignificant – if they disagree, they’ll hopefully do so kindly. Have faith in yourself, and others will, too.


Being careful of what you say shows you care about your image, about your work and about your colleagues. It’s an easy way to maintain professionalism and show you’re serious about what you do.


Want to add to this list of things you should never say in the office? Let me know in the comments!

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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