Editor's Note (21 August 2015): BBC Capital brings back one of our most-read Influencer columns because we could all use a gentle reminder about what not to say at the office.
We’ve all been there: you’ve said something out loud at work and immediately regretted it. For chief executives, gaffes can damage a company’s reputation and hurt its stock value. For everyone else, saying the wrong thing to colleagues — or revealing too much information— can be embarrassing, hurt relationships or send nervous shivers through the office.
It’s a topic LinkedIn Influencers weighed in on this week, touching on the things a manager should never say, private information best kept to yourself in the office and the defeating business buzzwords one should avoid.
Here’s what some of them had to say:
David Kerpen, Chief Executive Officer at Likeable Local
Kerpen recalls a time when he felt horrible after telling an employee to be friendlier on the phone. “It wasn't so much that I had said it — it was how I said it, in front of other employees,” he wrote in his post 17 Things The Boss Should Never Say.
“Leaders must be sensitive to the fact that the whole team is looking up to them. Everything the boss says is magnified because it's the boss saying it,” Kerpen wrote.
Kerpen asked executives and other bosses for their list of things bosses should never say. Among them:
“I’m the boss. No one wants to work for an organisation that doesn't respect their commitment level or humanity. If your co-workers wanted to take orders, they would have joined the army. Unless you are the military, avoid pulling rank.”
“What’s wrong with you? It's easy to get frustrated when your staff does something incorrectly but this question goes right to the heart of their competencies. It not only assumes that they have a fundamental flaw but it conveys that you've lost all trust in their abilities. It's only downhill from there.”
“This is just a small client/sale. Teaching your staff to treat the high-paying clients or the big sales differently than smaller ones is a huge mistake. This sets up your company not only for bad customer service but also for arguments amongst your staff over who gets to work on which accounts.”
“You’re doing okay. When an employee asks for feedback, never tell them they're doing an okay or fine job. Asking for feedback is a sign of potential; a desire to grow, change and get better… Telling someone ‘you're doing fine’ without giving the gift of improvement is a hugely missed opportunity.”
Bernard Marr, Chief Executive Officer at Advanced Performance Institute
Sharing the wrong things with colleagues at work can put you in a vulnerable position, and even sideline your career, wrote Marr. “While some banter with colleagues is great it is important to know where to draw the line,” he wrote in his post Warning! The Things You Must Not Tell Anyone At Work.
“I am not advocating that you become a work robot that never shares any part of their personality with others,” he wrote. But, be cautious, he suggested. Marr offered a list of 10 things one should never share with anyone at work. Among them:
“Never talk about money at work, be it details about your salary or how much you have spent on your house, car or latest gadget. Talking about money can trigger lots of negative feelings such as jealousy and resentment,” he wrote.
Your love life should also stay outside the office. “You might have the most amazing or most miserable love life there is, but don't share the detail at work,” Marr wrote.
Another no-no: discussing religion. “It is great that people have their religions but remember that many wars are caused by religious differences,” Marr wrote.
Richard A Moran, Chief Executive Officer at Accretive Solutions
The business world is full of buzzwords that are “so contrived and over used that our eyes glaze over,” wrote Moran in his post 3 of the Most Dreaded Words in Business. But those aren’t the words we have to worry about, he wrote.
“Certain words capture our attention like a flashing red alert. The words seem innocuous enough and are used often, but they make us stop all other activities,” Moran wrote.
Among the three dreaded words? Unfortunately.
“A word that commands attention so much that it could be the only word in the message and we know that it means something bad is about to happen. For the job hunter it means brutal rejection no matter how wonderful your credentials or how many applicants there involved,” Moran wrote.
But the word has other stinging context, too. “For the internal email, it means a layoff is about to happen or some other negative change. Or it could mean that the cappuccino machine is broken or that the company masseuse is out sick. It is a word that always means bad news is about to follow,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the word unfortunately is used way too frequently.”