3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Boss
April 23, 2015

3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Boss

by Brian de Haaff

It can happen to anyone: you slip and forget who you are talking to, and suddenly you have shared way too much information with the boss. Or the boss overhears you saying something that’s NSFW (not safe for work.) In the past, employees have told me about their taxes, gastro problems, and even affairs.

That is just TMI (too much information).

When you spend 40 hours a week with your coworkers, it is easy to become a little too familiar and blurt out things that cross the line. It is particularly dangerous when you are talking to your boss.

You may think it is not a big deal. After all, they are just words. However, what you say to your boss says a lot about you. It reveals pieces of your overall character, your attitude about your job, and your judgment.

When you speak without thinking first, you have the potential to do more harm to your career than you first realize, and it can be difficult to make up that lost ground with your employer. Don’t get me wrong, work is life and bosses should be human, it’s just that you do not need to share it all.

Here are a few things you should never say to the boss.

“I have the worst hangover” Saying phrases like this throws open the doors on your personal life and may lead the boss to conclude several things that may or may not be true. It may reveal that you have poor judgment and therefore cannot be trusted. Or possibly that you have a lack of self-control. Be sure to maintain some boundaries between your work and personal life. Telling your boss all the nitty gritty details invites judgment on your character and your ability to do your job.

“Susan dropped the ball” This one packs a punch, especially if you share something personal about Susan at the same time, like “She seems a bit unstable.” It smacks of running away from responsibility. There may be times when your survival instincts kick in and you want to protect yourself and your job. While no one wants to get blamed for something they did not do, letting someone else take the fall is not right either. “Susan (or whomever your colleague is) dropped the ball” sounds selfish and immature, and doesn’t help you advance your career. It’s a sign of maturity to share the blame.

“I hate that idea” This is not intimate, but you are making a business decision personal in a “me vs. the world” way. When you say this phrase, you may see yourself as protecting the company’s best interest. However, you can go too far in playing the devil’s advocate. This phrase suggests rigidity and a lack of imagination. You also shut down communication when you throw out this gem in conversation with your boss.

You might think that everyone says the wrong thing from time to time, but once those words leave your mouth there is no going back.

Learning to choose your words carefully is an art. Before you overshare or overstep your bounds, stop and think, “Is this a wise thing to be saying?” “Am I going to regret saying this to my employer?” Make sure your words do not subtract from the great person that you are.

What other things you should you never say to your boss?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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