One of the best ways to ensure your day-to-day work life is pleasant and your career remains on an upward trajectory is to get—and stay—on your boss’s good side. It sounds like a simple thing to do, but you’d be surprised at the number of employees who can’t seem to get it right.
The problem often is that they’re unwittingly saying and doing things that communicate to the boss that they’re incompetent, uncooperative, or immature—qualities no boss likes in an employee.
Don’t want to be that employee? Then steer clear of saying these things that are sure to put any boss in a bad mood.
1. “It’s not my fault.” Even if it’s not, saying so just makes you sound like a 6-year-old. Adults take responsibility, and then take action to make things right. Bosses want employees that are always part of the solution—especially after they’ve been part of the problem.
2. “It’s not my job.” Your responsibilities aren’t limited to those specifically stated in your job description. If the boss is asking you about something that needs to be done then it’s your job. When you say otherwise to his face, you sound childish, disrespectful, and uncooperative.
3. “There must have been some miscommunication.” “Because all businesses are so competitive these days, bosses cannot afford to have employees costing the company a big client or critical contract because of their poor communications,” says Anita Bruzzese author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy—And How to Avoid Them.” Different bosses have different informational needs, so find out what your bosses are, and then be sure to meet them. “Being a good communicator is critical for the success of a company, a boss—and an employee’s career.”
4. “I’m so hung over.” This isn’t something to brag about and admitting to heavy drinking on a work night shows the boss you aren’t taking your job as seriously as you could. It also makes her wonder if you’re prone to making bad decisions in other aspects of your life and work.
5. “I can’t stand Steve.” This doesn’t apply only to Steve, but to all of your co-workers. “Bosses get really annoyed when they have to take time from important tasks to break up spats between co-workers and they don’t want to get human resources involved when two workers can’t solve their differences in a professional way,” Bruzzese says. “They want workers to be respectful of one another and act like adults, period.”
6. “I’m too sick to work.” This is fine if it’s true, especially if you can’t do your job from home and are contagious, but if it’s a lie and your boss finds out you could be in big trouble. The chances of getting caught have increased greatly with the proliferation of social media. It only takes one stray Facebook update, Foursquare check-in, or Twitter tweet to show the boss—or a big-mouthed co-worker—what you’re really up to.
7. Too much or too little. “Employees may have never bothered to ask how or when the boss wants to be communicated with, so they may sit on critical information the boss needs or bug him or her endlessly with trivial stuff,” Bruzzese says.
8. Whines and gripes. “Since the Great Recession, employees have been asked to do more with less and many have fallen into the habit of chronic whining about their situation,” Bruzzese says. With everyone in the same boat and companies still at risk, that complaining really stands out to bosses who are also plenty tired themselves. You want to spend your time coming up with solutions to problems, she says. “Remember, there are still about three people for every job opening—the boss may not have any trouble filling your shoes.”
9. “I need a raise.” It’s not your boss’s responsibility to fulfill your need to pay your credit card bills, go on vacation, or eat out more. She should pay you fairly for the work you’re doing, though. If you think you deserve a raise, approach her with concrete evidence that you’ve earned a salary increase, and then make it a two-way conversation—not a confrontational demand.
10. “I’ll quit if …” Never threaten to quit unless you’re prepared to follow through if the boss calls your bluff. If he does and you don’t, you’ll definitely lose his respect—and possibly your job.
Brooke Howell is a contributing writer for Monster.com, where a version of this article first appeared.