41 Words or Phrases to Avoid Using at Work

41 Words or Phrases to Avoid Using at Work

Words make a difference. Words have power. They shape how we see the world, and while you may think they mean the same thing to others as they mean to you, it just isn’t so. There are phrases that have become so common in the workplace that they have become meaningless and lost their power. They don’t make you sound clever or important, they have become cliche and management speak, which isn’t a flattering description. Yet we continue to use these words and phrases as if everyone around us knows what they mean, and in some way move us or others forward towards action and reaching goals.Here is a list of 18 words and 23 phrases you should either stop using altogether or stop using so often. If used sparingly they can help articulate what you are saying, but constant overuse has people rolling their eyes and missing the message.

Words to Stop Using Right Now

But. Once you have used the word ‘but’ people forget anything you said before this. For example “I am happy with the result, but…” or “You’ve really progressed in your knowledge of, but…”. People are just waiting to hear what you didn’t like, what you want different or what this means to them.

Always. Nothing is all the time. When you say “you always…” or ‘I always…” it just isn’t so. There is no point in time where something ‘always’.

Never. Like always, nothing is 100% of the time never.

Actually. I’m not even sure what this word means. Does it mean that someone is wrong, or you know better, or something else? Since the word can be demeaning, quit using it.

Okay. This is a meaningless word. Are you saying okay to the request, or that you heard them speaking some words? Even if you are confirming you will do as they requested, how are you clear about the specifics so you actually know what you are saying yes to?

Fine. Similar to okay, fine can be interpreted as you are saying yes. It can also be interpreted depending on the tone of your voice and body language as you aren’t happy. Do you have a teenager? Ever heard them say ‘fine’? Hear the big sigh at the end?

Try. Try…what does that mean? You will make a valiant effort, do it if everything works out perfectly…try isn’t commitment, it’s a get out of jail word.

Unfair. We all know life isn’t fair. When we use the word ‘unfair’ we are complaining about something. But complaining rarely helps you achieve your goals.

Assume. Another ‘get out of jail’ word. When you use this word it negates any responsibility you have.

Probably. Probably is similar to ‘try’. It is meaningless as it suggests that there is a strong likelihood that it won’t happen. If you aren’t going to follow through say no from the beginning.

Sure. Read what I wrote about ‘okay’. The same applies here.

Can’t. Maybe the answer has to be no, and you need to offer an explanation if it is no whenever possible. Saying I can’t doesn’t tell someone under what circumstances you might be able to say yes or if they will be able to come back to you another time. It closes a door.

Empower. This is one of those words that is so overused it’s become meaningless. Empower means very different things to different people. And most employees don’t feel that it is a word with any substance behind it anyhow.

Very, absolutely, totally. What are you saying these words in response to? Do you mean yes, or something else? They are drama words that aren’t necessary to make your point.

Honestly. Ever hear someone say this and your thought is, ‘have they not been honest before’?

Sorry, but or Yeah, but. As soon as you say but…look at #1 above. This is just about excuse making.

Swear words. You never know who you are going to offend, so don’t use them.

Emojis. Emojis are used instead of words. They may be acceptable in personal communication, and even occasionally in the business environment. They do not, however, replace words and should be used sparingly if at all.

Phrases to Stop Using Right NOW!

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It’s not my fault. Is your reaction when you hear this to let out a big sigh? There is a difference between taking responsibility and shirking it. It’s not my fault says the later.It’s always been like this or always done it this way.  Another one of my least favorite expressions. Does this mean change is not an option? Is it a justification for not taking any risks or simply avoidance?

It’s not my job or it’s not my responsibility. Clearly, some tasks and activities aren’t part of your job; and less than you realize. This expression says you aren’t a team player, you really aren’t interested in growing and that you need directions in order to make any decisions. Is that what you want to convey?

Think outside the box. What box? By whose standards? This is so nineties and not only dates you, it shows you yourself aren’t a creative thinker.

Paradigm shift. From what to what? By when? Everyone or just you? This is one of those expressions popular in the nineties that needs to stay there.

I’ll see. I’ll see is another way of saying probably.

Going forward. From where to where? From today, about this one point or everything? Does this mean you can’t stand still at all? Drop this expression, it doesn’t help you get to the place of action.

Move the needle. I like expression as it brings a visual to my mind, but similar to ‘going forward’ in itself is a meaningless phrase. There isn’t enough context to know what this means, or even where you are now.

I thought you knew. Check out what I wrote about for assume in #9 above. It’s exactly the same as ‘assume’ or ‘it’s not my fault’. The proverbial “I don’t have to take any responsibility’’ mindset.

I hope you don’t mind. This means you have already decided and taken action. If you really care if they mind asking before you do something, not after.

This may be stupid but. If it’s stupid why are you asking? Or are you suggesting that you are stupid or trying to give yourself a way to say ‘well I didn’t know”…so whatever happens isn’t really mine to own?

You should have/you could have. Should and could are emotional words that have a negative connotation.

Drill down. From where, to where by when…you get the picture.

Win-win. We’d all like to think everything can be a win-win but that just isn’t true. Sometimes the team wins but an individual may actually be hurt by a decision.

On my radar. My memory isn’t that good that saying ‘it’s on my radar’ is meaningful. It also doesn’t imply action so why bother using it?

Open door policy. Leaders always want to say they have an open door policy and that isn’t accurate. Maybe you are willing to talk to people when they have a concern, but that doesn’t equate to you be willing to have them show up any time and expect your time.

ASAP. By when? ASAP for me might be next Thursday. You might be thinking this afternoon.

On the same page. Who knows? If using it in a positive way about an agreement, specify the terms, and then and only then can you ensure congruence in thinking. If using as a means of expressing frustration ask yourself how it is moving you towards the results you want.

Dot the ‘i’s and cross the t’s’. Tell them to pay attention to the details, and if there are areas that require close attention what are they.

Touch base or Circle back. Similar to ASAP.

Bottom line. If what you are saying is that something is final, or you are making a point, say that.

Level playing field. In life and in business the playing field is never level. Suggesting otherwise is setting up people to fail, or yourself with false expectations.

No brainer. If you guaranteed me I could make $100,000 if I invested $1.00 that is no-brainer. Small investment for large return. Beyond this, though most situations aren’t that black and white. And what seems like a no-brainer to me may cause you to break out in a sweat.

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