5 Words and Phrases That Don’t Belong in the Workplace
Most people know the do’s and don’ts of workplace etiquette. Of course, we’re supposed act like professionals and refrain from doing or saying anything that might offend someone else. Although this sounds cut and dry, it’s not always all that simple. People come from different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and families, many of which have different ideas about what’s offensive and what’s not.
And even if the type of speech in question isn’t exactly “offensive,” some words and phrases may just sound ridiculous coming from someone who’s supposed to be a professional, and other words and phrases won’t always communicate your message clearly.
Communication in the workplace is key. So much so that a large portion of job postings list communication skills as one of the top attributes an applicant must possess. Business Performance, a provider of business software, reports that “staff morale plummets when communication is ambiguous, unfocused, lacking in important details and does not allow for genuine two-way dialogue. … A Watson Wyatt study found that companies that communicate most effectively are more than 50% more likely to report turnover levels below the industry average compared with only 33% for the least effective communicators.”
We’ve created a list of five words and phrases that simply don’t belong in the workplace — they’re either plain ridiculous for an adult business professional to say, they can be misconstrued, or they send the wrong message.
1. “With all due respect”
Anytime you preface a statement with the phrase “with all due respect” or “no offense,” something disrespectful is more than likely going to follow. These types of phrases scream insincerity, and Reader’s Digest even named “with all due respect” as one of its “8 Most Annoying Phrases in the English Language.”
If you have a question, comment, or complaint, it’s much more effective to address it directly and diplomatically. Be clear and concise, without adding anything insulting or disrespectful.
2. Trendy words, like “cray-cray”
These days, people use the word “crazy” or “cray-cray” to describe a variety of feelings, people, places, items, and behaviors. Think of phrases like “Jane’s new outfit is crazy cute” or “It’s crazy how much work we have today.” We may even tell our coworker he or she is “crazy” after that person informs us of the 10 hours of overtime worked last week.
Not too long ago, teens and young adults started using the word “cray” or “cray-cray” in place of crazy. It has become so popular that the word “cray” is now in the Oxford Dictionary. But although the word may have become ingrained into popular culture, that doesn’t mean it belongs in the office. It sounds silly when a professional adult uses the word, and it can convey the completely wrong message.
The same idea applies for words like “totes” and “amazeballs.” Even if your new office is indeed totes amazeballs, it sounds much more eloquent to say that your office is beautifully decorated or extremely tasteful.
3. Innuendos, like “that’s what she said”
The office can be a monotonous place. Arrive at 9 a.m., sit at your desk and work until lunch, eat, and then leave at 5:30 p.m. each day. To reduce boredom, people talk, tell jokes, and have things they do to pass the time. Some employees take jokes way too far, though, and they say things that offend others around the office.
Some people may think that because they are not directly saying anything inappropriate — they’re not using foul language or racial slurs, for instance — that their jokes are not crossing the line. But anything that insinuates something sexual, discriminatory, or otherwise offensive does not belong in the workplace. If you have any question at all as to whether your comment might be offensive to others, keep quiet. It’s better to be safe than fired.
4. Condescending phrases, like “atta boy”
When you tell your coworker or subordinate “atta boy” after he completes a presentation, it sounds like you’re congratulating a child who went potty for the first time. Keep your comments — whether encouraging or constructive — appropriate for the environment, and also remain mindful of the recipient.
5. Trendy acronyms, like “OMG” or “WTF”
Statements like “OMG, I can’t believe that we increased our sales by 125% during the third quarter” or “WTF, our revenue is down this quarter” just don’t sound like things a professional should say. Many of these trendy acronyms are also shortened versions of statements that could be considered offensive in an office environment.
According to a Job Dig publication by Terry Arndt, founder and president of College Transition Publishing, “knowing how to interact with colleagues, supervisors, and clients effectively is vital in all professional fields — not just business-related positions like sales and marketing. In today’s workforce, communication skills are not optional — they are essential for every professional and can only be mastered with practice and a concerted effort. Your success in the workplace is directly linked to your ability to interact with those around you.”