Eliminate these sentences from your office vocabulary.
“I don’t know how to do that.”
“This statement shows no drive, creativity, or professionalism,” says executive coach and business strategist Irina Baranov. “It’s factual—we all don’t know how to do certain things!—but it’s not powerful.” Since problem solving is such a valuable skill, attempt to figure things out on your own, and then ask for help.
“We bought a new house, so I need a raise.”
“It has absolutely nothing to do with the merit of your work, it has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of what you’re giving your employer,” says career coach Robin Ryan. While it may be true—a raise would help!—it’s not how employers decide on compensation. Salaries and promotions are based on your contribution to the company, so when negotiating, be sure to highlight your strengths and accomplishments rather than your needs.
“Since you’ve fired all those people, I’m doing double the work.”
Remember: You’re not the only person affected by layoffs or staff changes, says Ryan. Everyone is likely feeling the stress from a smaller team, so if you want to bring it up to your boss, frame it in a way that seems positive. Ask for help prioritizing your to-do list, which will automatically give your boss a peek into your workload.
“Jane feels the same way.”
While you might think there’s strength in numbers, chances are, your boss won’t think of it that way. “Gossip is the worst thing possible,” says Ryan. “It makes them feel ganged up on.”
“That’s not how the old boss used to do it.”
Avoid this sentence at all costs, says Ryan. “The new boss is going to feel like you’re stuck in your ways,” she says. “You’re not flexible or adaptable.” As a result, you might find that you’re not given good assignments or brought onto new projects, because it seems like you can’t handle change. Instead, suggests Ryan, explain that a system is new, and take the time to learn how your boss would like things done.
“In the end this is the person that is going to affect whether you get promoted, whether you get a good evaluation, or whether you keep your job,” says Ryan.
“I don’t have time to get that done.”
“By saying what you can't do, you position yourself as someone who is lacking,” says Baranov. “It’s much better to take a position of ‘I can!’” If you’re feeling overloaded, feel free to ask for extra direction or help managing your priorities, so you don’t feel stressed about accomplishing all of your tasks at once.
“I get so much more done during the day than Jane.”
You might be tempted to say this during a performance review—but it won’t help you look any more valuable. “No two human beings are exactly alike, so comparing yourself to Jane is just asking for trouble,” says Baranov. “You have no idea about all the variables that are different between you and Jane. You just can't ever say that you're exactly like someone else so you should earn what he or she earns.” It’s much better to focus on your own value, and how you’re eager to take on even more at the company.
“I’m sorry, but I was hoping to get a 10 percent raise this year.”
“Apologies should be saved for when you do something wrong,” says Baranov. “Asking for a certain salary is not wrong. It's your right and responsibility as a professional to have that conversation. No apologies.” Get more expert tips for negotiating your salary.