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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

What Not to Say at Work

Have you ever watched the TV show, "What Not to Wear?" Many times I laugh out loud at what people wear. It's the same about what not to say at work.

To stay in the Smart Zone, here are 6 things not to say while at work:

  1. "I'm bored." The definition of the Smart Zone is that it is where you work to the best of your ability emotionally, behaviorally and intellectually. It is your responsibility to find something to do while you are working on someone else's dime. When I had my first job in high school working for a movie theater my mother told me, "If you have nothing to do, then wipe counters and straighten up the shelves. Don't stand around being bored - find something to do." Take "feeling bored" as the opportunity to learn something new or help someone else with their job.

  2. "Why were you late to our meeting?" When you ask a "why" question you force the person to focus on the problem by giving you excuses as to why they were late. People in the Smart Zone are solution-oriented. To focus on the solution ask, "how" and "what" questions. In this case, "How can you make sure you will be on time to our next meeting?" Or, "What can you do so that you will not be late again." By being solution-oriented you help the other person solve their own problem. Watch my YouTube clip on this topic.

  3. "I can't help you." This is almost as bad as saying, "That's not my job." People in the Smart Zone are can-do people. Instead of answering a co-worker's question with "I can't help you" say, "What I CAN do tech support and find the answer for you."

  4. "That's not my fault." In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey states that accountability is one of the 13 Behaviors that significantly earn trust. Make and keep your promises. Even if it really isn't your fault don't waste time figuring out who to blame. Focus on solving the problem. Click here for a funny example of Jerry Seinfeld holding someone accountable for a promise.

  5. "Those jeans make you look fat." Duh, I know you wouldn't say this. But haven't we all had to work with a Simon Cowell type? This is a person who gives harsh and unnecessary criticism for the sake of being confrontational. Or possibly for the attention they receive for their audacious statements. People in the Smart Zone are likable and know that crass statements make you unlikable. Click here to read my book synopsis on Why Doesn't Anybody Like Me?

  6. "Don't tell anyone." One thing I know for sure is that people will tell secrets. It's human nature. Having secrets at work can cause people to become paranoid and create what I call mental theater. Have you ever thought 2 co-workers were talking about you and so you acted differently around them? Click here to read my blog post on mental theater.

Post comments and tell me other things you should not say at work. I'd love to hear them. And don't worry, I won't ask you how much you weigh!

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