5 Things You Should Never Say to Your Boss

5 Things You Should Never Say to Your Boss

When it comes to talking to your boss… you should tread quite carefully.

Unless you’re very close and you have a rather informal relationship, it’s best to stay professional and polite at all times.

Because you never know when something you say might be misinterpreted. Or stored in their memory for future reference…

And something you may have thought was completely harmless could come round to bite you on the bum come salary review time.

Here are some examples:

1. “That is above my pay grade”

Though this can be a tempting response to unreasonable demands, it isn’t going to sit well with your manager.

Thing is, doing things that are “above your pay grade” puts you in an excellent light and will give you ammunition for your next salary review.

If you can cite x, y and z tasks you have undertaken which are not in your job description and show how you’ve been working hard to move forward, you’re much more likely to be able to negotiate.

Long story short, you’re proving to them that you can do higher-paying work and that you do deserve that promotion or pay rise.

However, needless to say, don’t let your boss take advantage of you for too long.

Check out this infographic for more tips on this: 10 Steps to Help You Land that Promotion at Work

2. “I can’t do that right now; I have to do X”

Point-blank refusing to do something is never going to go down well with your boss.

Even if you’re snowed under at the minute and have other things you need to finish, you’re going to have to give more detail than “no sorry I can’t.”

You need to communicate clearly, explain what you are currently working on and the deadlines for those tasks and then ask your boss which one they would like you to treat as a priority.

Even if you believe that other things should be prioritised before the thing that your boss has asked you to do, be direct about it and put the ball in their court.

This way, even if things go awry, your boss can’t say that you didn’t raise your concerns and ask them for guidance on prioritisation.

Put the decision in their hands, without coming across rude or stubborn.

3. “I can’t do that; I’m not very good at it”

Again, it’s the “I can’t” bit of this kind of phrasing which makes it so negative.

If your boss hears this kind of thing too often, they’re going to start to wonder what you can do. Plus, can you really not attempt to do the task?

Practice makes perfect and shutting yourself off from something completely (and not even trying) doesn’t give you any room to grow as an employee.

Instead, try to be honest but in a more positive way.

For example, inform your boss that area X is one of your weaker areas, but that you’d love to learn how to get better at it.

This way, they might provide you with helpful advice and tips to help you!

4. “You should give me X”

This could refer to a job title, promotion, pay rise, or something similar…

The problem here is the heavy nature of the word “should”, which is a little bit presumptuous. It will make you seem a little bit entitled and can look like you don’t respect your boss or value their opinion of you and your work.

If you feel like you’re being undervalued or underpaid, always try to raise these points in a more neutral, professional tone.

For example, in a performance review, you may state that you feel that you have achieved some great things in the past year, and that you’re wondering about how to progress further.

This way, you’re basically saying that you should be given a raise/promotion without being too pushy about it. You are opening a discussion, rather than demanding something from your boss.

People don’t like being told what they should and should not do, least of all bosses!

5. ‘Love you’

Ok, I’m pretty sure most of you won’t have said this to your boss.

But what about things like this?

  • ‘You have a secret admirer. Hint-hint, it’s me.’
  • ‘Fancy a whiskey – I keep some in my desk for emergencies?’
  • ‘Sometimes I feel like stapling my hand might make this job a little bit more interesting.’

It’s essential that you try to maintain a level of professionalism in front of your boss… but things might slip out by accident I guess.

In fact, some of the stories we have heard about what people have accidentally (and sometimes purposely) said to their bosses are hilarious!

Check them out: 50 Things You Should Never (Ever, Ever) Say to Your Boss


Look, I’ve had nightmare bosses in the past and I know it can be really difficult to maintain your cool from time-to-time.

But maintaining your professionalism really is the key to keeping your career on track.

And if you feel stuck in a rut, maybe it’s time for a career change anyway?

If you’d like more careers advice like this, please feel free to subscribe to our blog here.

Good luck!

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