15 Statements Your Boss Does Not Want To Hear

“Think before you speak” is always a good policy, and in the workplace, that maxim should be further refined to “think before you blurt out something to your boss that could damage your career.” Being honest is usually the best policy, however not if it something that will come back to haunt you.  Nothing wrong with being assertive if it is done respectfully and for something that will benefit your team or your organization…..just be careful!

Here is a list of 15 statements that your boss definitely doesn’t want to hear:
1. “I’m only doing this job for the money.”
No boss wants to hear that your sole motivation for showing up is your paycheck. He/she may know that money is one of your motivations, and you realize that he/she knows, however it is still better left stated.

2. “I’m broke, in debt, and one step away from bankruptcy.”
Your financial woes are not your boss’s concern. So this statement is not one to be offering in the workplace.   Better to seek the help you require to correct these issues outside of your place of business.

3. “I’m going to quit once I (fill in the blank).”
No matter how noble your future plans may be (you may be saving to start your own company or to go to grad school, for example) it is usually best to keep those plans to yourself or perhaps to refer to them only vaguely. If your boss knows there is a definite end date to your employment, he/she may start to look around for your replacement before you are ready to leave.

4. “I partied a little too hard last night.”
If you must do this, then just suck it up and get through the day with some ibuprofen, extra under eye concealer, and coffee. However, do not share the sordid details of your night on the town with your boss. He is just as likely to react with disdain as sympathy and it does not make you look like a motivated employee.
5. “It’s not my fault.”
Are you a whiny 6-year-old or a take-charge professional?  Assume responsibility for what you do and take the steps necessary to fix any problem that you did, in fact, create. Now if you are being wrongly blamed for a problem, it would be better to say, “let us get to the bottom of this” or “what can we do to make it right?” as this is a much better and more effective way than blaming someone else.

6. “I’m bored or this job is boring.”
Didn’t your mother ever tell you that only boring people get bored? If you are constantly twiddling your thumbs, ask for extra work and be as specific as you can. If you are busy but think your assigned tasks are less-than-stimulating, start strategizing about how you can get the assignments you want, either within in your company or even elsewhere.  Again, do not make yourself out as a complainer, be proactive!

7. “My job is too easy.”
Sure, you may think a monkey could do your job. But don’t give your boss any ideas because your company could probably pay a monkey less than it pays you. Again, try to see if you can get some more challenging work in your current position by asking for it…..if you do not ask, you do not get, so it could be worth a try!

8. “I can’t work with so and so. I hate him.”
Involving your boss in personality conflicts should always be your last resort. So unless you are actually being threatened, scape goated, encouraged to participate in unethical behaviour, or your colleague or customer is engaged in other egregious workplace conduct, try to work it out between yourselves first. If in the end, that does not work out, then you can seek help from a “higher up” person.

9. “I can’t do that because of my other job.” In your boss’s mind, a second job is not a valid excuse for why you can’t stay late, work extra hours or finish a project on time. He/she may question your priorities, and rightly so.  Better you should try to manage your priorities more effectively with better time management strategies.

10. “Oh, my Gawd! How did you do this job before the Internet/text messaging/Skype?”
Although not a cardinal workplace sin, making your boss feel old will not score you any points. Respectfully suggesting a newer technological option might be a better approach.

11. Sigh. Grimace. Eye roll. Wretching noises.
Actions certainly speak louder than words. A poker face and silence are golden when you’re displeased with your boss. The other options will not win you brownie points!

12. “Do it yourself!”
No need for explanation. Just never say this. Ever. Even if your boss has been micro-managing you, letting him/her know that you would appreciate more autonomy can be done in a more effective and respectful manner and then will result in a better outcome.

13. “It’s always been done this way.”
You don’t want to gain a reputation as an inflexible dinosaur, so keep an open mind about how you do your work. If you are definitely convinced that a new way of doing things is going to harm your company, then consider presenting your case in a more positive manner and with solid examples to back up your position.  Remember, change is the new normal so those not willing to embrace it are going to struggle and many organizations will give you a time frame to get with the program or let you go.

14. “Let me set you up with…”
Avoid the urge to play matchmaker for your single boss. The potential benefit is far outweighed by the potential risk. For that matter, any socializing with your boss (even something as simple as friending him/her on Facebook) can cause you to share too much information, so consider limiting social interactions entirely.  Some companies even have such a policy in place and with good reason…..sometimes that gives just too much information!

15. “Sorry, I must have drifted off.” C’mon, wake up! If you’re caught with your eyes closed, feign deep concentration rather than admit you were actually dozing.  Let it be a warning that you need to get more sleep or drink a bit more coffee to stay on top of your game.

Finally, remember to think before you speak so that inappropriate remarks and statements do not harm your chances of promotions, raises, or bonuses. Always be respectful, conscientious, and on time with your work and in your workplace exchanges.

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Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoffhttp://softskillsforsuccess.com/
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.


  1. Great compilation of the statements disliked by bosses. There are some more from my experience:
    1. I know you will say this.
    2. Yawning
    3. Not having an eye contact.
    Appreciate comments on these. Regards

    • Good additions, Asesh, thanks for your comment. They would be rather rude as comments, however, I can imagine that some people may actually do such things. We do have to be aware of the fallout from one’s behaviour & comments…..even if it is the truth.

  2. Awesome list here. When I heard these in the work place, the corporate culture was often to blame. At one client, I heard people say “you must have an interview today” when they see a person wearing a suit. I’ve also seen that when a manager is not dishing out comments of bad taste, their subordinates reciprocate in kind. I think a lot of the comments are used as shields when dealing with a manager that subordinates do not respect or trust.

    • Hi Chris, I totally agree with you. So sad that there are so many poor managers out there. Usually, it is because they have not been given the proper training. Leadership is an on-going learning skill and without feedback how can one know how they are doing. Being a “bad boss” creates a toxic workplace and that is not a place where there are happy, creative or productive people. Humans make mistakes, those are opportunities to learn so need to be handled constructively with support and encouragement, rather than figure pointing and blame. If a leader wants accountability, an atmosphere of respect and high achievement, they need to set the tone! Thanks for adding your insights, they are always good!

      • Often, I tell a story along the lines of me sitting across the table with a powerful executive. I share what we talk about and how the conversation goes — and share how conversations like that typically go. When you gain power, you also gain a few blind spots on the way.

        • Again, you are so right about this, Chris, it is very easy to think you are doing a great job when in the end you are not. One has to be very careful how they approach issues so as not to shoot themselves in the foot!

          • Very true. I’ve collected data that shows the success of an organization relies more on middle management than on the executive team. There are exceptions though, but not nearly as many as I would like. Can’t show this data to executives though — even when they ask for it. Too much damage control from deflated egos.