The British have a reputation for being intelligently humorous, polite, reserved and proud of our stiff upper-lip, as satirised by shows such as Fawlty Towers and Blackadder. But, when it comes to the office, many UK workers are guilty of displaying bad manners towards their colleagues and committing verbal faux pas on a regular basis.
So, if you want to stay on the right side of your co-workers, here are some of the things you may wish to avoid saying out loud.
1. “That’s not my job”
With your ‘to-do’ list showing no signs of getting shorter, your boss walks into your office to ask if you do a ‘little’ job for him, which results in you taking on more work than you can realistically manage. But, a “blunt refusal to help, will simply burn bridges and damage goodwill,” says psychologist Bryan Carroll. “Instead, simply explain your existing commitments — and perhaps propose another time that you could offer assistance.”
2. “Anyone can do his job”
Are you quick to badmouth your boss or ridicule their decisions or initiatives? Watch out: the boss hears everything that is said in the office — good and bad. Assume that what you say will eventually get back to him via the network of office gossips. And the next time you notice yourself griping, ask yourself, “Is it more important to vent my frustrations, or to get that next promotion?” One expects the latter will be your reply.
3. “Sack me and you will regret it”
These were the famous last words of Martin Jol shortly before his dismissal as Tottenham Hotspur manager. Just because you were the number one salesperson or are credited with reversing the fortunes of the company in the past, does not guarantee that you will have a job indefinitely. Remember, nobody owes you a job. And, as the saying goes: you are only as good as your last game.
4. “Why can’t I log onto Facebook anymore?”
The Daily Telegraph reported with reference to a survey for HCL Technologies that half of workers have been banned by their employers from Facebook and other social networking sites. The reason is because they detract staff from doing what they are paid to do – work. Besides, do you really want to run the risk of your boss peering over your shoulder and finding out what you really get up to at the weekend?
5. “Have a go if you think you’re hard enough”
Most of us don’t get to choose the people we work with and your colleagues come as part of the package when you take a job. So it would be unrealistic to presume that you will get on with everyone all of the time. But if the tension between you and a colleague threatens to boil over, physically remove yourself from confrontation and allow yourself sufficient time to work out a passive response. “We’ve all said things in anger that we later regret,” says Nancy Peterson, co-founder of the Mediation Agency. “A lot of conflict could be avoided if people didn’t wrongly hypothesise a reason for someone’s behaviour, and make a poor decision based on this judgement.”
6. “Go away, I’ll do it when I’m ready”
With Britain’s long-hours working culture, it is easy to feel swamped by the increasing amount of work that you have to get through every day. But, there really is no excuse for bad manners at work.
7. “How did he ever get promoted?”
You may think that you are smarter than you really are and perhaps feel that it should have been you rather than your new boss who deserved a promotion. But don’t follow the route of constantly bemoaning or spreading vicious gossip about your boss — a condition termed ‘post-traumatic embitterment disorder’ by researchers at the University of Berlin. Moreover, in your eagerness to prove to your superiors that they were wrong to pass you over for promotion, you run risk of being seen as an irritant or, worse still, desperate. So never point out what could be done better unless you are canvassed for your opinion by your boss.
8. “Take the whole pack of Trebor’s, please – you need them more than me”
This approach is about as subtle as a brick and you may want to re-assess your diplomacy skills. The best way to tell someone that their breath is a problem is to do so discreetly. If a colleague has bad breath, offer a mint or furtively leave a packet on their desk.
9. “I do like to dabble in recreational drugs every now and again”
If you do ‘dabble’ then make sure you keep it to yourself — whatever you tell people now will become more widely known as you climb the career ladder and, you may find that that climb comes to an abrupt halt sooner than you think. In a survey of email blunders, officebroker.com in the UK found the case of an employee who, following a ‘sick’ day, sent an email to a colleague explaining his illness was due to ‘class A’s’. Unfortunately, he sent it to everyone in his company including the senior management. He now works elsewhere!
10. “You are the dumbest boss that I have ever had”
You have just landed the job of your dreams and you can’t wait to give your current boss the two-fingered salute and tell him exactly what you think of him. But, resist the temptation to bad mouth and let off steam. Take the following true case that appeared in The Times as an example of what you should not say. One person referred to their employer as “having an intellect that ranges above the common ground squirrel.” He added: “You are one of the few true genetic wastes of our time.” Remember, your comments will be filed for future reference if requested by another employer.
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