(MoneyWatch) I've written before about how important it is toto avoid annoying your boss and coworkers. And while it's a good idea not to write vague subject lines, to put the action item at the top of the message, and to answer all of the questions in an email, not just the easy ones, there's another important element to consider in communication at work: The actual content of your messages.
Recently, AskMen rounded up a handful of common phrases you should never say to your boss. If you aren't careful -- or at the very least, polite and politic in your communication -- you can offend supervisors and coworkers with expressions that have very different implications than what you intended.
What am I talking about? Consider the oft-used expression, "That's a no-brainer." You might mean that there's a simple solution, easy fix, or low-cost tweak. You meant it as good news. But it can sound patronizing, and implies that the person asking a question is stupid or not thoughtful. If that person is your boss or someone you need to collaborate with to be successful, you might have just committed a grave error.
Here are some other dangerous expressions I have encountered in the office that you should purge from your vocabulary:
I need a raise. Your compensation should never be about what you need or want -- it should be about what value you offer to the company.
That can't be done. It should go without saying that this sort of negative, not-invented-here attitude will identify you as an obstructionist. Skip the negativity and talk about the plan's strengths and weaknesses. How can it be done? Or what is blocking it from success?
We've tried that before. So what? No matter if you have a point or not, this will be heard as someone who is afraid of change, or perhaps patronizing to those who haven't worked here as long as you. How is this plan different? How can you learn from what you did last time to improve this plan?
I can't work with him or her. It's unfortunate, but complaining about a coworker actually indicates a lack of professional maturity on your part. A strong employee finds ways to get along with problematic coworkers. Do everything you can at your own level to see eye-to-eye with your coworkers. And if you must escalate, be sure to keep it professional and about work styles and behavior, not about personalities.
That's not my job. As I've mentioned before, if your boss asks you to do it, it's your job now. Perhaps the question you're looking for is, "How should I prioritize this compared with my other responsibilities?"