5 things you should never say to your boss and suggested alternatives to say instead

1. Do Not Say: “I left him a message.”

Suggested Alternative: “I’ve tried reaching him multiple ways and  I am going to follow up again shortly.”

“No one checks voicemail as quickly or as often as they check email, so you can’t equate leaving one voicemail hours earlier to reallymaking an effort,” says Licht, voice of the @dkny Twitter handle. “If something is time sensitive, don’t leave a message. I would always go with emailing first and following up with a call after if you don’t hear back.”

If the matter is really urgent (and if you have received approval from the person you are trying to contact) you can use other methods to try and reach out to them as well, such as text messaging.  They could be in a meeting where they cannot answer their phone, but they can communicate via text, email, or Skype. The most important thing is to continue trying.

2. Do Not Say: “I’m going on a vacation on X date.”

Suggested Alternative: “Would it be alright if I take the following days off? If so, let me know, because I would like to book a vacation.”

“You need to ask for permission first, and then book the time off,” Licht explains. “Your boss may have projects planned that she hasn’t let you in on yet.”

It is also important to give your boss advanced notice before you go on vacation.  You want your boss to know that your job and the work that you do are top priorities in your life. By asking ahead of time and making sure the dates work well with what is happening in the workplace, you are showing that you are a courteous and appreciative employee.

3. Do Not Say: “I am so exhausted today.”

Suggested Alternative: Don’t say anything.

business tips - 5 thinks you should never say to your boss

Licht says that complaining about being tired can make you look bad.  “I think social media in general has made everyone communicate in a more casual way. But you still need to mind your words and how you’re reflecting on yourself,” she explains.

Do not forget that the workplace, no matter how casual, is still a professional environment.  Not only do you need to worry about what your conversations say about you, but you need to think about what they say about the company. Keep in mind you represent the company, and you want to make sure that you are presenting a good image at all times.

Additionally, being negative will not assist you in advancing professionally. Customers and coworkers alike will notice if you start to become the Negative Nancy of the office.

4. Do Not Say: “You never told me I was supposed to do that.”

Suggested Alternative: “I apologize, I wasn’t aware that I had to do that. I’m sorry about the miscommunication. I’ll start working on it right away.

“This way, you’re not taking the blame for something that isn’t your fault, but you’re not pointing the finger back at your boss,” Licht explains. Blaming others doesn’t help get the project done, so it is best to react with an apology.  If you are able to then follow the apology with confirmation that you will get the project done, then do it.  Show your boss that you are there to help and it truly was a miscommunication.


5. Do Not Say: “I have been working here for two years and I think it’s time to give me a raise.”

Suggested Alternative: “I would love the opportunity to walk you through my accomplishments this year. I think I have grown a lot in my position and I believe I’m ready for more responsibility.

business tips for talking to boss

“Time is meaningless. You need to show why you deserve a raise. No one likes an entitled person,” Licht  says.  If you walk into your manager’s office demanding more money, you will come off as greedy, rather than deserving.

See if your manager would be open to setting up a meeting to talk about your career path and your achievements.  Be prepared and bring some supplementary questions about methods for advancing your career in the company.  This will drop the hint that you are interested in doing more, which usually implies a higher salary as well.


Target Language

Make an effort (verb): to actively try to accomplish or do something

Time sensitive (adjective): a product that has to be delivered by a particular time, or information that is only useful for a particular period  

Follow up (with a call) (transitive verb): to pursue in an effort to take further action

Try to reach someone (phrasal verb – transitive): to make an attempt to contact someone

Ask (for permission) (verb): to request approval in order to do something

Let someone in on something (phrasal verb): to tell someone private information that only a select group of people already know about

Mind your words (verb – usually used in the command form – idiom): be polite and take care to make sure you say the most appropriate thing

Take the blame (verb): to accept fault for something

Point the finger (verb): to attach blame to someone

A raise (noun): an increase in salary

Entitled (adjective): believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

Walk someone through something (phrasal verb): so slowly and carefully explain something to someone or show someone how to do something


Top 5

Top 5 Tips of Things You Should Never Say to Your Boss

  1. “I left a message for him.”
  2. “I’m going on vacation on X date.”
  3. “I’m so tired today.”
  4. “You never told me to do that.”
  5. “I’ve been here two years and I think I deserve a raise.”