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Posted by on Sep 28, 2017 in HR Tips, Tools & Resources |

5 Toxic Words and Phrases to Avoid in the Workplace

5 Toxic Words and Phrases to Avoid in the Workplace

As much as you can say a lot with your body language and your gaze, your words have a massive impact on communication. Your choice of words is as important as the information you’re trying to convey and the power of persuasion you wish to exhibit. Leaders carefully choose their words to influence behavior that can help them achieve results. Sales representatives are mindful of the words they use to persuade customers to make purchases. HR professionals are wary of the words they choose to convey sensitive messages. Needless to say, all of them try their level best to avoid toxic words that can adversely impact their communication objective.

Words are important and using them carefully and correctly is that more essential to maintaining a healthy and conducive work environment. Unfortunately, however, in our common language we use certain words and phrases that are ‘toxic’ to the work environment. Using them so frequently may have diluted the negative impact, but honestly it’s still hampering your communication skills.

To be a strong communicator who can get the message across and influence behavior you’ll need to avoid these toxic words in the workplace.

1. “I Think..”

If you’re speaking to an audience there’s a good chance they already know that what you’re saying are your thoughts and opinions. Saying “I think” doesn’t make it more yours. To really make an impact drop the “I think” for words that are more impactful, authoritative and with more conviction. If you’re going to say “I think you’re making the right choice with this purchase”, it’s not going to spell out how confident you are about what you’re implying. Instead if you were to say “I believe…” or “I know…” or “I’m confident you’re making the right choice with this purchase”. Much more impactful and convincing, right?

2. “I’ll Try”

Saying that you’ll try almost always will give the impression that you’re not going to give it your best. It spells out a lack of confidence in your own ability and your commitment to getting the job done. Basically it implies the possibility of failure. Of course, you try to make things happen and achieve results, but there’s no reason for you to say it out loud. Instead opt for a more convincing and strong phrase such as “I’ll get it done” or “it will be done”. What you need to convey is your willingness to get the job done rather than just making an attempt.

3. “Sorry”

The king of all toxic words in the workplace is hands down “sorry”. Used freely, it permeates through the office like wildfire, burning everyone’s ability to think constructively. What it suggests is your inability to come up with a solution and be creative and innovative. Sorry really does highlight your weakness. The next time you’re about to drop the “s” word, stop! Admit your fault and offer a solution.

4. “That’s Not My Job”

Nothing shows your lack of teamwork more than saying “that’s not my job”, “I’m not paid enough to do this” or “that’s not my problem”. Sure, you may be asked to help out in tasks that aren’t necessarily within your job scope, but pushing someone off in such a way just shows your lack of empathy and compassion. Even if it inconveniences you, if your colleague feels there’s an important task that requires your assistance supporting them would be the right thing to do. To succeed and progress your career you need to make it a priority to help others in your team succeed as well. I’m not suggesting you leave your priorities hanging and just attend to others’ needs. Be polite and thoughtful about it and schedule it in with your main responsibilities.

5. “Maybe” or “I Guess”

In the business world where much is at stake, using toxic words like “maybe” and “I guess” make it obvious about how uncertain and indecisive you are. Just imagine yourself in a meeting telling your colleagues “maybe we should try it this way”. That could be the most baseless, ill- thought suggestion you’ve ever made. There’s a good chance you’ll lose your audience’s focus – and your own credibility. Make it a point to sound certain about the suggestion you’re going to make, even if you’re not sure the results will be entirely positive. What you can’t do is appear uncertain and shooting darts in the dark. Your words need conviction, confidence and should be well thought out.

By eliminating these toxic words from your everyday vocabulary you can position yourself to appear and sound more confident, taken more seriously and influence more people. You’ll be on your way to becoming a strong and eloquent leader.

Have you heard of any other toxic words and phrases in your office? Do share them.

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