The way you say things translates to how seriously you are taken. Saying the wrong thing not only compromises your position, but it can also undercut your ideas. When you speak with confidence and decisiveness, you just might get that promotion or get hired full time. Here are 10 cringeworthy things interns should never say at work.
Think first, then respond. If a request is absurd and you feel angry, take a breath and say you’ll get back to them about it later.
1. “I’ll try.”
As Yoda famously said:
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
Be confident you will get it done. Often, we may realize the time frame is really tight, or we don’t have enough information to get it done. So we say we’ll try. Better to ask for more time or the information you need. That shows thinking and the gumption to ask for what you need.
Present yourself as capable and confident. Phrase it like this: “I will get it done,” or “I’ll take care of it.” Let them know that they have chosen the right person for the job.
2. “That’s not my job!”
This is the fast track to make enemies in any work environment. Obviously, you don’t want to be a doormat, but before think before telling someone else that something “isn’t your job”.
If you have to decline a request, Emily Post suggests:
“I’m not sure if I can help you this time because of my workload…I might not be able to give it my full attention.”
Or, “Thanks for asking me but you need to know that I can’t take on any more work—I need to focus on my top responsibilities.”
Simply saying it’s not your job is sure to anger the other person and cause trouble for you in the office.
3. “This wasn’t in the program description.”
It’s close to this isn’t my job. But as an intern, you’re there to help out around the office and to learn. There are going to be times when you are asked to do things you don’t expect. They may end up being unexpected learning opportunities. Just go with it.
4. “I’m in charge”… if you’re not.
It’s a mistake to make claims to authority that you don’t have. Saying that you’re in charge of something, or that you’re allowed to use a special office feature that you’re not will cause you problems and cause distrust.
5. “No, thanks! I packed lunch for myself.”
If your co-workers ask you to come out for lunch with them, take advantage of the opportunity. That’s what you’re here for! This gives you a chance to make new friends, and it may even give you brownie points with your supervisor. We challenge you to find an employer who doesn’t love a “great team player”.
6. “This company needs better management.”
If you say this out loud at the office, you may just want to punctuate that statement by seeing yourself out.
Never undercut your boss or the company.
This phrase not only accuses your current manager of doing a poor job, but also suggests you think you could do a better job. No matter who you say it to, or how loudly you say it, it’s going to get you in hot water. Keep it to yourself.
7. “This may not work, but…”
There’s no nice way to say it: this preface comes across as wimpy. Instead, be confident in what you say and demonstrate your value when you speak. If you have an idea, just put it out there. Prepare yourself before you do, so you have it all thought out. If you really think it won’t work, don’t waste someone’s time talking about it.
8. “It will need to wait.”
If you’re asked to do something and you reply this way, you’re going to look bad and get scorn from the other person. Instead, explain what you’re working on, and say you’ll get to the task as soon as you can. It’s also important to understand priority and be flexible in a case like this.
That new request might be even more important than what you are working on, so stay informed and don’t make assumptions.
Emily Post suggests saying something like this:
“Does this take priority over what you’ve asked me to finish by Tuesday by 2:00?”
9. “Can you repeat what you said earlier during the meeting?”
Noooooo. When you’re in a meeting, bring along a computer or notebook to take notes. It is your responsibility to retain the information. Show you are paying attention, and avoid asking again later.
If you really need something, you could ask for clarification of a certain point. State what you know and ask a question. You can still get what you need to know.
10. Any form of gossip.
If it sounds like gossip and stings like gossip, it is gossip. This isn’t a fire you want to play with. It’s generally very poor form to gossip about other employees while at work, and even worse, it will lead to others gossiping about you too.
Gossip can be hurtful, and it reflects badly on you.
They’ll wonder what you are saying about them and avoid talking or confiding in you. Don’t be that guy.
As an intern, you aren’t officially part of the company just yet, and saying the wrong thing hurts your chances of getting an offer or job recommendation in the future. Keep this in mind when you’re buzzing around the office with all that energy!