Employment, Management

He Spoke These Words and was Fired!



Human beings have a real knack for reading body language. Body language is sometimes enough to get one fired. However, would you like to know what really does the trick? Check out the list below. Repeated use of these phrases does not go unnoticed. The following are the top phrases that undermine direct reports with their supervisors and hopefully will serve as a gentle reminder to be mindful of your professional persona.


We all know people who intentionally say “I” to draw attention to themselves and their accomplishments. Many do it without thinking. They fail to realize that if they would substitute the word “we” it conveys; 1) They lead a team, and 2) They value the team. “I” conveys that no one wants to work with you or that you prefer to work alone.

“We’ve always done it that way.”

Maybe you should just sit in the corner and tell everyone who passes; “I’m not changing, I don’t care what you say!” Then, may I suggest you place your thumb in your mouth, curl your knees to your chest and gently rock back and forth.

“Like that’s gonna happen.”

No one likes the guy who brings everyone else down or throws water on the fires of “new vision.” Didn’t your mama tell you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? Perhaps mama will let you move back home during your unemployment.

“I was just doing as I was told.”

OK, great… Here’s another command: Head up to HR and pick up your check. This fails at a deeper level than you simply not wanting to take the blame. It actually serves as a direct indictment of your supervisor. It’s amusing how Mr. “I” (above) finally makes the shift to “We” when the wrong decisions are made.

“We’ve got a problem.”

This may not seem like a big deal, but if all you do is point out the problems, you are not the troubleshooter you think you are. I would always tell my leaders, “Don’t come to me with a problem unless you are prepared to give me two or three possible solutions.” Still better, just fix it.

“Did you see… Have you heard…”

Gossip in the workplace is an immediate character red flag. As a supervisor, I’m not stupid… If you are talking about Jennifer when she’s not around, the last thing I am worried about is anything you are pointing out about her. I am more concerned about what you are saying about me in my absence. Do you want to talk about your co-workers? Your new friends in the unemployment line might love to hear what you have to say.

“Sorry, I’m late.”

Life happens, but it is estimated that it takes a year to eighteen months to purge the perception of a single late showing. That is, it will take eighteen months before a colleague would think to say; “Rick is always on time.” In a high trust, high team setting, five minutes early is on time and on time is late. Attention to schedule conveys personal organization, preparation and that you give priority to others.

“I’m busy.”

Good. You are supposed to be busy! So is everyone else around here. What are you saying… Do you want special recognition? Geez. Maybe you should walk around the office telling others how unimportant and insignificant they are. However, you would need to get down from your high-horse before you could do that. I hope that’s not too much trouble.


Don’t be afraid to say no if the reasons are right. I would much rather hear a “No” than to hear a “Yes” accompanied by a failure to act. “Yes” cannot serve as space-filler, lighthearted commitment or an appeasement. A “Yes” demands action and you should never say you are going to do something that you are not committed to doing.

“I quit!”

Great… See ya!

That was easy…

The workplace is where you have an opportunity to build respect among your peers and craft your personal sense of excellence. If you find yourself regularly using any of the terminologies above, you may have a wake-up call on the horizon. If you get to the bottom of the list, and you remain blameless … congratulations. Would you like a job?

BR Rick Curtis

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