8 Things You Should Never Say To Your Boss
Work + Life Balance

8 Things You Should Never Say To Your Boss


Thanks to our collective tendency to stretch the definition of illness to include anything from secret long weekend getaways to job interviews, employers get understandably touchy about sick days. Sometimes the line is clear: beach days are not sick days. Car repair days? Nope. But personal problems fall into a weird gray zone—one that requires you tread carefully. {Click to Tweet}

Your company expects you to demonstrate maturity by leaving your latest breakup or fight with your husband at the door. And you should be able to set aside most issues for 8 hours. Still, your mental well-being is an integral part of your health, and emotional burnout can cause your work to suffer. If you really need a personal day to deal with an issue or reset your perspective, don't publicly air your grievances or overshare your reasons. Sending a simple email that you're not feeling well should suffice. 


You're getting your work done (and done well), and you still have time to take on freelance or work a side hustle at night. We salute you, overachiever. Your boss, though, doesn't want to hear that you consider your position a "day job" while you build a side project into your next career. Plus talking about your freelance may give employers another reason to pause—what if you're secretly working on it at the office?

You don't need to hide the fact that you've got extracurriculars going on (unless your company has policies stipulating no outside work), but don't broadcast it either. And if it comes up? Make it clear you understand the boundaries between work hours and freelance hours, and that you definitely don't mix the two.


And maybe it was. We're young with active social lives so things happen. Occasionally, Thursday night dinners with friends turn into nightcaps "just down the block," which then somehow turn into 2AM taco truck pit stops. If you've carried a hangover into the office, keep it to yourself. Even if you work in an informal environment where people talk about their personal lives, your boss doesn't want to hear you're running on empty.

Besides, you're not really. Remember that part about being young? Here's the silver lining of your weeknight drinking debacle: the comeback factor. You can conquer that faceplant-to-the-floor feeling and still make the most of your day.

Do something to counteract the side effects: pick up an egg sandwich on your commute, down a bunch of water, drop $5 wasteful dollars on a kombucha (the probiotics help), pop an Advil. Then power through those meetings.


We all wish messages would stop pinging on our phones at 5PM and honestly? They probably should. Everyone deserves some rest after a long work day, and there's all sorts of evidence that shows working long hours doesn't help anyone.

If you want to take a stand against late night communication, though, this isn't the way to start that dialogue. It's barbed and doesn't set the right tone for an open discussion. Instead try: "Hey, can we talk about after hours expectations?"

As the conversation develops, you'll be able to gage whether your boss feels strongly one way or the other. Then you can present your case for why you think you should be able to unplug after a certain hour. Regardless of how it turns out, you'll leave understanding each other's expectations and won't have caused offense.


Six words that should never cross your lips. {Click to Tweet} Think about it. If you're using them in a context that implies your boss has it easy, bad move. If you're implying you'd be better at the job than she is, bad bad move. And no, it's not any better if you're "just kidding" because really that's code for "passive aggressive."

It's natural to envy your boss, especially if you aspire to have a similar title some day. But it's much easier to work with a supervisor if you treat them as a mentor than if you pit yourself against them in some sort of competition. Still having trouble letting go? Try this simple perspective shift: remind yourself that your boss approves your paycheck. So zip it.


Everyone makes mistakes, but whether your boss really didn't tell you to work on that project or you somehow overlooked it, tread carefully when making excuses. Most employers expect you to self-motivate and take charge of your own projects so whether you were "told to" or not isn't the issue. Don't try to make it one. Instead:

  1. Admit the task or project didn't get done
  2. Offer to do it immediately if it's not too late
  3. Apologize but only if applicable. If it really wasn't your fault, skip to step 4.
  4. Initiate a conversation with your boss about expectations and how the issue can be avoided next time


Yeah. So why is she paying you? Try a different approach. If it makes sense, offer to help your coworker on one of their projects or approach the discussion this way:

"Hey [insert boss's name], I've finished up work on [insert your latest deadline]. Do you need help with something else? I'm down for a challenge."

If you find downtime and project lags have become a chronic condition, consider approaching your boss about taking on more responsibility. It may not come with a raise (yet), but it'll introduce you to new skills and keep you from wanting to pull your hair out. 


Reality check: your boss doesn't want your flu bug any more than you do. She doesn't want you getting the whole office sick so you're understaffed for the next three weeks. And she definitely doesn't want you there because you feel like "just showing up" counts as working. When you're contagious and your mind's too foggy to concentrate, stay home. Once you feel better, throw yourself into making up for the lost time. 

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This list goes on. What are some awful things you've said or heard a coworker say at the office?