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13 phrases you shouldn’t tell your colleagues

“I complimented her, and she hit me!” It happens that what you say with the best intentions can humiliate, offend or upset a colleague. In this article, you will find 13 phrases that you should never use when speaking to your colleagues.

Most probably you read this article only because you find it amusing. But there is one more thing you should know: employers use such phrases and questions in situational judgement tests and personality questionnaires to assess the emotional intelligence of jobseekers. This is especially true for candidates for managerial positions since they need to feel other people’s emotions and thoughts in order to be effective leaders. Thus, if you have your aptitude tests or situational judgement tests soon, we recommend you pay special attention to this article.

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Remote working vs office

One of the main disadvantages of working remotely, 37% of employees named the lack of communication with colleagues. Every third employee in the USA, UK and Western countries spends about 20% of their working time on colleagues. Alas, video conferencing and chatting could not replace live communication.

No matter how much they praise the distance, the reality is this: companies worldwide return workers to their offices. If at the beginning of June 2020, 54% of companies switched to the remote mode of operation, now only 33% of companies remain in remote mode. And only 10% of companies decided to switch to remote work forever.

There are many reasons for refusing to work remotely, including the lack of live communication. Live communication helps not only to distract but also to solve work problems more effectively. New employees learn as much from experienced colleagues as they learn from good courses.

The best atmosphere is in teams that follow these simple rules of communication:

  • Don’t raise your voice
  • Don’t get personal
  • Do not gossip
  • Do not discuss personal life
  • Respect the point of view of the interlocutor

Everyone knows about these rules. But there are less obvious things that you need to be aware of if you want your colleagues to appreciate you. Here are 13 phrases that psychologists do not recommend using in a conversation with colleagues.

Lend me some money

Let’s say right away – there are situations when it is possible and necessary to lend money to a colleague. If a person left a phone or a card at home and asks for a few dollars for lunch – this is normal, be sure to help and do not hesitate to ask for help yourself.

A completely different case is when it comes to a large amount. With such a request, it is better to turn to relatives or friends. Or take a loan in a bank – this is what banks are for.

Sorry, I will disturb you a little

This seemingly polite phrase is actually from the category of verbal rubbish. It turns out that your question is not important and you distract your colleague from his or her current job to disturb.

If a colleague is focused on his/her own, he or she skips the beginning of the phrase and turns on just on the word “disturb.” Do not be surprised if your request is accepted this way – reluctantly.

It is better to say, “Sorry, do you have a minute now?”

By the way, do not use other verbal rubbish like “to be honest”, “it seems”, “I think that …”. If you are not sure about the information, it is better to keep silent.

situational judgement tests aptitude tests phrases to avoid at work gossip

Fancy that …

This is how all gossip begins. Never discuss colleagues and acquaintances behind their backs.

Remember the golden rule: do not talk about a colleague or boss what you could not say in his/her presence.

Are you expecting a baby?

If you suspect that a colleague is pregnant, please keep it with you. Wait until she announces it herself. Trust me, there are many reasons for her to be silent.

A negative answer will put both in an extremely awkward position.

When I was your age …

Whatever the comparison, it will not add mutual understanding. With such a phrase, you immediately draw a line between yourself and the interlocutor and underline the difference.

If you want to say a compliment, praise your colleague’s successes, and it’s better not to express negative thoughts. Instead, try to step into the other person’s shoes and understand their motives.

What hair you have! May I touch it?

Heard about social distance? So, if you are not close friends or even if you are, any physical contact at work is prohibited by default.

Try not to touch not only your colleagues but also their belongings. Respect personal boundaries.

situational judgement tests aptitude tests phrases to avoid at work

Your pants fit perfectly

Compliments are a delicate matter. If you are not 100% sure, you better keep silent. “You do not look at your age at all”, “You are so fresh today”, “The dress is just like new”? – all these can be awkward phrases.

Errors in interpretation are also possible – for example, what does it mean: your pants fit perfectly? Someone will understand that pants emphasize the figure and someone – that hide flaws. And in fact, and in another case, it turns out that you evaluate the physical form of a person. And this is already unacceptable.

People like you always create problems

What do you mean – like you? What group do you refer to the interlocutor? This is direct discrimination and a manifestation of intolerance on your part.

Do not be surprised if you receive aggression in response to such a statement.

Such phrases are a direct demonstration of low social intelligence and many situational judgement tests and personality questionnaires may assess it this way.

situational judgement tests aptitude tests phrases to avoid at work

And they call this a luxury hotel?!

Try not to brag when talking to your coworkers. People take any mention of success as bragging.

And then, look how it looks from other’s point of view: you are complaining about not fluffy enough towels in a luxury hotel, and a colleague at this time painfully ponders what to save on in order to have enough money before the paycheck.

I have a job interview today

If you want to hide some information from the management. For example, that you are looking for a new job, you should not share it with your colleagues. Voluntarily or involuntarily, they can convey your words to the boss. And then everyone will be uncomfortable.

She left me

Personal life is also not worth discussing in the office. Few are willing to share your experiences sincerely. And it’s simple: at work, people are not tuned in to emotions, with your mental anguish you really interfere with work.

Leave personal dramas and descriptions of love affairs for close friends.

The doctor said that …

Leave detailed diagnoses and descriptions of your diseases for those who are really interested in this – mothers or grandmothers.

The most that it is permissible to complain about in a conversation with colleagues is a cold or a headache. No unappetizing details.

I don’t buy pens for my son, I take them in the office

Let’s call a spade a spade: if you take home what is issued for work, you steal. To brag about this to colleagues is at least silly.

And also remember: information is distorted during transmission. Don’t be surprised if your boss calls you in and asks why you believe the office is your property.


These 13 phrases are not the only ones to avoid at work. We are sure you can imagine other phrases. But be attentive and conscious when you want to talk to your colleagues or prepare for your aptitude tests or situational judgement tests. You can practice them at Aptitude-Tests-Practice.com


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Read more about situational judgement tests and why employers use them.

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10 tips for taking a situational judgement test

Situational judgement tests used by employers and qualities that they test

Psychometric aptitude tests for managers

Psychometric testing for call center and customer support jobs

Emotions in business and situational judgement tests for emotional intelligence (EI and EQ)

What character traits of applicants employers pay special attention to?

Corporate ethics code and how employers assess candidates’ ethics