The most annoying workplace phrases - and what to say instead

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It’s no wonder we’re confused. We’re told to be diplomatic and efficient at work but when we try our efforts seem to have the opposite effect, alienating and annoying rather than enlightening and appeasing. So what’s going wrong?

According to Jadhav and Gupta we either don’t communicate at all, don’t communicate clearly, over-communicate or communicate inappropriately through outbursts anger or blaming. Sound familiar? Jadhav and Gupta even quote a study that found 41% of people thought the biggest mistake leaders make was their inappropriate use of communication.

We look at the communication problems that are leading to the most annoying phrases in the workplace, and what you should be saying instead.

Communicating inappropriately

One of the most difficult tests of communication skills comes when you are put under pressure, someone comes to you with a concern or problem or you have to proactively communicate a difficult or sensitive issue. This is the time when you are most likely to communicate inappropriately- and utter some extremely annoying phrases like ‘be that as it may but we will do it this way’ or ‘that’s how it’s going to be’.

These type of phrases attempt to negate the other person’s opinion and shut them down. It’s inappropriate and ineffective communication because the recipient is entitled to have their concerns addressed respectfully. It would be better to say ‘why do you think it would be better done another way?’ allowing constructive discourse.

Then there’s the famous ‘I’m not here to win a popularity contest’ as if this somehow negates the need for communication skills- it doesn’t.

Not communicating clearly

For communication to be effective, it’s not only about delivering a message, but about it being heard correctly by the recipient. Yet, we’re often not clear enough in our communication with others because we’re trying so hard to be diplomatic. We might write "please revert at your earliest convenience" instead of "please reply at your earliest convenience," as we’re too worried to issue an instruction - and then get cross when the recipient doesn’t ‘revert’.

Then there’s ‘please do the needful’, instead of saying ‘please can you have it done by’. Not only is asking someone to do the needful or what is necessary unclear but it could also sound quite rude, no doubt completely defeating the intended purpose.

Not communicating

Good communication is about clarity but when people don’t feel confident in their communication skills they can instead spout annoying phrases. "You have to step up to the plate" is one example. It would be far better to say, "these are the areas you need to improve on, this is how I expect you to improve and this is the timeframe I expect it in."

Yes, it’s a potentially difficult conversation to have, but is completely transparent and intentional - just how good communication should be. Everything we say, write and do communicates so don’t hide behind annoying phrases. They are saying a lot more about you than you think!


Surprisingly perhaps, one of the most annoying phrases at work can be ‘oh, and one more thing’. Why? We can pick up around three key points from any communication so when someone tries to cram far too much into their communication, we’ve already tuned out. Our focus is on those three points we’ve managed to retain and the last thing we want is another item piled onto the top.

To communicate effectively, be clear and be concise. All of those additional details probably aren’t required straight away and can detract from your key objective.

About Paul Russell

Paul Russell, Luxury Academy

Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London,, a multi-national private training company with offices in London, Delhi and Vishakhapatnam. Luxury Academy London specialise in leadership, communication and business etiquette training for companies and private clients across a wide range of sectors. Prior to founding Luxury Academy London, Paul worked in senior leadership roles across Europe, United States, Middle East and Asia. A dynamic trainer and seminar leader, Paul has designed and taught courses, workshops and seminars worldwide on a wide variety of soft skills.


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