Avoid Phrases Like ‘That’s Impossible’ At The Office To Keep Your Career Alive

Avoid Phrases Like ‘That’s Impossible’ At The Office To Keep Your Career Alive

Most of us probably know someone who has sat in a team meeting, looked at someone’s idea on a whiteboard, and proclaimed “That’s impossible! Can’t be done!” without even listening. That’s just one of the phrases that Ask Men suggests you avoid at the office to keep your professional cred intact and your boss happy with your attitude.

Photo by Yuri Arcurs (Shutterstock).

In addition to “that’s impossible”, Ask Men also warns against using “That’s not in my job description” and “That’s not my problem”, along with the ever-irritating “I don’t get paid enough for this.” We’ve talked about some phrases to avoid in general, but uttering these ones around the office — especially to your boss — are what we used to refer to at my old job as “career limiting statements”. They communicate a fatalistic “I don’t care” attitude to your manager and your coworkers, which, even if you are frustrated and you don’t believe the job is possible or important, doesn’t do anyone any good.

Instead, the key is to spin those statements — especially if you have reason to believe them — into phrases that are supported by evidence and are constructive to the task at hand. If you think something is “impossible,” instead of just saying so, explain why you think the task isn’t feasible.

Stop and reflect on what your evidence is — often taking time to think about why you think something is impossible is enough to determine whether there’s a real problem. If you think you’re doing work that’s a distraction from your main goals, you should point that out instead of throwing up your hands.

Everyone gets frustrated at the office sometimes, but it’s how we handle it that makes the difference between keeping a good job and getting in trouble or developing a bad reputation. What are some of the things you’re tired of hearing from some of your coworkers? Share your experiences in the comments below.

10 Things To Never Say To Your Boss [Ask Men]


  • “That’s impossible” – from the bloke who constructs our standard software platform images for corporate desktops, when asked to add a custom screensaver to the mix.

    “That’s not in my job description” and “I’m not paid enough to do that” – from the helpdesk blokes when I’ve asked them to do something challenging that they see no use for gaining experience in.

    “That’s not my problem” – network coordinator, responding to my request that he re-prioritise a task in his queue because it’s critical path for one of my projects.

  • Helen, #3 isn’t surprising – lots of people try to get network/system admins to re-prioritise (and by this we mean make it high priority, nownownownow), so it’s hard to help one person jump the queue when lots of people are wanting the same. “Not my problem” isn’t the nicest thing for someone to say, but I’d hazard a guess that he doesn’t mean its not his job to deal with the logged issue, it means that your urgency isn’t his urgency. He’s probably got 20 other Helens asking for reprioritisation.

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