5 Things to Avoid Saying at Work—and at Home

by Laurie Ulster
Originally Published: 

I remember one woman who hated her job and used to walk around loudly announcing that she hoped she’d get fired. I took her aside and pointed out that all the people who could hear her would one day be working at some other company she wanted a job from, and that her potential future boss might walk up to them and say, “Hey, you used to work at ____, do you know S?” “I didn’t know her well, but she used to walk around all day talking about how she wanted to get fired.”


So there are lots of other things you shouldn’t say at work, and they translate nicely to things you have to be careful of at home, too, if you want to avoid being shunned by the rest of the neighborhood.

1. Don’t say you think someone else is incompetent.

At work: There’s always someone who sucks at their job, but if you can’t do anything about it because you’re not their boss, then just keep quiet. Anything you say about them will only make you look insecure, and maybe mean as well. These aren’t good attributes in a coworker, are they?

At home: Do NOT say anything, ever, about other people’s parents around your kids. Kids can be a bit like parrots, especially if they hear something that sounds a little juicy. “My mom thinks your dad has really weird rules for you.” Aaaahhhh! Nooooo! Don’t risk it.

2. Don’t friend everybody on Facebook.

At work: I used to see absolutely ridiculous posts from my coworkers on Facebook, sometimes even the people who reported to me, talking about how bored they were at work, or how hard it was to get things done when they were still hungover, or how they were pretending to work while they secretly built their own personal website. And we’ve all read funny stories on the web about people who filmed themselves doing ridiculous things at work, and then posted the videos. And then got fired. Don’t be those people.

At home: Maybe think twice about friending your kids’ friends’ parents, if you want to be able to post freely. Gossip travels at the speed of light in my town, and I don’t need people I don’t know well sharing some of the dicier things I might choose to post. My kids will be contemporaries of their kids for years to come. They don’t need me to complicate those relationships for them.

3. Don’t talk about how you want what someone else has.

At work: Want someone else’s job? Shut up about it! You’re going to make everyone feel weird, especially the person who’s job you want, but ESPECIALLY everybody. They’ll start avoiding you. And it doesn’t exactly reek of teamwork.

At home: Want someone else’s husband? Wife? Kid? Don’t say it. Again, it’s just creepy, and makes people pretend to be doing something very important on their phones when you approach. Can you blame them?

4. Don’t talk about how you love being intoxicated.

At work: This is always fun work gossip, isn’t it? Next thing you know, your boss knows, and you’ve got a reputation that is not going to serve you well. You don’t want people second-guessing your judgment. If you like to party after work, that’s fine, but you don’t benefit from having everybody know about it.

At home: I’m always surprised when I see wine backlash on the Internet; Don’t all parents understand the urge to wind down at the end of the day with a little something? Apparently they don’t, and people will frown upon your disclosures about whatever your intoxicant of choice might be, and maybe even feel they need to get involved if they think it’s bad for your kids. It’s none of their business, so keep it that way.

5. Don’t get too passionate about politics or religion.

At work: Being a New Yorker, I can’t entirely rule out discussing such things; we all do it. But don’t turn your views into a platform, because you might end up inadvertently putting down someone else’s deeply held beliefs, and that’s not cool. Don’t assume everyone thinks the way you do, and don’t be an opinions tyrant.

At home: Let your kids know that anything you say about religion or politics is not up for discussion amongst their friends. My husband is a Christian of real faith, and I am an atheist. This leads to a lot of interesting talks in our house, but I learned early why the kids need to be warned when I heard my daughter tell two of her 7-year-old friends at our kitchen table one day, “Mommy hates God.”

Oy! I do not hate God. Nor do I want her friends’ parents refusing to let the kids come visit us because they think I’m a Satanist.

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