Workplace Etiquette: Speaking


What should I not say at work? 

Do you love learning idioms and phrases you hear on podcasts or series? Do you jot down new slang-expressions whenever you come across them? Trying to use English like it is actually spoken, is much better than reciting formal phrases form a textbook! But sometimes we are so enthusiastic in our pursuit of ‘natural’ sounding English, we over do it. Some expressions might help you sound fluent, but they might also be inappropriate in certain settings, like when you are at work.  Have a look at the following inappropriate phrases and what you can replace them with: 

Feel me?’ and ‘You dig?’ are common ways to ask,‘do you understand what I said?’ when English-speakers are with close friends. It is too informal to use at work, even if you are speaking to employees or people you manage. Good alternatives are: ‘Is that clear?’ and ‘Does that make sense?’ 

‘Gotcha,’ can mean ‘I have understood what you said’. It is not rude or disrespectful but it might cause offence if you are speaking to a manager or employer. ‘Got it,’ is a safer alternative.  

‘That’s a bummer,’ is used to show disappointment. While you can say,‘It’s a bummer you didn’t get that promotion,’ to your friend, saying,‘It’s a bummer you didn’t give me that promotion,’ to your boss, could get you into trouble. ‘That’s too bad,’ and,‘That’s quite a disappointment,’ are better alternatives. 

‘My bad,’ means you made a mistake and you admit that you are in the wrong. Most professional environments will require you to speak about mistakes in a much more formal way. ‘I’m sorry,’ is a good place to start. And,‘I recognize my mistake’ or,‘That won’t happen again,’ are good add-ons.  

‘No biggie,’ ‘no sweat’ and,‘no prob,’ communicate that your apology has been accepted. Though commonly used in adult social circles, these phrases could sound childish at work. Try,‘No problem,’ ‘Please don’t worry about it,’ or,‘No need to apologize’.  

‘What’s up with____,’ is a way to ask‘What’s going on with_____’ and it is too informal to use when checking for updates on a work-project. ‘Update me on____,’and ‘Any news on____,’ are more appropriate.  

‘Sick,’ communicates enthusiasm and approval. ‘Those are sick shoes – I love them,’ is fine to say to a friend. But,‘This project is amazing’ and Fantastic idea,’are better adjectives for work. 

Vocabulary in context: 

Mary is speaking to her employer, Adnan, about a fictional subcontractor, Build2. Notice that they are using formal expressions: 

Mary: Good morning, Adnan. I’m so sorry I’m late, it won’t happen again. There is a huge traffic jam in front of our office, did you see?

Adnan: No problem, Mary, I had the same problem myself. Any news on your contract negotiations with Build2? 

Mary: Unfortunately not. I’m so sorry, Adnan, I know you were looking to have the marketing team start promoting soon. 

Adnan: No need to apologize, I understand that Build2 can be hard to work with. But we do need to push them a little. We can’t start marketing until we know what the timeframe for this project will look like. Does that make sense? 

Mary: Got it. I’ll get on the phone with them right now and see if I can get things sorted.  

Adnan: Fantastic, thank you.

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