12 things Australian bosses never want to hear

The power of the spoken word can play a significant role in the workplace.

It can influence a person’s mood, behaviour and drive. Positive language can hugely impact a business’ success.

We spoke to some bosses of Australian workplaces to find out their most hated phrases used by employees.

From “I can’t” to “I had a big weekend”, here are phrases you should never use in the office.

1. “It’ll take two weeks.”

- Ash Davies, Founder of Tablo

We’re disrupting a big industry, and while the way people publish books has barely changed in 100 years, we still have to be fast to ship new ideas. When we come up with an idea that will improve the writing experience or help authors connect with readers, the team’s standard response is “we can ship it in two weeks”. Our development plan is stacked with two week sprints. But here’s the catch, nothing really takes two weeks.

2. “It’s just a job.”

- Jodie Fox, Found of Shoes of Prey

I know that as a founder the connection I have to Shoes of Prey is unique. I know that roles and careers have facets that make them a means to an end, but I fundamentally believe that everything you do should be life enhancing, otherwise it’s a wasted opportunity. Passion breeds incredible insights and ideas. It’s about doing what you love, and being happy.

3. “I just can’t do that.”

- Sharon Zeev Poole, Director of Agent99 Public Relations


I think attitude and persistence is everything, particularly in the PR world. Whilst some things are mission impossible, I would rather hear, “Whilst that might be challenging, here is how I think we should do it!”. That’s a lot more positive and shows a can-do attitude, which is very much at the core of Agent99 PR’s values.

4. “How do I … ?”

- Jason Levin, Chief Ergonomic Officer of jason.l

It’s the easiest thing to do in the world. Ask the person next to you, ask your manager, ask your boss. Instead of taking the initiative, or taking a couple of minutes to think about how something is done. It is an inefficient use of the employee’s and managers time. We find this mostly happens in an open plan office. It’s far too easy for an employee to say “oh, how do I… find the price of this chair”, instead of thinking for themselves.

5. “I’ve emailed him a few times but he hasn’t responded” or “I don’t need to keep a diary – it’s all in my head!”

- Joel Montgomery, Managing Director of Affiniti

I hate these phrases because both generally aren’t true.

6. “I had such a big weekend” or “I’m struggling today”.

- Gen George, Founder and CEO of OneShift

When someone isn’t on board and putting 110% effort into the business it can get frustrating and you question their belief and emotional investment in the business.

7. “What happens if it doesn’t work?”

- Greg Taylor, Co-founder and CEO of Clipp.co

I really don’t like hearing that people are scared of failure. I employ people because I trust their judgement and believe they can and will make the right decision. This may not always be the case, but the most important part of making a mistake is learning from it so you can avoid the same mistake.

8. “You have a great company” or “You guys have a great vision”.

- Daniel Flynn, Co-founder and Managing Director of Thankyou Group

That is failure to me. We are a team, and I always would prefer to hear “we are a great company” or “we have a great vision” from everyone in the team. Team work makes the dream work, and at Thankyou never want to create an environment where there are the founders vs staff or the us vs them mentality.

9. “I’m confused.”

- Zach Johnson, CEO of Atmail.com

Atmail has gone to great lengths to develop an open and transparent culture with clear roles and responsibilities and well-defined areas of accountability. We endeavour to constantly improve towards this ideal and admittedly, we still have a ways to go. If someone on our team is confused about what’s expected of them or why we’re making a certain business decision, we aren’t upholding our own high standards and I’ve failed that employee.

10. “That won’t work.”

- Alec Lynch, founder and CEO of DesignCrowd

The truth is, you can’t know that it won’t work. Start-ups need people to be thinking “we can” or “it might work”. I would much prefer to hear “let’s test it” or “how can we make this work”.

11. “It’s impossible.”

- Nick Cloete, Founder and CEO of Kounta

Muhammad Ali explains why this phrase doesn’t bode well with many: “it’s just a big word thrown around by those who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.”

12. “I hope I do this well.”

- Alexandra Tselios, Founder of The Big Smoke

When someone says this, they are considering that they potentially may NOT complete their assigned task well. Hope shouldn’t be a thing in business. You do it and if it doesn’t work, you learn from it and do it again but better the next time. In my experience the people who have said to me “I hope I do this well, I don’t want to disappoint you” have been the people that have walked away mid-project because it got too overwhelming.