Resource Centre Career Development Phrases that are Killing Your Chances for a Promotion

Phrases that are Killing Your Chances for a Promotion

phrases killing your promotion

Words you say in the workplace matter more than you think. At any given time, something you say might open doors for you or fasten the lock on the closed doors. Even when you don’t mean it, something you say can be misconstrued by people who matter in your career path. 

Sometimes it’s phrases that seem simple and ‘harmless’ that do most harm. You have to be careful to get your point across without being negative, offensive or self-serving.

Here are some phrases that are killing your chances of a promotion that you must steer clear from. 

phrases killing chances promotion


Transparency is good in any relationship and interaction. However, simply saying sorry won’t cut it in the workplace. When apologizing for something follow up with a solution. Something like; “I dropped the ball, but this is what I am doing to fix it.” 


How do you feel when you ask a question and someone starts with “..honestly…”? It feels like this person is about to give a negative opinion about the subject matter. Now imagine that in the workplace. It can create the impression that you are criticizing someone else and like you are stepping on others to make yourself look good. Just tell your truth without announcing that it is the truth.  

“I Think”

Any time you use the phrase “I Think” you immediately begin to lose credibility, especially if you are not an expert in the subject matter. Instead, say something like, “ Based on my experience, I would recommend….,” “Based on market research…,” It shows that you are not just saying something for the sake of saying and you actually have a verifiable backup. If you are aiming for a higher position, you will not get there on frivolous statements.

“Yes, But”

Starting a response with “Yes, but” is always combative. It puts the listener on the defensive mode There is nothing wrong with asking for clarification or preempting issues that might arise. The word ‘but’ comes with a negative connotation and seem like you are challenging the person you are talking to. Just avoid the phrase completely. Try another approach when you want to bring certain issue to attention. For instance, you can say, “I understand your point of view. Here are issues that may arise and this is how we can approach a solution.”


The word ‘just’ can be quite loaded. It might indicate lack of importance or value in something or someone. For instance a statement like,”He is just an intern” diminishes your confidence in the person in question and gives a indication that that’s all the person is and they have nothing more to offer. For example when as a manager you tell your direct report,”I just want this completed by COB.” This takes a heavily negative approach that might be interpreted wrong.

Instead, the manager can say something like;”Be sure to complete this task by COB.” That is simple and direct.

Mind What You Say

While there is no manual or a glossary of ‘things not to say’, you need to be careful how you carry yourself in the workplace. Apply general common sense, emotional intelligence and your knowledge of the office culture to what you say and how you say. This is obviously something you need to practice and learn over time. Good news is the more you become aware of it and practice to be tactical, the better you become and more doors open for you.

Doreen Mueke
Doreen is the Senior Content Marketer at Ringier One Africa Media.
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