Three Things You Should Never Say in a Business Meeting

Three Things You Should Never Say in a Business Meeting

We’ve all witnessed it: A colleague says something inappropriate in a meeting and at least several people hear it. Then a tense silence sets in. Perhaps the person in question is a friend, or it may even have been you. No matter who it was, the worst part is knowing the statement cannot be taken back. The best way to mitigate these kinds of occurrences in the future is, of course, not to have them happen in the first place.

But we all get frustrated or upset, even at work. What’s OK to say and what isn’t? We’ve compiled a few of the most commonly blurted-out meeting ‘no-no’s to help avoid embarrassment – or worse, job-related consequences – during meetings.

Not my job

This one is tempting to say, especially when you’re overextended and exhausted – and the work keeps piling on. But telling a group of colleagues (or even your boss) that whatever new task is being asked of you is above your pay grade is likely to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Nobody has any illusions that work is done for fun, but to bring up the core reason everyone goes to a job – money – is a bit, well, gauche. It undermines your perceived dedication to the work, the company and/or the client in discussion, and makes it seem as though you measure out every bit of effort you undertake in the office so that you’re never willing to do more than what you’re paid for. In short, you come across as someone others can’t truly rely on.

If you find yourself about to use this response or some version of it and you simply cannot think of anything positive to say, your best bet is to say nothing in the moment. Later on, you can evaluate whether you really have time for the extra work, etc., and need to talk to your boss, but try to remember that bringing up the matter of your salary is neither going to solve any problems or inspire confidence in you.

Off-color jokes and political opinions

It’s great to feel comfortable with your coworkers, but risking offending someone by sharing politically incorrect, obscene or otherwise inappropriate bits of humor or attempting to build camaraderie by bashing a public figure are just bad ideas.

Matters of sex, gender, race, and politics are not the best vehicles to use for letting your colleagues know you’re easygoing and fun-loving. People don’t generally share everything with their officemates, so you might not know your colleagues or their opinions and beliefs as well as you think you do.

If you think you’ve found safe and fertile comedic ground in insulting or bad-mouthing a generally unpopular politician or political move, don’t. Many people keep their political affiliations and convictions private, and you have no way of knowing which coworkers support which politicians or pieces of legislation. Thus, you don’t know whether slamming someone in the public eye will win you ‘fun’ points or make you persona non grata. So instead of using your next meeting to make that ‘funny’ joke or comment you were saving for a big audience, just don’t. It’s not worth it.


When you were a teenager, the thought of one of your teachers dropping an f-bomb in class probably seemed really cool. Now that you’re an adult, though, you’d probably be less than impressed if you ran into your ninth-grade physics instructor screaming obscenities in public. Fair or not, the same holds true for colleagues and their perceptions of someone in their office using expletives in a professional setting.

No matter how frustrated you get at work, try to refrain from using non-PG language, particularly during meetings. If, in the heat of the moment, you truly cannot think of a polite substitute for whatever you wanted to say, stay silent. Spouting off may momentarily relieve tension, but it will cost you in the long run. In addition to finding your language offensive, colleagues and managers who overhear you let loose with four-letter words may also begin to perceive you as being out of control or having anger-management issues. That’s not a path to career advancement.


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