Everyone knows when they have accidentally stumbled into a remove-foot-from-mouth situation. Regardless of your intention, everyone has fumbled in their otherwise professional state. Most of the time, these are fixable with an apology, quick, witty follow-up or some well-timed distance. However, in certain instances, your day-to-day mannerisms, your habits or your conversations tactics can be subtly insulting to your manager. This can be a difficult fact to wrestle with and manage, considering everyone has different working styles, preferences and mentalities about what defines professionalism.
“While we should all be diplomatic, respectful and thoughtful when dealing with others, sometimes we say things we should not have said or that hit a sensitivity that we did not foresee,” career expert Jill Tipograph explains. “Being sensitive to that and prepared to acknowledge our blunder is crucial to being respected by your manager, or anyone who might feel wronged”
So what are some ways you might be offensive without realizing it? Here, career experts share what to think twice about the next time you have a meeting with your boss:
You talk politics
Especially given the current jarring and unpredictable political climate, discussing the latest updates from the White House will inevitably come up in the office. However, business coach Christine Argo explains bringing up your opinion is potentially a landmine for conversations. When this happens, you will either be met with silence — or prompted to begin a debate. Even if your manager isn’t part of the initial discussion, if they overhear the argument or learn of it later, they could find it respectful of productivity. And, potentially even more harmful to your career, they could be on the opposite side of your views.
“Your boss will most likely recognize that debating politics at work is not appropriate, but your point of view may easily insult them and leave them less than enthused about working more closely with you on special projects,” Argo warns. “Unless you work in an environment where everyone’s political beliefs are clear, save your point of view for after work.”
You correct them
Even if you directly report to the CEO of your company, he or she is bound to make a mistake (or many) here and there. But should you call them out? Negative. As workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim explains, even if you are an expert in your field, routinely correcting someone who signs your paycheck is a no-no. Considering no one is perfect and no one has all of the answers, it is better to acknowledge any mishaps privately, instead of embarrassing your manager in front of the team.
“Use care with your tone and support any suggestions by explaining how you’ve seen the idea work well in other instances,” she continues.
You are always late
While some people find it second-nature to map out the time it will take them to reach point B from point A, others often underestimate and end up arriving too late, too much of the time. Your friends and your partner might nod along and accept your tardiness as a character flaw and love you anyway, but your manager is likely secretly stewing each and every time you mutter an “I’m sorry. Traffic was bad!”
Argo says without using words when you’re late, you send the message that your time is more valuable than anyone else’s. “This is not the message you want to be sending to your boss,” she continues. “Show up on time, or better yet a few minutes early. It may just give you time to chat with your boss about non-work things, which always builds good report.”
You interrupt them
When your mother taught you to mind your P’s and Q’s toward your grandmother, teacher and your best friend’s parents, they probably nudged you when you spoke out of a turn. Part of becoming successful is learning how to not only express your expertise and talent but take time to genuinely listen to others. While you might be in a rush to prove your smarts to your manager, if you talk over your boss (or ahem, anyone), they will easily become annoyed.
“Give your boss the respect he deserves and wait for him to finish speaking before sharing your idea. When you show respect to others, you are more likely to receive it in return,” Hakim explains.
You throw meetings off track
Having a solid sense of humor can come in handy after a stressful client meeting, when your colleague is recovering from a hangover or when the office is in desperate need of a belly laugh. Being pegged as the office clown isn’t necessarily a bad hat to wear, but Argo explains it is important to understand when your jokes are welcome, and when they are disruptive to meeting goals. When a boss recognizes you routinely throw meetings off their agenda — they will be less likely to invite you to participate.
“It demonstrates you don’t value their time or position and could leave them frustrated with your job performance,” Argo says. “Before you start singing a jingle during a meeting, ask yourself ‘is this the time for this?’ Breaking the tension is one thing, but completely diverting the meeting is disrespectful.”
You make assumptions about their life.
Though some managers are open about every last detail of their life — from their potty-training toddler to the fight they had with their spouse — others choose to be mum about anything unrelated to work. If you happen to work with a boss in the later crowd, asking questions that might make them feel uncomfortable or making assumptions based off of impressions will send you packing up your desk … ASAP.
“If your boss keeps their cards close to their chest, just don’t even go there. Avoid making comments that infer things about your boss’ life and lifestyle,” Argo recommends. “Or better yet, get to that meeting early and strike up a conversation, you might find out something you didn’t know.”