For young professionals in the workplace, we’re often overcome with insecurities, doubts, and general nervousness when we have to talk with superiors or prepare to speak at a big meeting. Even the words we choose to include in our emails betray our feelings of inferiority. Established professionals in the workplace tend to dislike some of the common phrases that today’s young professionals use, so as much as you can, avoid the below words in your emails and speech patterns.
Sorry | A lot of times, recent college graduates offer a quick half-hearted “sorry” where either a “thank you” or a deeper reflection is more appropriate. For example, if you’re asking someone higher up to advise on a project, or if you’re asking a clarifying question during training, say thank you instead of sorry. You’ll appear more confident, and the person who’s helping you will feel more appreciated for helping you. Or, if you’ve actually done something wrong, a quick “sorry” doesn’t convey the adequate level of sincerity for your mistake. Take the time to be contrite in your allocution and offer to make amends.
I think | Starting a statement with “I think” implies a lack of confidence in what you’re about to say. By qualifying a statement with “I think,” you’re robbing it of the punch of a stand-alone statement. Offering a simple statement makes it a fact, but prefacing it with “I think” makes it an unbacked opinion. You’ll be taken more seriously if you stop opening your input with “I think.”
Literally | This word is more of a pet peeve of working adults than anything. Merriam Webster has changed the definition of the word “literally” to reflect its changing use in common vernacular, so now, the dictionary entry includes definitions meaning both “exactly” and “the opposite of exactly.” Since millennials are infamous for sprinkling the work throughout their speech to the point of total meaninglessness, it rubs older workers the wrong way. If you want to be taken seriously, avoid including this word in your work vocabulary.
Why? | For young people, this word is as vanilla as they come, but older adults may take this one-word question as an act of aggression and you challenging their authority. Rather than being so blunt, offer more context to your question and be as specific as possible. For example, you may be asking about the necessity of one step in a procedure, or you may be asking whether a job may be outside the scope of your job title. When asking “why,” make it easy for the person to answer your question by providing them with the auxiliary information they need to address your concern.