Bob Goldman
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I really shouldn't write this column.

I really shouldn't write anything. Or say anything. And neither should you.

Expressing yourself can land you in the express lane to unemployment. Or, as Steve Tobak so eloquently puts it in "9 Sentences That Could Ruin Your Career," a recent article on Inc.com, "More people shoot themselves in the foot, get fired, or destroy promising careers by opening their big fat mouths than in any other way. And that goes for communication of any kind: face-to-face, phone, email, text, you name it."

Fortunately, Tobak's field guide to career-killing sentences provides an advanced warning system that could save you from a foot-in-the-mouth moment that ends up as a foot-out-the-door moment.

For example, consider this popular conversation starter -- "I probably shouldn't be telling you this, but ..." While you may consider this a valid introduction to an innocent incident report, the "this" that follows may indeed lead you into uncharted, and unemployed, territories. As Tobak says, and I hope it didn't get him fired, "almost anything you say will offend someone by crossing some amorphous boundary of political correctness."

Does this mean you have to stop gossiping? Heaven forbid. Considering the salary you earn, the only reason to go into work is for the gossip. But be sure to preface your nasty nuggets of scandal in a way that absolves you from blame. Like, "I was really shocked when you sent me that email about the affair between the boss and that floozy in IT."

When your colleague insists she never sent the email, you reply with a heartfelt assurance that you "won't tell a living soul." Your workmate will be so flummoxed at the thought of the blame that could come crashing down on her, she'll never remember that she really didn't send that email. And she'll be so appreciative of your willingness to hide her identity, she certainly won't go pointing fingers at y-o-u.

"I think the boss is a jerk" is another sentence to avoid -- especially if the boss is a jerk. Instead, get your message across with reverse psychology. Say, "I think the boss is a genius." When your colleagues look at you as if you were crazy, you immediately challenge them, "So you think the boss is a stupid jerk who couldn't manage his way out of a paper bag filled with extruded meat by-product?"

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Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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