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See no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil. Bad managers love to hear good news, leaders thrive on adversity, contradiction and criticism, but some bosses don’t know their right foot from their left ear.

Sure, there are things a lot of us would prefer not to hear. But sometimes things are just unavoidable. We are told that honesty is the best policy, but what happens when honesty goes wrong?

Here are some examples of comments that might piss your boss off, together with some suggestions on how to finesse your way out of such situations and crawl back into favour.

One: “Honey, I shrunk the Big Data…!”

This is a really difficult one. On the one hand your boss might take the news badly and run around like Chicken Licken for days on end lamenting the ‘fact’ that the sky has just fallen in. On the other hand, you might have a sensible, intelligent and sane boss, in which case you might like to follow it up with a “shall I stick it back in the spin dryer and give it another whirl?”

Two: “Isn’t it your bedtime already?”

No, no and no! This is so wrong, and on so many levels. First, avoid a question that ends with an ‘already’, this is far too formal for office banter. Next, consider the time. If it’s before 21:00 it is really not the moment to start asking these sorts of questions. Save this type of question for the regular night out with the project team or for anonymous SMSs.

Three: “Yes, your bum does look big in that 1k USD suit…”

Nobody likes being told that they have spent ‘loadsa’ money on sharp ‘schmutter’ that doesn’t exactly flatter, especially when it comes to naturally portly or big boned types. One way out of this difficult situation, if you really want a way out of this difficult situation, is to add a quick “sorry, only joking, you don’t look even half as bad as me dear old granddad”.

Four: “What did your last slave die of?”

Say you were busily serving tea in the Oval Office and President Obama asked you to pour some more milk into his cup, this would not be the phrase to use under any circumstances if this happened. In other circumstances it might be perfectly acceptable. Just imagine that instead of Obama it was Uncle Joe Biden who was asking. Then you would possibly be right to use that phrase, and would be free to follow it up with a “and who gave you permission to use the office of the POTUS to entertain your mates, huh?”

Five: “My Mum won’t be happy with this… and you know what that means”

Yes, he gets it, its blackmail, and he won’t like it. He won’t like the thought of not getting any… Well, you know what I mean. No need to spell out these sorts of things, is there, especially before the nine o’clock watershed. But, if this just slipped out accidentally then the best way of retracting it is to deny that you ever said it in the first place. Yes, I know this is not very ethical, but it’s the height of modern day ‘professionalism’.

Six: “You run like a girl…”

Your boss may behave like a highly socialised two year old, but the use of gender specific insults is a definite ‘no, no’. Of course there are exceptions. Your boss may be from a tribal ethnic minority and may have been named Runs Like Girl by his parents, so in that case it might be totally acceptable to use the name. But, it’s really best to ask first, just to be on the safe side.

Seven: “Okay, keep your hair on Mussolini, you’ll never sell any ice creams with an attitude like that!”

Dodgy one, under almost any conditions. There are however times when this might just work positively in your favour. For example, if the bald headed and rotund boss is a keen and nostalgic fascist sympathiser, one with a penchant for the old gelati celesti. In which case, you might want to follow it up with a rousingly jolly accusation such as “Fascist!” If that’s not the case or you are unsure, then it’s really best to avoid such language.

None of these expressions particularly bother me, but there are horses for courses, braces for races and boors for moors. If you are one of those charming ‘holier than thou’ thin-skinned puritans then you probably have a plethora of pet peeves of your own, in which case please join in the fun, and contribute your own ‘phrases I like to hate’, below.

Many thanks for reading.

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File under: Good Strat, Good Strategy, Martyn Richard Jones, Cambriano Energy, Iniciativa Consulting, Iniciativa para Data Warehouse, Tiki Taka Pro