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14 Things to Never Say to an Office Ninja

Most people know to never scream, “Fire!” in a crowded movie theatre. And, we’re all well aware that telling our boss we hate his new haircut isn’t exactly a surefire way to get on his good side.

But, unfortunately, not everybody’s as in-tune with proper communication in the office. Yep, there are still those people out there who seem to have no filter—they immediately spout out what comes to mind without so much as a second thought.

Of course, let’s give the benefit of the doubt here. There are some workplace communication faux pas that are completely innocent or accidental. In fact, people might have no idea that what they’re saying rubs you the wrong way until you make it clear to them.

Well, Ninjas, that’s why we thought it’d be smart to pull together some of your biggest pet peeves when it comes to communication in the workplace. From the all-too-common to the unbelievably ridiculous, we asked you what you wished people would stop saying. And, your responses? We’re willing to bet you’ve heard at least one of these in the office before.

Oh, and yes, you have our permission to bookmark this and subtly send it to your boss and all of your co-workers.

1. “Are you overwhelmed yet?”

First things first, asking if someone is overwhelmed isn’t particularly helpful or beneficial. A friendly, “Can I help you out with anything?” usually goes over better. Plus, the “yet” implies there’s even more work to come—whether you’re feeling overwhelmed already or not.

Why You Hate It

“Really? I’m an Office Ninja! You’ll never see me sweat!” — Kim C.L.

2. “You can handle that, right?”

There are two circumstances when this question is commonly used: when someone in your office is asking you to complete an incredibly simple task (making this a really insulting question), or when you’re being asked to do something that doesn’t at all fall in line with your typical tasks and duties. Either way, it drives us crazy.

Why You Hate It

“I had one of my old bosses ask me to make a copy of a document for him and he said, ‘You can handle that, right?’ I mentally flicked him in the forehead and politely said, ‘Of course.’” — Carrie Ann M.

3. “I’ll circle back around.”

There’s no doubt that this is one of those phrases that’s commonly used in the office—particularly in emails. And, we definitely understand the point it’s trying to convey. But, that doesn’t mean it grinds our gears any less!

Why You Hate It

“I hate ‘circle back around.’ I get the idea, but using that particular phrase just makes it seem like we’re ‘going in circles’ with a project or task, and that’s just inefficient.” — Nicole L.

4. “You’re just the secretary, but I’ll ask you anyway.”

Alright, we don’t even think this one requires an explanation. Didn’t it get your blood boiling just reading it?

Why You Hate It

“I think my biggest one where I completely lose it is when people say, ‘You’re just the secretary, but I’ll ask you anyway.’ Seriously?!?!” — Lori L.

5. “Worker bees.”

There probably isn’t anybody out there that actually likes being compared to an animal. And, calling someone a worker bee? Well, it’s a great way to immediately make them feel inferior. Maybe if you start making a buzzing noise around the office, people will get the hint.

Why You Hate It

“I hate when he (boss) calls employees ‘worker bees.’ I always correct him… guess he grew tired of it, so he doesn’t say it anymore.” — Cametta H.

6. “You’re at 50% capacity, so you can push through for the team.”

This is what happens when you work in more of a support role—carrying the team ultimately becomes your responsibility. Plus, when people in your office don’t have a solid grasp of what exactly you’re working on, it’s immediately assumed that it must be nothing. It’s hardly fair, but it happens.

Why You Hate It

“When people have no idea what I do and think I have time to support them, the classic ‘Well, you’re at 50% capacity,’ the smile emoticon, and the ‘Push through for the team!” AKA they need you to take even more responsibilities (cringe!).” — Jennifer M.

7. “That’s the way we’ve always done it!”

These are known as some of the most expensive words in business. Everybody should know by now that the past doesn’t necessarily predict the future—and just because you’ve always done it that way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way. We should constantly be seeking growth and improvement—not a stagnant routine.

Why You Hate It

“A phrase that drives me absolutely crazy is, ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it!’ That is like nails on a chalkboard to me! Just because that is the way we’ve always done it does not mean that is the most effective or efficient way to do it.” — Denise S.

8. “You’ll be here, right?”

Here’s another thing that’s automatically assumed of people who work in support positions—they’ll always be there, no matter what. And, while it’s nice to feel needed every now and then, you’re still entitled to your lunch break or occasional vacation day.

Why You Hate It

“’You’ll be here, right?’ That means during lunch when the rest are out, or after hours, or while they’re on semester break. It signals that because I’m so reliable, I’m not expected to take a day off.” — Carolyn M.

9. “Why is the air conditioner/heater making so much noise?”

You’re the Office Ninja, not the maintenance person. The best thing to do is just take it with a grain of salt and assume it’s a compliment—the people in your office really think you have an answer for everything.

Why You Hate It

“‘Why is the air conditioner/heater making so much noise?’ Oh, I don’t know, let me climb on the roof to find out for you!” — Carolyn M.

10. “The sun is too bright in my office.”

One of the things that frustrates us the most? When people come to us with a problem that they could easily resolve themselves.

Why You Hate It

“’The sun is too bright in my office!’ Uhhh, close your blinds, perhaps? I don’t have windows but I’m pretty sure that’s their purpose: to block the afternoon sun.” — Carolyn M.

11. “Do I have to leave during the fire drill?”

This is an office, not an elementary school. You’d think adults would know the answer to this question by now. But, no. As the Office Ninja (and apparently the resident safety expert), you’re left to prod everybody out of their seats.

Why You Hate It

“’Do I have to leave during the fire drill?’ Last time, it was not a drill and they were still asking, in spite of smoke.” — Carolyn M.

12. “I know you can’t help me, but…”

It’s never a good communication strategy to shoot down your idea or request before you even start. Plus, if you already assume that your request will be turned down, why even bother making it at all?

Why You Hate It

“‘I know you can’t help me but…’ Ugh, first, you don’t know I can’t help you. And, secondly, why are you asking me?” — Tana K.

13. “Long story short…”

Whenever anybody leads with this, you pretty much know to buckle up your seatbelt and prepare for the long version of the story—despite their best intentions.

Why You Hate It

“’Long story short’ when someone needs assistance… but, it’s always far from short.” — Joolz A.

14. “I know you’re busy, but could you…”

This is one we know that Ninjas hear a lot—especially since you’re pretty much always busy! Having someone add more to your plate, even when they’ve already recognized it’s completely full? Well, it’s enough to frustrate anyone!

There you have it, Ninjas. The 14 things you most hate hearing in the office. Chances are, you’ll never completely stop people from saying these to you. But, at the very least, it helps to know you’re not alone with all of those pesky pet peeves, right?

Did we miss any phrases or questions that majorly get under your skin? Let us know what drives you crazy!


  1. I couldn’t even finish the article it got me so mad ughh (alright I read it all now…. I’ve been almost in every point of the list)

  2. My all time favorite “I have another job for you….”

  3. i can’t stand it when it is asked” can you do me a favor, Please and Thank you ” before i can even answer yes or no

  4. By far, the comment I find most irksome is, “Could you do me a favor and…..” (fill in the blank). No, it’s not a favor, it’s my job, and I’m happy to be of assistance. I don’t know why “do me a favor” drives me so batty, but there it is.

    1. I know why that comment drives me batty, Jules. Often it will be something not quite part of MY job OR because the person asking feels this Is something a little beneath them, or as my boss would say, “not of my pay scale.” Usually it’s not a big deal, but the rather patronizing or condescending way of asking is definitely irritating.

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