Terrifying workplace statements


I chuckled as I came across a material that featured a collection of terrifying phrases you hope never to hear in the workplace. I have taken the liberty of embellishing and adding some of my own.

1. “The executive team has been meeting all morning, and it doesn’t seem good!”

The fear of the unknown can be genuinely unsettling. Few things generate more anxiety at work than sensing that you’re out of the loop on a significant issue and anxiously awaiting the impending news.

2. “Let me introduce you to your new boss!”

You’re suddenly confronted with a new boss without involvement in the selection process; it becomes a double whammy of uncertainty and apprehension.

3. “How much did you have to drink at the office party?”

Whether it›s the aftermath of a client lunch, a holiday party, or any work-related event involving alcohol, the sinking feeling of realizing your behavior may have been misinterpreted as intoxication can be mortifying. It may even be worse if you hadn›t consumed any alcohol at all, leaving you bewildered as to what led others to think you were drunk.

4. “This might seem like bad news. But, it’s really good news.”

Poorly skilled managers have a knack for disguising bad news as something positive. However, deep down, we know that bad news is still bad news, and the uncertainty surrounding it can be terrifying.

5. “We’ll be making some changes to our remote work policy.”

This revelation strikes a chord for many in the wake of the pandemic. It represents a double blow—potentially disrupting the comfortable work-from-home arrangement that has become the norm and the realization that you had no say in the decision-making process.

6. “See me.” Says the boss or somebody higher than your boss.

It’s like hearing the words: “Go to the principal’s office.” Until you have figured out what’s going on, this is a heart-stopping panic statement you would not like to hear.

7. “The board members are here a day early.”

The pressure to make a favorable impression on short notice can be intimidating. Whether it’s the unexpected arrival of board members or potential clients, encountering important individuals before you’re fully prepared can be nerve-wracking.

8. “Funny, the CEO is getting all hyped up with technology, especially artificial intelligence.

The mention of the CEO’s sudden interest in technology, automation, enterprise systems, and artificial intelligence may ignite fears of potential people replacements, leading to concerns about job security.

9. «Be honest. You›re not happy here, are you?»

Hearing these words, especially from a boss, is rarely a positive sign. It implies that either your lack of engagement with your work has been noticed, or your boss wants you to leave, hoping you’ll take the initiative.

10. “We’ll announce the details of the layoffs next week.”

What’s worse than receiving bad news at work is hearing a small piece of bad news with the promise of more to come. It’s often better to have all the information at once rather than prolong the anxiety.

11. “Um... How long did it take you to finish that project?”

When someone questions your productivity with this kind of statement, it’s clear that doubts are being raised. The hesitating “um” at the beginning hints that you may be in danger of being replaced or that your work is simply undervalued.

12. “Were you aware that our policy prohibits that?”

You knew all along that what you did was prohibited, but you may have thought that seeking forgiveness later would be easier than asking for permission. Now, you’re discovering that forgiveness isn’t as simple as you anticipated.

13. “Oh, you didn’t get that bonus?”

In organizations with limited transparency regarding compensation, there is the fear of colleagues receiving raises or bonuses. At the same time, you are left out —or the realization that others earn more for the same job—can create a sense of frustration, unease, anxiety, and even anger.

14. “You’re lucky to have a job here!”

This one is a bummer. If your boss implies that you’re fortunate to have a job, it suggests that they don’t believe the company is not worthy of having you. If you value your self-worth, it may be time to contemplate moving on.

Let me add one more:

15. “You’re lucky I did not fire you.”

In many cases, the good ones will say, “You don’t have to because I QUIT!”

The workplace can be a chilling environment where these daunting phrases lurk in the shadows, waiting to unsettle even the bravest professionals. Some of these statements merely reveal the need to have leaders trained in leadership skills so they can be less of a horror and more of inspiration and encouragement.


(Francis Kong’s podcast “Inspiring Excellence” is now available on Spotify, Apple, Google, or other podcast streaming platforms.)

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