10 Career Limiting Phrases You Should Avoid At Work In Nigeria

10 Career Limiting Phrases You Should Avoid At Work In Nigeria

Words are like bullets; you don’t take them back after they have been said. No matter what you do afterward, it will be efforts to repair damages at best. At work, some words are referred to as career limiting phrases.

The funny part is that these words seem innocent at the face level and it is even accepted is social cycles. In business and work environment, they could be misunderstood and that will be too bad for you.

That a word or phrase is almost right doesn’t make it right. That is the point. That you are alright with that phrase doesn’t mean everybody should be alright with it.

Related: 6 toxic beliefs that will ruin your career in Nigeria

In businesses, the emphasis is on the collective or the team and not on the individual. It is to this end that we tell you to avoid these career limiting phrases.

More so, words define us and go a long way towards establishing our leadership qualities. If you will be seen and regarded as a leader in any sector of the business community, you have to use your words carefully.

You have to use words that captivate, inspire, and motivates when addressing an audience. It doesn’t matter if your audience is just one man or 5000 people.

Related: 7 important tips on having a great and happy career in Nigeria

Some words and phrases are career limiting phrases because they mess up your professional image and limit your opportunities for promotion.

Most times, they sound harmless but to your audience, it is a sign of your unprofessionalism. Work on it by using the right words.

Wherever you work, employees are expected to portray a positive attitude, collaborative spirit, proactive behavior and professional demeanor. And these words should not come off your tongue if you want to go far in your career because they are career limiting phrases.

Career Limiting Phrases You Should Avoid at Work

career limiting phrases

  1. “You guys.”

You should know that the business environment is not a beer parlor or clubhouse. “You guys” is one the career-limiting phrases in Nigeria. It is grossly inappropriate to refer to your boss, clients, co-workers, and teammates as “you guys”.

Avoid it because it bruises your professional image badly. It is better you use the following terms; “your team”, “your organization”, “you” or something related to that.

2. “That’s not my problem”, “That’s not my job”,  “I don’t get paid enough for this.”

The above phrases piss people off and carry an air of insolence and lack of consideration around you. You cannot begin to feel the disappointment and anger that well up in you if you receive these replies.

You could even tell yourself that you will not go to that colleague for help again. In some extreme situations, you will begin to plot vengeance.

In your best interest, avoid the above phrases as much as possible because it can come back to bite you. They are career limiting phrases.

3. “No problem.” As a response to “Thank You.”

No matter how innocent this response sounds after helping out a co-worker, you should know that it negates the person’s appreciation. It is supposed to the opposite but sometimes it doesn’t and it makes someone feel like a fool. It is better to respond with you are welcome.

4. “I think…”

When you say “I think”, it portrays an air of indecision and lack of precision. It doesn’t portray you as confident.  You better start using phrases like I believe…” “I know…” or “I am confident”. They give you authority.

Saying “I think”, risks making you sound unsure and insecure about the message. On the other hand, the other phrases give you an air of assertiveness and certainty when dealing with clients and colleagues.

5. “It’s not fair.”

Saying that “it’s not fair” is one of the career-limiting phrases that we use every time. You have to suck certain things up and bid your time and then improve on why you were overlooked in the first place.

What you need to do is to document your facts, build a case and present an intelligent argument to someone or a group of people who can help.

6. “I’ll try.”

I will try is also one of the career-limiting phrases. When you use it, you are passing a message of a high level of improbability than probability. Instead of saying I will try, please just say you will if you are going to do it. The difference between the two is enormous.

7. “My job stinks,” or “I hate this company.”

The above phrases even if they were made unconsciously can do a lot of things to you. It bruises your professional reputation. It can also get you fired.

If you really have any complaints against your employers, you should take it up with them through the proper channels and an understanding will be reached eventually.

8. “But we’ve always done it that way.”

One thing you should know is that this is the era of innovation. People and organizations seek creative and innovative thinkers. When you make the above comment, it portrays you as someone who is still stuck in the past, rigid and close-minded.

How about you become open and tell them how interesting the idea is. Something like, “wow, that is a great and interesting idea. How would it work?” That shows you are really open to it.

9. “That’s impossible” or “There’s nothing I can do.”

When you say that it is impossible, it could mean that you have exhausted all the possible options or you are really not that creative.

Negative words portray a pessimistic, passive, even hopeless outlook; an approach seldom valued in the workplace. Employers notice, recognize and promote a can-do attitude.

Despite the not so good circumstances, use your words to show what you can contribute to the situation.

“I’ll gladly check on it again,” “Let’s discuss what’s possible under these circumstances,” or, “Some of the things I can do are…” – these are better, more positive responses. These will definitely help everybody more.

10. “I don’t have time for this now,”  “I’m too busy.”

No matter how busy you are, try to have a polite way of conveying that message other than throwing it straight to their faces.

Show some empathy with statements like “I’d be happy to discuss this with you after my morning meetings. May I stop by your office around 1 pm?”


These are common phrases that might be difficult to eliminate completely from your everyday conversations—but the trick is to gain awareness of the language you’re using. You can do better than this.