According to Kuba Jewgieniew, “I can’t” is one of the most dangerous phrases one could use in one’s professional career. Bosses hire candidates on the belief that they are bright problem-solvers capable of tackling any project thrown at them. “I can’t,” even when you feel totally overwhelmed, may not send the signals you think it does. Here, we discuss why this phrase is so detrimental to your professional life and what you can do to avoid it.
What the Boss Hears
When you say “I can’t,” you acknowledge that you don’t feel confident about the prospects of your company or your project. It sends the signal to your boss that you’re clueless, or that you’ve given up. Either isn’t very appealing. It might also shift blame, as in “I can’t work with this person,” which implies that one or both of you is acting unprofessionally.
At Realty ONE Group, employees are expected to have passion and determination. That means working the problem over in your mind a bit before you respond. If you feel “I can’t” coming out, try instead to ask for more time to re-evaluate the situation. Especially if facts have changed.
“I can’t” is a gut reaction to fear at a base level. Imagine you are given an overwhelming task with a looming deadline, your natural instinct is to think there is no possible way that task will be completed on time. In these situations, avoid “I can’t” by re-prioritizing your tasks. Make some calls and send some emails to find out what can be shifted around that will allow you time to work. That way, “I can’t” becomes “I can” and everyone wins.