Bad Career Advice: 20 Smart-Aleck Responses

Why let good manners and political correctness get in the way of saying what you really think at the office?

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Failure is not in your vocabulary

Situation: Your manager axed the project you spent a year working on.


Your Response: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that don't work." --Thomas Edison


You're too good for them

Situation: You got turned down for an IT job because you’re overqualified, which probably means they don’t want to pay you what you’re worth. 


Your Response: "Technology is dominated by those who manage what they do not understand.” --Murphy’s Law


You're forced to suffer fools

Situation: When your colleague won’t stop talking. 


Your Response: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” --Abraham Lincoln


Envy feels so good

Situation: An undeserving colleague just got promoted.


Your Response: “I would like to take you seriously, but to do so would be an affront to your intelligence.” --George Bernard Shaw


You messed up

Situation: It wasn’t your fault, but you created one big snafu and your boss is on the warpath.


Your Response: “Be nice to people on your way up because you meet them on your way down.” --Jimmy Durante


You're unstoppable

Situation: A 100-page report you wrote comes back with millions of questions and changes.


You: "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." --Winston Churchill


You get hit on

Situation: The creepy guy down the hall thinks it’s funny to call you Toots and doesn’t understand why you take offense. “Oh, I call everybody that,” he says, jostling your arm when you call him on it.

Your Response: “I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability.” --Oscar Wilde


Cooling a hot button

Situation: The nut job in the next cubicle is spouting off about the Apollo moon landings being faked by NASA.


Your Response: “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please." --Mark Twain


Not-so-little indiscretions

Situation: Your colleagues are in the thick of a gabfest about another colleague who may, or may not, be having an affair with the boss.


Your Response: “Some say our national pastime is baseball. Not me. It's gossip.” --Erma Bombeck


Someone has a hygiene problem

Situation: It seems like your colleague hasn't showered for a month.


Your Response: “Cleanliness becomes more important when godliness is unlikely.” --P. J. O’Rourke 


Your business partner is tech-challenged

Situation: She can’t figure out how to operate the new printer.  As soon as you become engrossed in your own work, she pokes her head out of her office and calls, “When you have a minute?”

Your Response: “A child of five could understand this. Fetch me a child of five.” -- Groucho Marx


Another yammering colleague

Situation: He walks into your office and the conversation gets sidetracked. He's having marriage problems (no sex). "I need to get back to work,” you say. He's still talking.

Your Response: “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” --Oscar Wilde


The boss's daughter

Situation: You couldn't NOT hire her, but she's a lamb working with a roomful of wolves. They're gonna eat her alive.

Your Response: "I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass." --Maya Angelou


You got unlucky, again

Situation: The brochure you prepared for your client is not what he expected.  Not what he asked for. He isn't going to pay for it. 

Your Response: “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, 'Where have I gone wrong?' Then a voice says to me, 'This is going to take more than one night.'” -- Charlie Brown


Bad clothing day

Situation: The company president tells you to update your wardrobe.


Your Response: "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." --Oscar Wilde


The green monster, again

Situation: Your best buddy at work calls to tell you she’s been promoted to the position you applied for.

Your Response: "Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little." –-Gore Vidal


Someone wants a raise

Situation: One of your employees tells you he’s been offered a job at another company, and wonders what you would advise.


Your Response: Follow your passion. Stay true to yourself. Never follow someone else’s path unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path. By all means. You should follow that.


Schadenfreude run amok

Situation: You and a friend are competing for business from the same company. You win the account.


Your Response: It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail. –-Gore Vidal


Vindication is the best revenge

Situation: The marketing strategy that you came up with and that nearly everyone in your company poo-poohed has succeeded brilliantly.

Your Response: There is no human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise. –-Gore Vidal


No raises this year

Situation: Your request for a tiny increase in salary got turned down, even though you helped plump up the bottom line. “We can't afford it,” says your boss. “It’s the economy.” But you know what her salary is--and her bonus.

Your Response: “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.” --Dorothy Parker 



Jennifer Jeanne Patterson is a freelance writer and author of 52 Fights. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and three children. Find her blog at Unplanned Cooking



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First Published September 28, 2011

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