NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- You may not always agree with your boss but the office is never a place to work out your issues with authority figures. Unless you work for your family business, your boss is not a parent or a sibling. She is the person who makes decisions about your raises, promotions, and professional development. She is also the person who may serve as a reference when you are in a job search or apply to grad school. Leave family issues at home where they belong and know when you have crossed the line.
Also recognize that your boss may have her own issues and challenges. These you will experience firsthand when you find yourself, on occasion, in the line of fire. No one among us is perfect. She may be fearful of losing her job or see you as the competition. She may also bring personal baggage to the office that will find a way to surface in her management style -- and that is heightened in her role as a manager and with you, in particular, as her employee. So, as her employee you do have the power to hit a raw nerve every so often when you say or do something dumb or unwelcome.
There are lots of ways that we can harm a relationship with our boss through our actions and words. Here are 10 examples of what not to say or do and why. And remember, it is often the "why" where we learn the most:
10. "Wow, you're as old as my parents."
Your boss is probably much older than you so, go ahead and rub it in -- put your foot in your mouth by stating the obvious. And what is your point? Besides suggesting that your boss is out of touch with current trends and is basically a dinosaur. Far too many companies are obsessed with youth. Most bosses as they age would prefer not to be reminded that they have fewer years left to be viewed as valuable.
9. "I'm busy right now. You need to wait. Or do you want me to stop what I am doing?"
Your boss does not want to be in the position to prioritize your work. Nor does she want to be treated like she is working for you. It may be unspoken but when you establish boundaries unnecessarily, she will form the following impression which is virtually impossible to reverse: "Do I have to always think for you?" Ouch!
8. "You're wrong."
It is okay to confront your boss respectfully in a group meeting with the rest of the team or in private. A good boss encourages pushback. But in front of clients the dysfunction is embarrassing, particularly for you. Clients have a need to believe that they have made the right choice in hiring your company. Besides suggesting that the team is not working together seamlessly it looks like you are the problem by this very visible act of insubordination.
When you make a commitment that you know will be impossible to meet, you either make it happen or you let others down. Never make a promise you cannot fulfill even if it involves staying late or working on a weekend. You lose credibility when you fail to produce on time and as promised. Like dominoes, your delinquency sets off a chain reaction. If other colleagues rely on your work to finish their own, you prevent them from fulfilling their commitments and they look bad, too.
6. "That's not fair."
You are right. It may be unfair. But when you work for someone else they have the right to make decisions that you don't agree with. It is their sandbox. Unless the decision exposes you to danger or has the potential to compromise the integrity of the company or your reputation, fairness is not relevant. Tough luck.
5. "Not my fault."
Man up. If you are part of a team, then you are all responsible for the outcome even if other members are not pulling their weight. Good bosses can see who is working and who is not. When you call attention to your contributions or to complain about a colleague, unless you are asked, you will look needy by your boss and like an untrustworthy jerk by your peers.
When your boss makes a request, the expectation will be that you comply. You are paid to perform and to do so with enthusiasm. You can certainly ask for clarification or challenge the request if you believe there may be a better option. But do it armed with enough information to justify your point of view.
3. "I quit."
And I am going to a competitor, and I am giving you less than two weeks notice. This is a double- or triple-whammy. Your career DNA is permanently documented online. Every decision you make will be readily available for future employers to access. If you are a valued employee, then you owe your boss the courtesy of an explanation and a reasonable notification period -- two weeks at a minimum. I can guarantee that your next job will not be your last. Your boss will be called on to serve as a reference at some point in the future. Always leave on good terms; express gratitude and never complain. It is too late for that. Emphasize all that you learned, how difficult this decision was, and that the new opportunity was too important to pass up.
2. "I'm pregnant."
I know it is not politically correct. But if your team is already short staffed and overworked, your boss may feel like you have abandoned him. He may be genuinely happy for your good fortune but concerned about what this event will mean for him and for the rest of the team in terms of coverage and extra hours. This reaction is not gender specific. I have counseled many women executives who have told me in private that they avoid hiring women of child bearing age for the reasons stated above. While this may be wrong, it is still the reality in many workplaces. So, in announcing your pregnancy, do so with caution and sensitivity, and with some advance thought on who will cover for you while you are away on maternity leave.
1. "I'm bored."
Your boss wants to know that you are productive and motivated. If they are hard at work and see that you are not, they will wonder why they are paying you and whether the return on their investment is sufficient. They also don't want to be burdened by having to figure everything out for their employees. They have enough on their plates as it is without the added responsibility for always having to explain, decipher, and entertain you.
Roy Cohen is a career coach and the author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide: Success Secrets of a Career Coach, the definitive book on building a career on Wall Street.