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4 Innocent Comments That Could Get You Fired

What’s the worst thing you could hear from a human resources representative at work? It’s not that your work is inadequate, or that your management style is ineffective. Nope, the very worst thing you can hear, without question, is that something you’ve done is inappropriate.

That’s because “inappropriate” is the only adjective that is likely to get you fired in a hurry.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between inappropriate comments and innocent compliments. Below are some of our favorite seemingly harmless statements that got people ejected from their cubicles and shoved onto the unemployment line.

1. “You look nice today.”
Stanley Bing’s workplace comedy/legal thriller feels like non-fiction to many readers. With management training programs advocating zero comments about workers’ personal appearance, the idea of a boss getting sued for telling his report that she looked nice today hardly feels like fiction at all.

2. “I like this.”
Many companies now scan the Facebook profiles of prospective (and current) employees to make sure that their “likes” are in line with the corporate philosophy. Some even hire background check companies like Social Intelligence to make sure that employees aren’t “liking” things the company doesn’t like. Hit “like” for a page like “I shouldn’t have to press 1 for English. We are in the United States. Learn the language,” and you could wind up branded racist. But it’s worth considering that this means most of our grandparents could never get a job today.

3. “Does anyone else’s back hurt?”

Courts awarded UK firefighter Chris Bennett over $125,000 after he was fired for asking his coworkers if the new chairs at the firehouse hurt their backs. The issue here, according to the defense, was not his asking about colleague’s backs, but rather doing so over the office email system in breach of corporate policy. However, we suspect that someone’s nose was out of joint about the chairs, which cost nearly $650 apiece in public funds, and are now “gathering dust” in the office.

4. “You have a nice smile.”
Compliment or harassment? Largely, it seems to depend on how creepy the complimenter has been in the past. If you like your boss, and don’t generally feel harassed, you’re much less likely to feel that you’re being abused currently. Still, it’s better to be safe than sorry. After countless harassment training seminars and memoranda, we plan to avoid making any reference to our coworkers’ physical bodies. The only safe way to go is to treat everyone we know like brains in jars in science fiction movies.

Images: 1., 2., 3., 4.

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