The word to stop using to be taken more seriously at work

Showing up at work an hour late and being caught taking a selfie at your desk can have a say in your colleagues taking you seriously at work. But former Google and Apple executive Ellen Petry Leanse has explained how saying one little word, that you probably didn’t even realise you were using so much, can actually mean that you aren’t taken seriously, and therefore seem a more unreliable and uninterested worker.

The word? Just.

In an interview with Business Insider, Ellen explained how she began to notice the word sneak into more and more of our work conversations. She said: “I’d never really noted a high concentration of ‘just’ before, so I thought it might be my imagination. But soon I knew my hunch was legit. ‘Just’ just kept showing up too frequently.”

Ellen stated that ‘just’ is a childish word and makes the worker using it seem timid and unsure. ‘Just’ is a permission word and a word that you would use before a request. For example: “’Can I (just) get something I need from you?’. By taking ‘Just’ out of the sentence, the user comes across as more sure of what they want and therefore, more mature.”

Although we may think it’s a word to use to come across as polite and respectful, this isn’t necessarily the case, as it actually means that workers using it can be taken much less seriously than their colleagues. 

Ellen added: “I am all about respectful communication. Yet I began to notice that just wasn’t about being polite: It was a subtle message of subordination, of deference.

“Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realised that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.”

So maybe it’s time that we scrap ‘just’ from our everyday office vocabulary.