Saying This One Word Can Ruin Your Credibility at Work

According to one former Google employee, saying one common word can ruin your credibility and put you in subordinate position.

Former Googler and Apple employee Ellen Petry believes the use of the word “just” signifies subordination and takes away from one’s credibility. Petry first noticed the frequency of this word among conversation and email with her female friends and co-workers.

She thought it was probably her imagination, but she soon noted that its frequency was more than just a coincidence. Petry wrote in her LinkedIn post about how the word slipped into everyday conversation with phrases like:

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“I just wanted to check in on…”

Just wondering if you’d decided between…”

“If you can just give me an answer, then…”

“I’m just following up on…”

What striked Petry was how often women used the word in comparison to men. She harbored a dislike for the word as she says it granted status and power to the person to whom it was addressed. Petry explained:

“It was a ‘permission; word, in a way– a warm-up to a request, an apology for interrupting, a shy knock on a door before asking ‘Can I get something I need from you?’

“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 realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.”

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After encouraging her teammates to limit their use of the “J” word, Petry noted the difference in their confidence in communication:

“We didn’t dilute our messages with a word that weakened them. […] I believe it helped strengthen our conviction, better reflecting the decisiveness, preparedness, and impact that reflected our brand.”

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