Lisagor: Top 20 things not to say

There is an old Buddhist saying that “wisdom comes from one’s mind, while misfortune comes from one’s mouth.”

Some of my most painful memories are of times when I let my emotions or deranged sense of humor drive my words as opposed to taking time to collect all the facts about a situation or, more importantly, think about the possible consequences of my utterances. So you won’t have to retract your words — as I have — here are 20 comments enlightened managers would be well advised not to make. If this tongue-in-cheek list helps even one person avoid a painful experience, this column will have been worthwhile.

1. To the General Services Administration auditor: “Would you like anything else to read?”

2. To your security officer: “Have you seen the classified document I left on the copier?”

3. To your boss: “Are you retiring anytime soon?”

4. To your network administrator: “Did you happen to see the piece of paper with my password written on it?”

5. To the congressional committee: “Don’t we get any credit for awarding to the lowest bidder?”

6. To the Federal Computer Week reporter: “With all the suspected cost overruns and software problems, I don’t think I should comment at this time.”

7. To the new contractor: “Make my coffee black with a little sugar, and be quick about it.”

8. To the disaster recovery coordinator: “Any way I could be the first one out?”

9. To the Office of Management and Budget: “Oops! We’ll get to those Exhibit 300s next year. Really. I promise. Honest.”

10. To a four-star general: “Could you please pay attention?”

11. To a former Marine programmer: “For all the good your idea was, you might as well take a gun and shoot that computer.”

12. To the chief information officer: “Have you ever actually written any code?"

13. To the Cobol programmer: “Is that a bottle of Geritol?”

14. To some high-level officials in the Bush administration: “Can I mention global warming in this column?”

15.  To the congressional finance committee chairman: “$1 million for e-government initiatives? How generous.”

16. To the Microsoft sales representative: “Will Vista work on all our Macs or just the newer ones?”

17. To your agency supervisor: “Since I’ve starting telecommuting, I’ve had much more free time.”

18.  To your Dell laptop sales representative: “Can I order a few thousand dumb terminals?”

19.  To any Defense Department chief information officer: “Could you explain your egocentric architecture one more time?”

20.& nbsp; To the armed and nervous 18-year-old computer facility security guard at 2 a.m. outside a remote Army installation: (This happened to me. It was scary!) “Bet your bark is worse than your byte!”

Lisagor ([email protected]) founded Celerity Works in 1999 to help government and industry executives accelerate business growth and manage risk. He co-founded the FCW Events annual government PM Summit. His book, “The Enlightened Manager,” can be downloaded for free at


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