Let’s be honest: At work, the most horrifying thing that can happen, bar any weird natural disasters or terrorist attacks, is if your boss asks you about something and you’re totally clueless. Even if the question is about something totally above your pay grade or outside your responsibility, it’s still important to seem at least slightly informed on everything that’s going on around you. Here are a few alternatives to “I don’t know,” but know this: Sometimes an honest “I don’t know” really is the best answer, especially if you’re totally out of the loop.
1. “I’m not 100 percent certain, but I believe it’s XYZ.”
You’re giving a disclaimer, but also showing that you know at least a little bit of what’s going on.
2. “I’m not sure, but I bet Bill in accounting can get those numbers for you easily.”
If you’re not positive about a response but know someone who will be, you’ll likely still get some brownie points for helping your boss make that connection.
3. “That’s an important question and I want to make sure I’m 100 percent accurate. Is it okay if I doublecheck my records and get back to you by the end of the day?”
Buying time and being impressive. Go you.
4. “Here’s what I know so far.”
Of course, that only works if you know anything. If you don’t, you’re better off just being honest: “I don’t know.”