5 SFW Comebacks That Will Make You Feel Better (but Not Get You Fired)

For when your need to get money outweighs your need to get even.

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If you're reading this, it's too late—you've probably been involved in an incident during which your brain couldn't come up with a snappy response fast enough at the operative moment but eight hours later, gave you 76 options that were all amazing. *pats the air above your shoulder* We've all been there.

Because there is no such thing as a conflict-free work environment, it is necessary to keep some A1-but-not-so-A1-you'll-get-in-trouble burns in the back pocket of the pants you take off as soon as you get home. To help us craft a few retorts that 1) show you've got backbone but 2) aren't so mean that the situation escalates into an all-out war, we consulted Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster. Spoiler alert: "Your mom" as a comeback is both "unprofessional" and "juvenile." Or so we've heard.

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Scenario 1

A colleague throws you under the bus at a meeting, taking credit for your work and saying you didn't pull your weight. The nerve. 

The comeback: Defend yourself in an assertive, firm, fact-based manner. "Deadbeat Derek must be mistaken. I built the rocket boosters and the orbiter, and I used my dual degrees in molecular gastronomy and design to invent a new way to package Doritos without the nacho cheese dust floating away everywhere in zero gravity."  

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Scenario 2

Like this is second grade and we haven't matured past telling on one another, Tattletale Taylor suggests—in front of your entire department, no less—that you've been playing hooky. 

The comeback: In a firm, confident, grown-up manner say "I've been taking the time I am eligible for and no more." Then kick her in the shins. I mean, mic drop. 

Scenario 3

You are on a business trip. In front of a room full of colleagues and higher-ups, you ask a valid question. Jealous Jezebel snarks, "That's the smartest thing you've said all day."

The comeback, part 1: First, employ the deep breathing technique you learned that one time in Ashtanga 1, but don't inhale so deeply that that you-know-what can see you doing it. She wants to provoke a reaction, so stay level, even when you take her aside later and say, "That was unprofessional. I don't appreciate getting disparaged like that. If you have an issue with my contributions, share that with me directly next time."

The comeback, part 2: Put the focus back on the person who was being inappropriate, because underneath their lack of eye contact, everybody in the room's like, "Wow. What a [redacted]." Still confront the offender post-meeting, but in the moment, you can add something like, "Our goal here is to run a successful program together, so I'll definitely have more smart questions coming your way."

Scenario 4

For seemingly no reason at all, Gen X Gerald goes, "You Millennials are all the same: ungrateful, entitled, and you wear your pants too tight." 

The comeback: Gerald has another think (and a whole story) coming.

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