Geoffrey James of inc.com has some interesting things which he thinks a boss should never say to an employee and he recommends not saying anything at all instead of these impulsive phrases. Not saying anything at all is the best thing to do if you really don’t know the right answer or response but I have included my own responses to 14 which Geoffrey feels should not be said at all.
“We’ve always done it this way”
We might think that this is the easy thing to communicate which requires no new thinking on the part of the boss. A better response might be to say “convince me that your way is better than standard operating procedure”.
“Just figure it out”
A boss may not know the answer or may not have the time to help an employee with a problem. “I’ll get back to you later” or “I will do some research and get back to you later” or “I will think about the problem and get back to you later” are much better responses.
“I don’t have time for this”
It can sometimes be frustrating when employees put demands on the boss and are really asking for help. “I will get back to you later” or “I will try to help you when I have more time” are more appropriate responses which communicate to the employee that you care about their predicament and will try to help them with the problem sooner or later.
“You think that YOU’RE stressed?”
Trying to outdo your employee in the stress department is emotional blackmail. “I’m stressed too but it usually goes away when the deadline is met successfully” or “Next time I will get someone to help you on a similar task so your workload does not seem so impossible to do” are better responses.
“Is this the best you can do?”
This expression is a putdown which no employee wants to admit to. “I know that you can do better next time” or “Let’s redo this with better results” or giving your employee suggestions on how to do a task better are more appropriate responses.
“Just do as I say”
“Follow my instructions as best you can” or “I want you to do this in the following order” are much better ways of ordering your employees around so that they don’t think that you are treating them like children.
“Your predecessor did a better job”
A comparison with a previous employee will only make one feel bad and not necessarily motivate him or her into doing better. “I know you can do it better next time and here are some helpful suggestions” is a much better approach to criticism which is of a constructive kind and will motivate one to do better next time.
“That’s a stupid idea”
“Try to come up with a better idea” is a way not to discourage future input from an employee which may indeed be more helpful than the given wrong suggestion or idea which the employee is volunteering.
“You’re doing a lousy job”
“I know that you can do much better by doing xyz next time”
If there is still some hope that the employee will not get fired for very bad performance on the job then make some helpful suggestions so that the employee knows how to do it right the next time.
“What’s wrong with you?”
This is an insult which will cause a bad emotional response. “What made you do so badly this time?” will probably get a more honest useful answer.
“Why are you so lazy?”
“Why did it take you so long?” is a question about the job and not an assault on one’s personality which will just cause bad feelings if you call someone lazy.
“I knew you’d fail”
“I had a suspicion that you would fail but I wasn’t 100% sure” is a better response because if you knew one would fail then you shouldn’t have asked him or her to do the task in the first place.
“I told you so”
Gloating about a prediction of failure may make you feel good about yourself but not help the employees feeling of selfworth. A more appropriate response is to communicate “You can usually trust my suggestions because I am more experienced and rarely wrong”.
“Don’t ever talk to my boss”
“If you contact or communicate with my boss then keep me informed”
is a more appropriate response or request which will not make you seem paranoid since talking to higher ups will usually circulate throughout the office in the form of gossip. There is really nothing that you can realistically do if an employee wants to speak to your boss about something which he or she thinks you are not doing right.
“Track how you spend every hour”
“Schedule your time and try to accomplish your task within the time period and go on to the next task when done” This is a better suggestion which puts a priority on the accomplishment of the task and not just how long it should take. If employees are merely asked to follow the clock they may be tempted to fill in the time left over with pretend work which does not benefit the organization.
“The customer is always right”
There are many times when the customer unjustly comes back with damaged used merchandise and asks for money back, is abusive, is unethical, is unreasonable, demands consultations which are not part of the deal, and makes bigoted remarks. The customer may be emotionally unreasonable and put demands on company services which are not included in the cost so the customer is definitely not always right.
“We expect corporate loyalty”
“We will pay you what you are worth” is a more honest communication in this age when many jobs are being outsourced and companies frequently cut down on staff or downsize. Loyalty works both ways and to demand loyalty from an employee and not be loyal to the employee is an injustice.
“This is a meritocracy”
“We try to hire and promote the best” is a more accurate response because even in highly technical fields women are still underrepresented and the personality of the employee still plays a dominant role in who gets promoted in the managerial ranks where technical proficiency is frequently of secondary importance when it comes to managerial skill.
“You’ll gain valuable experience”
“You’ll be paid what your worth and you will learn something useful too”
is a better communication than trying to pay someone less than they’re worth for the privilege of working for the company.
“It’s my way or the highway”
“Let’s try it your way and see if it succeeds” is a better communication because bosses should be telling employees WHAT to do and not HOW to do it in minute detail.
“Because I said so”
“I made this decision for the following reason or reasons” is a better communication because it is not an order for a child to follow but it should be a well thought out reason or reasons for doing something which answers why something has to be done that is job relevant and not just an order by the boss to be obeyed without question.
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