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8 Terrible Phrases You Never Want To Hear Your Boss Say

Bernard Marr

Originally published by Bernard Marr on LinkedIn: 8 Terrible Phrases You Never Want To Hear Your Boss Say

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” – Yehuda Berg

There are certain phrases that when spoken by your boss can break you down, rip up your confidence and make you fear for your livelihood. And, if you are the boss—take heed. Your words matter. And if you choose the wrong words, they can often do more damage than good.

These are 8 terrible phrases you never want to hear your boss say.

“We need to talk.”

While this phrase doesn’t necessarily foreshadow a negative talk, most employees hear it that way. If this isn’t your intent, consider swapping this phrase out with something a little less foreboding such as “Let’s catch up with your projects” or “Stop in later to update me on how things are going.”

“You’re lucky to have this job.”

Ummm, thanks, I guess? An employer/employee relationship is mutually beneficial. An employee gets a paycheck for doing the agreed work and the company benefits from the employee’s efforts. While gratitude is never a bad thing, this phrase does nothing to motivate an employee. It actually makes them feel like a burden and can cause confidence to erode. Or, they may feel like their job is in jeopardy so they start looking for something new and lose focus for the job you’re paying them to do.

“I don’t have time for this.”

What an employee hears is, “You and your issue are not important.” A holier-than-thou attitude is not a way to create loyal employees. And, if you expect your employees to “have time” for you and your business, it’s best you make time for them. If you can’t take the time immediately, set an appointment and be sure to keep it. Similarly, “I’m too busy to read emails” is a cop-out. You can manage communication expectations, but unless you delete your email account all together, it is seen as a valid 21st-century communication tool and people expect you to pay attention to it.

“I’ll just do it since you’re so busy. It will take me 30 minutes tops.”

If an employee says they are busy, they aren’t asking for you to take over their tasks. They are asking for you to help them find a solution to be more productive, learn new time management techniques or problem solve. By stating that you can do a task much quicker than your employee makes them feel incompetent and does nothing to “teach them how to fish” so that you don’t always have to be the one doing the task.

“You’re not doing a great job and you need to fix it.”

Performance assessments are necessary and expected. It’s important to provide specific feedback and be respectful in your delivery. Insults and generalities just lead to confusion and don’t allow your employee to actually focus on what they need to do better, because they are trying to decipher what you mean.

“This is the way we do it” or “We’ve always done it this way.”

If you hire professionals, they want to build better ways of doing things. Arm them with the background—the why, the how and the reasons why it’s done a particular way—but communicate that you are also open to improving the process.

“{Insert name of former employee} did a horrible job with that.”

Do not disparage the work of former employees. Nobody that you should want to have on your team wants to be part of that. Respect the team you do have and keep the focus on their contributions to the business.

“Sally is leaving, but we don’t plan to replace her and you will do her work. Oh, with no additional pay.”

Say what? No matter why the reason Sally is leaving, if an employee is going to absorb another full-time employee’s duties, there should be some compensation adjustment. Don’t disrespect the professionals remaining on your team. The money you save isn’t worth the damage to morale.

What did I miss? Tell me in the comments below what phrase you heard or uttered and realized it was a big mistake and should make it on my list of terrible phrases you don't want to hear from your boss. 

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