As a leader, managing people will probably always be your toughest task. As a manager you have a huge influence on your employees’ work culture, motivation, and career growth. This working relationship is critical to both your success, and the continued success of the business.
Your goal, as a manager, is to turn moments of conflict into opportunities for learning and development. Your tone of voice, facial expression, and most importantly the words you use must be carefully monitored.
Here are some examples of potentially damaging comments you should never make to an employee, along with some ideas on how you could reframe those statements.
1. “Do what I tell you to do. I’m the boss.”
This statement is dictatorial. Threats and power plays are not the way to inspire loyalty or great performance from the individual workers. If an employee doesn’t understand why something needs to be done, provide more detail. Great executives lead by inspiring, teaching, encouraging, and even serving their employees. Good leaders do not need to threaten.
2. “I’m disappointed in you.”
This is a phrase that parents often use with their children. It may make an employee feel that they’re being treated like a child. Instead, provide specific and constructive feedback. For example, say, “I’m disappointed in the work you submitted on the project.” Then tell them why. “The slides were not formatted correctly and were difficult to follow.” Offer support and suggestions for the next project. You could say, “For the next presentation, why don’t we meet and do a final review before presenting the information to the team?”
3. You’re lucky to have a job.” (When an employee has a negative attitude toward taking on more work or pushes back on a job request.)
No one works well in an environment where they are made to feel like they’re indebted to their employer. If it’s not working out with a particular employee, the manager should deal with the performance issues at hand and find a way to correct them or part ways with the employee.
If your employee is saying no, when asked to perform a particular task, just seek to understand. Instead say, “Tell me your reasons why,” or ask, “What’s holding you back? If you still can’t reach a consensus, it’s better to part ways than to force it with verbal or emotional abuse.
4. “You are very lucky to receive this bonus. Other companies are only giving their staff a frozen turkey”.
A wise boss recognizes it’s his employees that produce profits and is never condescending to them. A bright manager should always be happy to reward industrious employees who contribute to the well being of an organization.
5. “I don’t want to listen to your complaints”.
As a boss you should actively seek feedback, even negative comments. I suggest a leader listen with an open mind and fully consider an employee’s issues. Even in the case of a problem that can’t be helped, allowing an employee to vent for even a minute or two can go a long way toward building loyalty and high morale.
6. “You’re stupid, the worst worker ever”.
Anger, profanity and belittling are a spear through an employee’s heart. Bosses should behave with civility and professionalism. A Forbes columnist noted recently that while it is inadvisable for a boss to swear in front of an employee, it is absolutely unacceptable to swear at an employee.
7. “We’ve always done it this way”.
This statement is a sure way to squash innovation. A better statement is to ask “What do you suggest we do to improve?” In all likelihood, employees do know what can and should be done to enhance any task. Our job as managers is to encourage workers to find creative solutions to age old problems and to reward them for their clear thinking.
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