As a manager, your words carry enormous weight with your team members – probably more than you even realize. The wrong words tossed off casually can ruin someone’s day, lower their motivation and morale, or just plain miscommunicate what you intend.
Here are five phrases that managers use all the time but which drive your staff members crazy – and which you should strike from your repertoire today.
1. “Please come into my office.” I used to work with a manager who had a habit of instant-messaging employees with nothing but this line. It continually freaked people out; they thought they had done something wrong and were in for a serious conversation. In at least one case, someone thought they were about to be fired. Instead, try “Would you come by? I have a few quick questions about this report” or even “Would you stop by my office? Nothing’s wrong – just want to touch base with you on the product launch” or anything else that’s harder to read as bad news.
2. “Feel free to run that by me before you send it out.” A lot of employees will hear that as “you can show that to me before it goes out if you’d like my input, but you don’t have to” – which is fine unless you’re like the many managers who use this phrase to mean “please show it to me before you send it out.” If you frame a requirement as a suggestion, you’re likely to end up frustrated when people assume it’s a suggestion and treat it as option. If you definitely want someone to do something, don’t frame it as “you could do X” or “feel free to do Y”; instead, use clearer language like “please do X” or “I’d like you to do Y.”
3. “Just figure out a way to get it done.” There certainly are times when employees should be able to find solutions themselves, but in general, managers who say this are abdicating their responsibility to guide and coach. Even if the question is one that you’d expect a reasonable employee to be able to solve on her own, you can use the situation as an opportunity to clarify expectations, such by saying, “This is something that I'd like you to handle yourself, using resources X and Y.”
4. “It’s all important.” If an employee comes to you and asks for input on how she should be prioritizing her work, telling her “it’s all important” is the opposite of helpful. Everything on her plate may very well be important, but by the time you’re being asked to help prioritize, it’s because it can’t all happen at once.
5. “I wish Jane could do this as well as you do.” Putting down another staff member’s work, even in the context of complimenting the person you’re talking to, signals to the employee being complimented that it might be her you’re putting down to someone else one day. You’ll get far more respect from employees and your compliments will be more appreciated if you keep positive feedback … well, positive.
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