Infographic: What managers should never say to employees

If you feel the urge to comment on someone’s weight or appearance, just don’t. Also, steer clear of vague feedback and pleas to ‘leave personal issues at home.’

This article originally ran in 2019 and is part of our annual countdown of the most-viewed stories from PR Daily.

“Boy, you haven’t skipped any meals lately, have you?”

This is something a boss (or anyone, really) should never say. Unfortunately, we live in a world full of rude, vulgar, insensitive or just plain incompetent people—many of whom have slithered into positions of authority.

Of course, even brilliant bosses make mistakes and say things they shouldn’t.

Headway Capital has a handy infographic full of annoying phrases that should not pass through a manager’s lips, such as these deflating utterances:

“I don’t pay you so I can do your job for you!” Great point, boss.

Instead of saying something obnoxious and unhelpful, the infographic suggests asking employees questions that lead to better problem solving, such as: “What would be your plan in this situation?”

“Leave your personal issues at home.” Oh, OK. Engaging emotionless office drone mode now.

If you know an employee is struggling or having difficulty outside the office, show empathy. Ask if there’s anything you can do to alleviate pressure or lighten his or her load. Whatever you do, don’t pile on with accusatory language or insensitive pleas to “leave it at the door.”

“Failure is not an option.” Whatever you say, Napoleon.

According to the infographic: “Statements like this can make team members unwilling to experiment or innovate for fear of mistakes.” Instead, try a more sanguine, flexible phrase such as, “What’s our backup plan if this doesn’t work?”

“That’s not important.” Got it. I will never, ever again offer my opinion on anything.

If you shoot down employee ideas—even bad ones—you’ll stomp on your team’s willingness to speak up and offer feedback. Redirect lousy ideas by saying, “Explain to me what concerns you about this issue?”

“Keep doing what you’re doing.” Oh, great, so you care as little about this job as I do?

Be more constructive with your feedback, as the great Jemaine Clement might say. If you offer nothing more than generic platitudes, workers will quickly disengage. So give more specific praise, direction and instructions on how they can improve.

There are multitudes of things managers should never utter—including anything remotely related to age, weight or the creeping specter of baldness. Read the rest of the infographic to see more phrases to avoid.


One Response to “Infographic: What managers should never say to employees”

    Angus McFarlane says:

    Many years ago I had a boss who used to say: “I’m gonna draw a line down the middle of the office so that those arriving late don’t bump into those leaving early!”

    He was the best boss I ever had. Loads of fun. Everything got done.

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