7 Things Managers Should Never Say to Employees

3 min read
Sep 20, 2016

ManagersIf you want substantial, professional relationships with your employees, you need to communicate with them honestly and effectively.

That starts with dropping meaningless cliches. Unfortunately, the business world is filled with these “nuggets of wisdom.” They pop up in everything from hardcover books by alpha male CEOs to CNBC talking heads to emails from colleagues. Ridding your speech — and your thinking — of these phrases is one step toward strengthening your leadership qualities.

The Beginner's Guide to Great Leadership 

01. “This wasn’t an easy decision . . .”

But it is a trite, vacuous statement. Employees have heard this over and over again — and it’s often followed by disappointment, like they’ve just been passed over for a promotion. What employees hear when you say this is, “Sorry not sorry.”

Delivering bad news is tough. Instead of using a cliche, tell the employee why it was a tough decision. Go through why each candidate was more than qualified for the promotion, but there was this one small thing that put the other candidate over the top.


02. “There is no ‘I’ in team.”

I don't knowSOURCE: giphy.com

Congratulations, you can spell basic words. Think carefully before resorting to sports metaphors. They often don’t really mean anything. Everyone knows that teamwork is important. But individuals are important too. By using this phrase, you’re discounting the unique contributions that each employee makes to your team.

03. “With the economy the way it is, you’re very lucky to be working here.”

Talk about a morale killer. When employees have legitimate complaints, you need to address them rather than respond with scolding. At best, this kind of statement makes the employee feel ashamed for complaining. At worst, the employee is going to jump on LinkedIn and update their resume. 

04. “We have to do more with less.”

Here’s what every employee hears: “Youre going to have to work more hours without getting more pay because people who are wealthier than you are have lost a little money.”

Business may be tough, but the solution isn’t overworking employees. Although the higher powers at the corporate office may be dictating the circumstances, it’s never OK to set unrealistic expectations for your employees.

05. “This is just how it’s done here.”

It’s dangerous anytime a leader tells an employee to stop thinking. How do you expect innovation to happen without independent thought? This statement tells the employee that they’re just a cog in a machine, rather than a unique contributor to the company.

06. “We need to focus on the customer experience.”

Duh. Everyone knows that the business only exists to make customers happy. It’s the American way. Instead, if you have an idea of how to improve the customer experience, share that with employees.

07. “Failure is not an option.”

FailureSOURCE: giphy.com

If you expect to do things better, then failure is always an option. Every successful company out there wouldn’t exist without failure. Not to mention that this puts a ton of pressure on employees to succeed at all costs.

Real leaders speak carefully. They make sure that what they’re saying is necessary and true. And their employees appreciate the effort.



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