If you’ve ever had a bad boss, you probably have a litany of sentences tucked away in your memory that stand out as the red flags that made that manager so terrible to work for.
Here I have picked ten that any manager should be banned from using. If you find these sentences coming out of your mouth as a manager, it might be time to take a step back and examine your motivations.
“You’re lucky to even have a job.”
Depending on what the economy is doing any given day, this might certainly be true, but it’s an empty threat. As much as the employee is lucky to have a job, you the manager are lucky to have a qualified candidate filling the position. Censure or terminate the employee if things really aren’t working out, but petty threats like this aren’t helpful to anyone.
“It’s work; it’s not supposed to be fun.”
Well, that’s a buzz-kill if I ever heard one. The misconception here is that all hard work has to be drudgery. People can enjoy and be passionate about all kinds of work. Rather than dismissing this kind of complaint outright, try to see what might be the root cause. Are people not feeling motivated? Do they not feel ownership of their work? How can you encourage passion and pride in whatever the hard work is?
“I don’t pay you to think.”
You shouldn’t stop people from thinking and innovating. Even people in the most menial of jobs might have ideas to improve the process. It’s important to listen to and respect everyone in the company — from the CEO right down to the janitor.
“I don’t make the rules.”
Again, while this might be true, it absolutely undermines your authority and makes you appear to be just a puppet of upper management. There are different ways to answer a complaint about company policy. You could direct the employee on how to take their complaint to the correct person who can affect change, or take the complaint up the ladder yourself.
"Your job is what I say it is.”
Runner up to this one would be “This is your new priority.” Disregarding an employee’s priorities to deal with your crisis of the moment is disrespectful and conveys an impression that you don’t have your act together when it comes to managing projects and priorities. Rather than just reassigning people, explain why you need them to shift directions and how their current projects will be affected or covered.
“This is the way we’ve always done things.”
This is management-speak for “I don’t like change.” And hey, change is scary. But just because you’ve done something the same way for years doesn’t mean there’s not a better way. Examine your own hesitations along with the validity of a proposal.
“I’ll take that under advisement.”
Translated: “I don’t really care what you think, and I’m going to carry on doing what I’m doing as if you never expressed an opinion at all.” Rather than give someone lip service or false hope that their thoughts have been heard, why not try really hearing them. You could just as easily say something along the lines of, “Thank you; you’ve given me a lot to think about.”
“I got an anonymous complaint…”
Anonymous complaints are the spark that can light a conflagration of interoffice politics and resentment. By calling it out, you’re signalling to your employees that either you want to find out who made the complaint or you want them to — and if it was made anonymously, there’s probably a reason. Avoid mentioning that someone made a complaint at all, if possible, and take the burden on yourself by saying something like, “I’ve noticed,” or “It’s come to my attention,” to avoid creating a scapegoat.
“Just figure it out.”
This sort of managing is both unkind and lazy. If it really is something that an employee should address on their own, you could point out the resources he or she has at their disposal or the training they can rely on.
“Sounds like a personal problem.”
Personal problems become work problems when they start to affect an employee’s performance. If someone is routinely coming in late or missing work because of a problem at home, that problem has become your problem. A good manager will help employees brainstorm solutions rather than just throwing it back at them and expecting them to manage it on their own.
Words have power, and what we say is important. Someone might think that they are a good manager because of what they do, but if they use sentences like the ones I have listed here than this indicates that they are not.
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.