Managers are human. You’re bound to make some unfortunate word choices now and then. However, employees will give you a pass on those annoying expressions for only so long.
Spew these 10 phrases at your peril:
1. “That’s above my pay grade.” You have essentially told an employee that you not only can’t solve his or her problem, but you’re afraid to poke anyone higher on the totem pole for a solution.
2. “Hold that thought.” OK. For how long? Later today? Tomorrow? Or until I forget about it? If an employee has a thought (be thankful they do), hear it out. “Hold that thought” is code for “I’m not interested in what you are about to say.”
3. “Because I pay your salary.” Unless you own the company, no you don’t. Odds are you are on the payroll too. Such a statement is usually uttered by a boss who either can’t articulate a sound reason for issuing an assignment or is simply intoxicated by the sheer power of the words.
4. “I’m really busy right now.” Of course you are. But find out what he or she wants. Maybe it can be addressed in minutes. If not, schedule a time when the worker can come back. Employees are your top resource; they don’t deserve a quick brush-off.
5. “I need it yesterday.” The cliché is demeaning to the employee who’s seeking a serious, meaningful deadline. If something is urgent, say so with a brief explanation why.
6. “Great job! Great job!” This is fine if it’s sincere and used sparingly when it’s really warranted. Overuse of this T-Ball-field praise dilutes its effectiveness.
7. “I only took __ days off last year.” A boss who says this is either inviting everyone to a pity party or elevating his own work ethic above theirs. Either way, employees don’t want to hear about your woes, especially if you’re not willing to listen to theirs.
8. “Why did this mistake happen?” This question works if it’s directed squarely at the system, not the people in it. Otherwise, it could look like you’re seeking out a scapegoat.
9. “I don’t believe in giving employees a perfect score.” This performance review downer is a great way to convey that there’s no point in truly excelling. It’s a misguided motivational technique that will only serve to champion mediocrity.
10. “Let me know if you need help.” Again, in itself, these words are just fine—even commendable. But tone is everything: When they’re just empty verbal punctuation ending a sentence, they essentially mean “Good luck, don’t bother me with this anymore.” Instead, stop by later and offer help independently and sincerely.