It’s fair to say that most bosses want to get along with their employees, at the very least.
Among other things, that means establishing effective lines of communication with your staff.
The best bosses tend to say things that are supportive, grateful, and honest.
But it can be easy to put your foot in your mouth.
Business Insider spoke with a number of career experts and bosses from a range of fields to find out what’s better left unsaid.
1. ‘It’s your call’
It’s fine to let others take charge once in a while, but make sure your employees are ready for it. Good bosses take responsibility. They don’t passive-aggressively put things off on their staff.
“It means that the answer they were looking for is actually ‘I don’t know, find the answer, and back it up,'” says Federico Cella, CEO and founder of social networking platform Lynkos.
2. ‘It’s this way because management has decided…’
“This type of answer is lazy, dismissive, and demotivating to employees,” says Chen Amit, the CEO and Founder of accounting software service Tipalti. “It makes them feel like they are not a part of the company and their opinion is not valued.”
Of course, sometimes management is to blame for changes. A good boss will find a better way to explain things to the office.
“Putting in the time to explain the logic of why management made this decision and what factors they considered before making this determination will go along way to earning your employees’ trust and support and making them feel appreciated,” Amit says.
3. ‘We’ve always done it this way’
“Technology changes, and our customers change,” says Aaron Stead, CRO of business management software Booker. “We need to be ready to pivot to meet their needs. That’s why we never want to say this. It’s an innovation killer. Sticking to old methods just because we’ve always done it that way kills positive momentum. The best employees want to innovate, and have impact — there has to be room for trying new things.”
4. ‘Do it because I said so’
This phrase is sure to tick people off. It manages to convey rudeness and insecurity at the same time.
“Employees expect and deserve context and rationale around their work, and a clear understanding of how it connects to the overall success of the business,” says Ben Sesser, VP of finance and operations at software company Enigma. “In this day and age, authoritarian leadership is a losing approach, particularly for talent that is highly in demand. Commanding something get done may get a task completed the first time, but it will be lower quality output due to lack of context, and you’re going to disengage and ultimately lose the team.”
5. ‘We need to talk’
This is pretty much a terrifying phrase, no matter what the context. Only use it if you want to strike fear into the hearts of your employees.
“Although good communication and regular mechanisms of feedback are crucial to good working relationships, hearing your boss needs to tell you something often sounds like bad news to their direct reports,” says psychotherapist Dr. Beatrice Chestnut. “Sentences like, ‘We need to talk,’ ‘I’ve got some important feedback for you,’ and ‘Come talk to me before you move forward on that project’ can be things employees dread hearing.”
6. ‘Not good enough’
“That means something they have worked on needs to be better, faster, or look prettier,” Cella says.
If something is not up to your standards, you’d better be able to explain why in a respectful and helpful manner.
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