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Things You Should Never Say to Your Employees

Madhushree Kelkar Mar 22, 2020
To get work done from your employees, it is important that you say the right things at the right time. However, saying the wrong things will not only affect your image, but also discourage and detract your employees from completing their work on time.
"An employee's motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager."
- Bob Nelson
Unless you are playing a bad guy in a film, refrain from using sentences, like 'I've got my eye on you' or 'You are so going to regret this big time', etc., while communicating with your employees. If you are the boss or manager, you better watch your words, because anything said harshly can affect the employee's morale.
You must never sound as if you are dictating, abusing, biased, discriminating, chauvinist, rude, etc. This will create a very wrong impression of you among employees.
There are many cases where managers have been asked to quit because of the increasing number of employee complaints against them. Hence, it is important that you deal with them in a stern yet practical manner. Remember, your employees will judge you as a leader or person, based on your interactions with them.
Hence, you should always have a balanced approach when dealing with employees. Avoid words which will make you sound like a bad boss or manager. Here are a few examples which will tell you about the things you should never say to your employees.

"I am the boss, so you have to listen to me. Remember, I give you the salary."

Even if you are paying your employees, you should not treat them like slaves. You are not doing them a favor but compensating for their hard work. You should refrain from threatening them with such statements.
Making them feel inferior will really irk them, and make you look more like a dictator. This will show you in a bad light, and employees may prefer to leave rather than work with you.

"I am working 24/7, where were you this weekend when I was toiling hard in office?"

Just because you are a workaholic and work on weekends, you cannot expect your employees to do the same. Making them work on their weekly offs in times of urgency is okay, but if you make it a habit, it will cause resentment among employees.
You should respect their free time or the time they spend with their families. As you may have heard, too much work makes Jack a dull employee. Hence, you should give them time and space to unwind.
Also, if they continuously work, they may get disinterested, and it may even affect their health. Employees will prefer to work for a boss who helps them maintain a work-life balance.

"I don't have time to listen to your complaints."

So, an employee has come to you with his problems at work, and all you can offer is a statement that you don't have time to listen to his complaints.
You, as a leader or boss, are supposed to listen to the problems of the employees related to the workplace, and solve them from time to time. If you don't do so, they will lose their trust in you as a good leader.
Not only this, you may also come across as rude who is not a good 'listener'. Hence, if someone wants to tell you something, give them some time and listen.

"If you can't do what I say, you are free to go."

Really? Is it that easy today to say this to someone and not get slapped with a case for employee harassment? While this would have been an acceptable statement a few decades ago, it may portray you in a negative light today.
Just because an employee has views different from yours, you cannot ask them to leave unless it is really a grave offense. If you say this to an employee, you will come across as an unreasonable and autocratic boss. If you can't accept what he is saying, decline it politely, but don't use harsh words, which will make you look like an aggressive person.

"That's not how we do things here."

If you are not ready to innovate and incorporate new techniques and management styles in your work, you may not be able to grow. Not only will this affect the productivity, but also the time taken to deliver the job.
You should always encourage people to innovate and suggest ways to quickly finish the work. In order to be a good boss or manager, you must encourage continuous improvement practices among employees.

"I really don't know what to do now."

As a leader, you are supposed to direct the actions of employees to achieve results. This means, the onus of taking accurate decisions, making and implementing plans, and shouldering the responsibility for the same lies completely with you.
If you sound like someone who is unsure, doubtful, confused, cannot take strategic decisions, and does not know disaster management, your employees will never accept you as a good leader. Remember, you should be strong enough to take the right decisions and implement them with conviction.

"Your work is not satisfactory, you need to improve a lot."

As a boss or manager, you must always indulge in constructive criticism. Using the earlier-mentioned sentence does not give any clue about the area in which improvement is required.
You should never give such vague and generic suggestions, as the employee may get dejected and even confused about your feedback. You should be precise and to the point in communicating your observations.
For example, you can say, "While I am happy with your delivery, you need to seriously work on time management. I will recommend you to undertake a training in time management." Pointing out exact improvement areas and suggesting solutions will make you seem like a perfect leader.

"Manage your personal issues, don't bring them to office."

You just blasted at a single parent because she had to look after her sick baby and miss work for a day. While you should sound strict, you should never be unreasonably rude. If this woman is taking too many leaves, you must make her sit and ask for reasons. You should then explain that you understand her position, but she will have to come to work.
You may also suggest alternate and feasible solutions to this problem, like working from home, etc. You should never come across as a manager who does not respect the personal problems of his employees.

"We are undergoing some serious cost cutting but just order that personal coffee machine"

Think about it, you are cutting back on your employee's salary, office supplies, perks, etc., due to an economic crisis. This may be a difficult time, where he may require your signature even to acquire and print two A4 size papers. To add insult to injury, you are making him order a personal coffee machine for your cabin.
If you indulge in such unwanted expenses and expect your employees to cut back on costs, you may come across as a selfish boss who may not want to sacrifice his share of amenities but expects it from his employees. This will make the employees think that you do not 'walk your talk' at all, and they also may not follow the cost cutting seriously.

"I don't pay you to think."

This is the most disastrous sentence that can prove destructive for your image as a boss or manager. Gone are the times when the boss would do all the thinking, while his subordinates would wait for his orders. Modern management practices encourage employee participation not only at execution level, but also at the ideation one.
Many companies boost employees to come up with innovative solutions, improvement in processes, and new techniques to finish quality work with precision and in lesser time. You may sound like a complete autocratic manager whose 'word' is the 'last word'.

"Thank your luck, I am not firing you."

This sentence often has two results. The first one is that the employee will take your words seriously and try to improve his work. The second is that he may just burst into laughter after coming out of your cabin.
In today's times, where people know that finding another job is not difficult, if you keep on threatening them in such language, they will find it ineffective. They may know that if you really wanted to fire them, you would have done that a long time ago. They may not take your words seriously, so refrain from using this sentence.

"I am undergoing some serious problems in my marriage. I need some advice from you."

This one should be a thumb rule. You should never ever discuss your personal problems with your employees. Even if you believe that an employee is smart enough to advise you on your personal problems, you should never commit the gaffe of sharing difficulties in your personal life with them.
They may spread unnecessary gossip about you and judge you in the wrong way. No matter what, keep your emotions to yourself, and don't fall for this trap during emotionally vulnerable times.

"I wish the CEO had seen my side of the argument; he just continued to back that department head."

As a department head, it is always better that you do not display your emotions of doubt, anger, rage, jealousy, etc., in front of your employees. If you just had an argument with another superior, you must never commit the mistake of discussing it with your employees.
They may start doubting your capability as well as authority. You may come across as a person who is not respected and liked by his superiors. Also, it will unnecessarily give them an opportunity to set gossip mills running.

"I don't know what I would have done if you were not there."

While not appreciating an employee can discourage him, praising excessively can often lead him to believe that he is running the whole show. You must never sound over compensating for the work which he has delivered. More so, you must never say things that will make him believe that he is indispensable for the company, and you do not know your job.
Excessive praising can often lead the employees to become overconfident, disrespectful towards your authority, think that he deserves your position, and doubt your capacity to manage the team.

"You know the CEO is planning for a lay off, but keep this information to yourself."

At your position, you should never share confidential information with other employees. Especially if you have been entrusted by a senior authority with certain information, you should never utter a single word about it.
If you share confidential information, you will not only lose the trust of your superiors but also the respect of your employees. They may think that you are a person who does not know how to keep confidential information to yourself. This may also raise doubts about your leadership qualities and ethics.
Never tell the employees that hiring them was such a mistake, they are doing a terrible job, that fat people are disliked and they should get some exercise, etc.
Even saying 'I will help you with that' for every project can make them take you for granted. When dealing with women employees, never discriminate by saying that this is a man's job; you will end up offending them.
Do not keep emphasizing that you have great opportunities for your employees, as they know that you are saying this only to make them work on this project.
Also, use the powerful affirmation of 'yes' or negation of 'no' wisely. You must know where to say what. Now that you are aware about the various things you should never say to your employees, refrain from using words, which may hurt them and your image as a good boss.