It’s a conflict that has existed since the beginning of time: the tug of war between leaders and followers. In the workplace we call them employers and employees, respectively.
Sadly, some employers feel they have the right (or even the need) to behave badly in the workplace, hurting and demoralizing the very people whose best thinking and assistance they need. Employees aren’t off the hook, either—many of the things that escape their lips in a moment of frustration damage their value to the company and their own career growth over time.
At our company, when things get heated we try to put some time between the stimulus and the response. This gives us a chance to reflect on the issue rather than lashing out at people. It also helps us preserve and strengthen relationships as we learn and do better work together.
We’ve compiled a top 10 list of the most offensive things employers can say to their employees, and vice versa. The next time you feel a desire to say any of these things, pause for a moment and come up with something more productive. Let’s face it, we all say dumb things from time to time. It doesn’t mean the game is over. Learn from your mistakes and commit yourself to doing better.
Top 10 Things Employers Should Never Say to Their Employees
1. You’re fortunate we gave you a job. Few companies would have the patience and time to invest in you. Don’t make your employees feel like burdens. Encourage them to be better, but don’t condemn them for their shortcomings.
2. You look really good for your age. Beyond the legal issues this brings up of ageism, it’s in very bad taste to give such a backhanded compliment.
3. If you don’t like this job, there are plenty of other candidates standing in line. You’re lucky to be employed. This is a morale killer. If an employee feels like their job is in peril, they’ll be far more distracted at work and will likely start looking for a job elsewhere.
4. Don’t you know that I am working on really important things for the company? I don’t have time for this. Make time for your employees. If you can’t squeeze in time at the moment, tell them when they can come back and then keep the appointment.
5. I keep hearing around the office that people have concerns about you. I don’t have details or specific names, but you should address those concerns immediately. You shouldn’t confront people with nothing but hearsay. Ask questions and show genuine concern and avoid being judgmental.
6. I don’t know what it is that you need to improve, but something is definitely wrong and you should work on fixing it. That’s a great way to give someone an inferiority complex. But I would suggest you be specific and respectful in your assessment of people.
7. Is that really the best you can do? Condescending and insulting; that’s a bad combination. Show people how to do a better job in the future and make your expectations clear from the start.
8. I don’t have time to give you a feedback review. You’re doing fine. When you’re not, I’ll tell you. How can people improve if you don’t give them feedback? Again, make time to tell them specifically what you like and what they can work on.
9. No one else seems to have had a problem figuring this out. Don’t unfairly compare or judge your employees. Give them clear instructions and patiently help them if they struggle.
10. It’s not personal; it’s just business. We are personal beings. Our first inclination is to take things personally. Show respect and kindness, especially when offering unfavorable reviews or other criticisms.