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Frightening Phrases

Thank you to everyone who is making strides to ensure direct and indirect report voices are heard and heeded. It is popular to discuss the merits of servant leadership, empowerment, and supportive management. With these efforts, there are 3 phrases that can undermine encouragement of direct and indirect reports.

“All you have to do is…” A person hearing this is listening to a supervisor who thinks they have the answers. Additionally, the employee might then assume the supervisor does not appreciate their skills and abilities. Instead, ask the employee to walk you through what they’ve done to help troubleshoot. This gives you the opportunity to engage problem-solving rather than assuming your full understanding.

“I just really think that…” This phrase leaves the impression that discussion doesn’t matter much, data and other information doesn’t matter much, and it is likely that the supervisor has decided. An alternative would be to ask for more information on a particular topic or *vulnerability alert* openly say that you’re uncomfortable with a decision because of a specific concern or issue. Then debate that.

And, in my opinion, the most frightening phrase…

“If you think about it…” When this is heard, what is to be understood? Likely that the speaker believes that no one has thought about the issue, at least not to the super high level of complexity as the speaker. If this phrase is used as a lead-in to introduce a new point of view or new information, state it as such. “I would like you to consider [new information].”

Ensure you align your language with your beliefs and actions. If you genuinely do not believe that your reports carefully consider challenges and do their best to problem-solve, then you are destined to have folks who are not very satisfied in their work and you may have frequent vacancies to fill. Or, respect everyone and appreciate the expertise they bring and ensure your actions and language are all pointed in the direction of support and encouragement.

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