HR leaders want to be straight-talkers. No sugarcoating, exaggerating or minimizing. But there’s a fine line between straight talk and a negative tone.
Unfortunately, some seemingly innocent phrases can undermine a positive work culture. They have a negative impact on everything from morale and productivity to the bottom line.
Words truly matter. More than a third of HR pros say communication issues are the root of morale problems in their workplaces, according to an Accountemps survey.
Whether those words come from HR, a front-line manager or the CEO, employees take notice. Even if the tone or circumstance are neutral, the underlying connotation settles in a workplace like fog on the valley, only able to lift if sunshine can get in.
So everyone wants to avoid phrases and mindsets – like these seven – that can undermine a positive work culture. We’ve included more positive phrases or approaches to take.
1. ‘With our luck …’
This phrase is usually followed by something negative, such as “With our luck, the project will get rejected,” or “With our luck, no one will notice what we’ve done.” It suggests two negative things:
- Outcomes are based on luck, not effort and skill, and
- You and your group always seem to come up short.
Instead, focus on what you will do to achieve the success, no mention of luck.
2. ‘I don’t have time’
The reality is you don’t want to make the time. And that’s actually OK if the request isn’t worth the time you’d have to invest or if someone else is better fitted to fulfill it.
Instead, either explain why other things are more important and require your time, or direct employees or colleagues to the person with the time, resources or expertise to handle it.
3. ‘I paid my dues’
No one in an organization should be above stepping in, learning more or helping others. By saying this, you suggest a job is menial, which is not what you want employees to think of their work.
Dive in when time allows and take pride in doing work that contributes to the group’s success.
4. ‘I have enough on my plate’
The best leaders create opportunities, then sprint forward with action. So their plates are almost always full – and almost always will be.
Not to say successful leaders shouldn’t ever turn down a request. But a good rule of thumb is to keep room on the plate for requests and opportunities that allow you to take on new challenges that will help you gain skills and build relationships.
5. ‘Just do it my way’
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but many leaders who’ve been doing their job a long time resign themselves to micromanaging and believing there’s only one, proper way to get things done. This kind of micromanaging drains you and your employees.
Instead, give them direction and say, “Can you think of a better way to try this?”
6. ‘I do enough around here’
Nearly everyone believes he or she goes the extra mile, but far fewer actually do it.
No one has to take on every “extra,” but the best managers don’t wait to be asked to do a little more.
Instead, look for situations when a little more – staying late, making a call, doing the research – will benefit the company, your career, employees or customers, and do it.
7. ‘I have tons of experience’
Time on the job doesn’t necessarily equate expertise.
Leaders sometimes think that they’re the best because they’ve been either doing the work or witnessing it the longest. So throwing around tenure will gain respect.
A better way: Talk about what you’ve actually done – for instance how many projects you headed that came in under budget and ahead of time – to explain why you’re the right person for a job.