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6 things a manager should never say to an employee


Have you ever wondered how your management style may be affecting your employees? Could the way you engage with them use some improvement? It’s okay to have these questions. In fact, it is a sign of emotional intelligence to be self-reflective.

In any sort of management role, it can be difficult to always know the right thing to your employees.  As a manager you have a huge influence on your employees’ work culture, motivation, and career growth.  This working relationship is critical to both your success, and the continued success of the business.

Being a great manager means asking questions that inspire trust and spark communication. It’s not about making statements or issuing orders. And whatever the situation is, being a manager does not give you the right to say what you want. Your goal, as a manager, is to turn moments of conflict into opportunities for learning and development. Your tone of voice, facial expression, and most importantly the words you use must be carefully monitored.

Here are some examples of potentially damaging comments you should never make to an employee, along with some ideas on how you could reframe those statements.

“I don’t pay you so I can do your job” or “Can’t you just figure this out?”

When an employee comes to you for assistance, they are looking for some sort of direction. Don’t assume that they are looking for you to do a task for them because they may simply want to make sure they are on the right track.  As a manager you should be willing to provide guidance to the members of your team.

Say this instead: “What would your plan be in this situation?” or “What do you need from me on this project?”

“You’re lucky you work here” or “You’re lucky to have this job”

You hire people for their skills, experience, and potential contribution to the business. They don’t need to be thankful to you for hiring them. You should never use an employee’s job against them. Threats do not instill loyalty or dedication. Keep talking like this and they will likely start looking for their next opportunity. Instead, show employees that you appreciate having them as part of your team, and that you value them.

Say this instead: “Tough project today, I’m glad we had you with us to work through the problems.”

“We already tried that” or “This is how we’ve always done it”

Never shut down initiative or a fresh perspective on things. A new set of eyes could produce a new solution to an old problem. You don’t want to make your team feel like they can’t bring you new ideas. Your company needs to continuously evolve so it can grow – new ideas are one way to do just that.

Say this instead: “What other options do you see?” or “Can you think of another way to approach the situation without [insert issue here]?”


Unless someone is talking about something unethical or illegal, shutting them down abruptly sends a clear message to your team that you don’t care about their ideas. This doesn’t encourage creative thinking and brainstorming. It just makes employees fear the repercussions of contributing.

Say this instead: “Thank you for the idea. Have you though about ____?”

“I’ll take that under consideration”

When you say these words, your employee hears “I have no intention whatsoever of considering what you just said.” If you won’t be considering a suggestion, tell your employee why so they can learn from it. As a manager you know more about a situation than they do. Share your knowledge. Doing so reinforces that you respect their input. It also makes sure that they feel comfortable coming to you in the future.

Say this instead: “It is a good idea, unfortunately because of X we aren’t able to focus on Y right now. If you can think of another way around this problem though, I would love to hear about it”

“I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but…”

Rule of thumb, if you start any sentence this way you probably shouldn’t be saying it. While it is tempting to disclose sensitive information, it doesn’t make you look like the professional you are. Managers should never be spreading gossip or discussing issues that are classified.

Say this instead: Nothing. Just say nothing.

Be the best manager you can be

With great power comes great responsibility. Especially as a manager. Not only are you responsible for the success of your role and division, but your team is constantly relying on your feedback and support. As a manager you are tasked with motivating your team, resolving conflicts, leading by example, and problem solving.

A good manager is necessary for a team to function to the best of their abilities. Watching what you say, and how you say it, can make all the difference.

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