3 Things Smart Bosses Never Tell Employees
April 29, 2015

3 Things Smart Bosses Never Tell Employees

by Keith Brown

In last week’s post 3 Things You Should Never Tell Your Boss, I wrote about how you can sometimes slip and say the wrong thing to your manager. These dangerous statements convey a negative attitude that can derail your career.

Over 200,000 of you read that post and 200 readers took time to comment and share their stories. Here were a few of my favorites:

I once told a boss that it embarrassed me that he didn’t tip better after we went out to lunch. Not a career enhancing move.
Things your boss doesn’t want to hear: “We just found out the hard way that backups haven’t been working for a long time. It’s just as well that we had the fire suppression fitted in the computer room. I really hope we renewed the support contract.”

I expected those types of comments. But this one got me thinking.

Communication is a disciplined art form and what I teach is that “Telling the truth is NOT spilling your guts.” We are better off when we can hold each other accountable and ask, “What is the purpose of telling me this” and then waiting for an answer. Good practice for both great employees AND their bosses.

Effective communication is definitely a two-way street. We should all strive for better communication, and bosses are no exception.

Actually, the bar should actually be set higher for managers and other leaders, who should recognize their responsibility to model appropriate conduct in the workplace.

They must set a positive example of a mature leader who thinks before speaking and chooses their words wisely — if they speak at all.

Here are a few things smart bosses never say to an employee:

Guess what I heard? Sometimes it can be lonely at the top, and managers may trade gossip with their co-workers because they want to be buddies. However, there is no room for gossip in the workplace even if it builds camaraderie. Rumor-mongering tears down the trust that you are trying to establish with your team and shows an overall lack of maturity. Managers should ignore or put down rumors when they overhear them, and should not be a party to gossip themselves.

What’s up with Adam? There may be rare times when a manager may seek information about an employee out of genuine concern for the person’s welfare, such as an unexplained absence from the office. But when you fish for information to satisfy your own personal curiosity, you put the person’s co-workers in the awkward position of breaking a confidence. This kind of behavior demonstrates weak leadership. An effective manager is not afraid to confront a situation head-on, and knows better than to drag other employees into private personnel matters.

I don’t want to hear it! When you say this phrase, you close your mind to the possibility that you might actually be wrong and the other person may be right. This gut-level reaction to bad news shuts down all communication and sends a clear message that you are unapproachable and inflexible. Of course, you hope that people will bring you only good news, not bad news. However, that hope is not rooted in reality. A good leader is prepared to lead the way through both and listens with an open mind before reacting.

Take a moment and think about your words. Do they demonstrate wisdom or foolishness?

If you have the great opportunity to manage people, you have a responsibility to those looking to you for leadership.

What are some other things bosses should not say to employees?

Keith Brown

Keith Brown

Keith was a vice president of marketing at Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software.

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