14 things bosses say that are complete nonsense

Inc. Magazine

It’s one thing if you’re the boss and you use a few words incorrectly and look kind of dumb. But when you say things to your team that are nonsense, pure and simple, it can do a lot more damage. Here are 14 examples:

1. “I would like to give you a raise, but (insert any old nonsense here).”

Imagine you’re sitting with your boss and he says, “I would like to give you a raise, but it’s not really up to me.”

Do you walk away feeling good about yourself? After all, he really wants to give you a raise, but his hands are tied, so he can’t. That’s like saying, “I don’t want to fire you, but I have no choice.” You’re still fired. And you’re still not getting a raise.

If the employee hasn’t earned a raise, say why. If the company can’t afford to increase salaries, explain why. But don’t tell someone what you would do. If you’re the boss, the only person you’re trying to make feel better by saying that is yourself.

2. “This is probably not what you want to hear.”

It sucks to hear bad news, no doubt. But when you say that something isn’t what I want to hear, you shift the issue over to my side of the table. Somehow it’s become my problem.

Explain why you made a decision. Explain the logic. Explain your reasoning. I still may not want to hear it, but this way the focus remains on the issue and not on me.

3. “Let me check into that and get back to you.”

How many times have the people who told you they would “check into that” actually gotten back to you?

“I’ll check into that” is a polite way of saying, “I have better things to do than talk about this.”

If you do need to check into something, explain what you will do, when you will do it and when you will follow up.

4. “I need to treat everyone equally.”

Every employee is different. Some need a nudge. Others need confidence boosts. Others need a kick in the pants. Some employees have earned greater freedom; others haven’t.

The system is not always fair. But people like to know a reward is based on what is right, not just what is written.

5. “Work smarter, not harder.”

What happens when you say that to me? One: You imply I’m stupid. Two: You imply whatever I’m doing should take a lot less time and effort.

If you know I can be more efficient, tell me how. If you know there’s a better way, show me. If you think there’s a better way but don’t know what it is, say so. Admit you don’t have the answer, then ask me to help you figure it out.

6. “That’s just Joe being Joe.”

This is typically used to explain away someone’s poor behavior. The loose translation of this statement is, “Even though it’s my job as a boss to address this issue, I don’t feel like dealing with it.”

Maybe Joe is just being Joe, but Joe still needs to meet basic expectations, especially where his treatment of other people is concerned.

7. “We’re in the middle of a paradigm shift.”

Actually, we’re experiencing a change you don’t know how to deal with and “paradigm shift” sounds a lot better than “I have no idea what the hell is going on.”

If you don’t know, just say so.

8. “Perception is reality.”

Yeah, yeah, I know: How I perceive something is my version of reality, no matter how wrong my perception may be. But if other people perceive a reality differently from you, work to change that perception.

Besides, perceptions are fleeting. Reality lasts forever, or at least until a new reality comes along to replace it.

9. “Feel free to give me feedback.”

You see and hear a similar line everywhere: websites, signs, meetings.

If you really do want feedback, don’t be passive. Don’t just make it easy for people to give you feedback. Go get it. Be active. People who really want feedback take responsibility for getting it; they don’t wait to receive it.

10. “You need to square the circle.”

I actually don’t know what this is supposed to mean. A boss of mine used it all the time, and we just nodded.

11. “Let’s do it now and apologize

later.”

This statement doesn’t make you a bold, daring risk taker. It makes you someone who takes shortcuts. If the idea is good, people will rally around it. If they don’t, the problem usually isn’t them; it’s you.

Describe what you want to do and prove it makes sense, then get people behind you.

12. “We need to manage their

expectations.”

Because, you know, just telling them the truth might be a problem.

Even so, tell the truth.

13. “We need to focus on adding value.”

Shouldn’t we have been doing that all along? Shouldn’t everything we do provide value? If it doesn’t, why are we doing it?

14. “It is what it is.”

This is a shutdown statement. Usually, it means, “I’m too lazy to try to make it different, so for gosh sakes, stop talking about it.”

Never let “it” remain “it” when “it” could be better.

Jeff Haden is a speaker and the author of “The Motivation Myth,” to be published in January.

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