Managerial Words that Make My Skin Crawl

“I’m disappointed.” It’s hard to imagine that there are managers who still use these words. I cringe when I hear them. I am sure that others have significantly more negative reactions.

These words are evidence either of a really low emotional intelligence, or an overblown ego and arrogance on the part of the managers who use them. These words tell the person being addressed that they are supposed to live to please the manager and make them happy. Unfortunately, there are managers who believe this is as it should be.

Further, these words are paternal in that they treat respectable adults as if they were very young children, indentured servants or, even worse, little puppies rather than people. They are designed to shame and attack the character of individuals.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t commonly recommend these words for parents either. However, for a very young child they can be motivating, if only in a negative way. The trouble with these words is they intend to instill shame, telling the person that they are not worthy of the praise or attention they seek or desire. Such shaming destroys self-confidence and is antithetical to the development of capable people. As children grow, they should be transitioning from living to please their parents or others, to having confidence in their own values, and living in alignment with them.

It is possible that there are employees who have not matured past the need to live to please others. And unfortunately, there are still managers who believe that employees are so immature that they are primarily motivated by external rather than internal sources. Either of these is a tragedy.

It is the responsibility of the manager to treat every person with the highest respect, even when they make mistakes, miss deadlines, or generally screw up, and even when they have to let them go. Shaming may get short term results, but will not resolve the problem that led to the mistakes. A more effective approach is for the manager to step into a place of inquiry to find out what was behind the mistake, missed deadline, or problem behavior. When a manager gets to the root cause and helps a person discover a better approach, they are on their way toward developing more capable people.

There are a lot more managerial words that make my skin crawl, but these two are on the all time top of my list. My hope is that you will eliminate them, and the thought processes behind them from your managerial vocabulary and begin looking for a more effective and respectful developmental approach.

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