Three Things Managers Should Not Say to Their Employees
In my opinion, it’s a mistake for managers to tell employees not to come to them with problems unless they also bring solutions. It’s fine to encourage solution-based thinking in employees, but this admonition can discourage employees from alerting their manager about important matters.
Not every employee has the background or experience to be able to propose a solution to a given problem. And withholding the matter from the manager means it might morph into something critical. It’s better to encourage employees to bring solutions along with their problems when they can, but not to refrain from sharing a problem when they’re stumped.
The second thing managers shouldn’t say is “Don’t talk to my boss about anything until you’ve talked to me first.” Or, for that matter, simply “Don’t talk to my boss.” This is the approach of managers who are insecure about what employees might be saying in their absence.
I was fortunate in this regard. For many years, I had a manager who not only OK’d my going directly to her superiors but encouraged it. She liked to be kept in the loop, but she believed it was more important for us to feel comfortable taking an issue to any level we felt appropriate. Because of that, she was more often in the loop than if we felt we had to sneak around her to go above her.
The third thing managers should refrain from saying (or thinking) is, “Take your idea and shove it!” They may not put it that way exactly. Often it’s a less severe refusal to consider a new approach because “We’ve always done it this way.” This is a sign of a manager who fears change and doesn’t want to try anything new. They figure if something is working fine, why mess with it? Well, there could be major benefits to trying a different method.
I had a manager like this once. Nicest guy in the world, but his preferred approach to doing things was to do them exactly as they had been done in the past. He didn’t actually oppose new ideas; he just didn’t want to act on them. Instead of encouraging new and possibly better ways of carrying out our work, he fostered a ho-hum attitude in his employees.
Sometimes, managers who say such things are viewed as lousy managers. But that’s not necessarily the case. True, the world doesn’t lack bad bosses, and if you have one, hopefully you’ll be able to survive until you can find a better situation. But most managers are good people who sometimes say things that are inappropriate, counterproductive, unhelpful, or, in some cases, just plain dumb.
Want to know other none-too-bright things managers say in addition to the above three? Google “dumb things managers say” for numerous links. Managers, take note: Some of the posts also suggest what you can say instead.