Things Managers Should Never Say
For a few months prior to submitting my resignation to my manager, Kent, he and other IT higher-ups were busy designing a major reorganization. As a first-line manager, I wasn’t privy to the plotting and planning. Barely minutes after I announced my resignation to Kent, he told me, “Now that you’re leaving, I can tell you what the reorganization will look like.”
What? When I was supposedly a valued member of the IT management team—or so my reviews had led me to believe—I didn’t deserve to know. Now that I was leaving, Kent was willing to fill me in. I’ve never seen a “Now that you’re leaving” comment in a list of things managers shouldn’t say, but in my own mind, it belongs in such a list.
Managers should also avoid saying that they are the only smart ones in the room (or in the company), that the only right way to do things is their way, and that everyone else is a jerk. Of course, people at all levels should avoid saying such things, but it’s especially damaging to morale when employees hear such things from their managers.
Other inappropriate things that wise managers should avoid saying:
- “Come to me with solutions; don’t waste my time with problems.”
- “It’s work—I’m not paying you to have fun.”
- “You know, you’re not my only employee.”
- “This is the way we’ve always done it.”
- “If you can’t handle it, there are plenty of people who’d like your job.”
Sometimes, when managers say things they shouldn’t, you can help them find a better way. For example, managers shouldn’t say, “It’s none of your business.” Certainly, employees sometimes ask questions about things their managers need to keep confidential, but there are better—and kinder—ways to respond.
I once had a manager who, when I asked a particular question, hemmed and hawed, clearly trying to find a way to tell me to bug off. Finally, I told him, “If I ever ask you about something that you can’t tell me, simply tell me you can’t tell me, and I’ll understand.” He said, “I can’t tell you.” And that was that.