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8 Condescending Things a Manager Should Never Say to an Employee


Managers: have you ever said one or some of these things on this list and regretted it in the heat of the moment or afterwards? Or have you always thought it’s been okay to say these things up until now?

Employees: have you ever had any of these things said to you by a manager, followed by you responding (either in your head or out loud), “Say what? Not cool.”

Check yourself against this list to see if you can relate either as a manager or an employee:

1. “I’m not a detail person, but Leslie here is, so she’ll take care of that stuff.”

It’s doubtful that Leslie loves slogging through those mundane details any more than the next person, but she has to – it’s her job, not yours, so she does it. And because she takes pride in her work, she does it well, just like you do. So perhaps calling her out in front of others as a “detail” person is not the best approach, as if it’s in her DNA, and then go on to pat yourself on the back for being a big-shot “big picture” type of person. A similar condensing bit of “praise” is something like, “Hey, let me introduce you to Leslie – she’s the one who really runs things around here, not me (har har har).”

No, she really doesn’t – you do. Leslie is simply doing her job, stuff she’s supposed to do.

2. “Don’t worry about it,” or “It’s no big deal.”

It may not be a big deal to some but it must be a big deal to that employee, or they would not have brought it up. And that should be an important enough reason. Take the time to listen and find out why the employee is concerned, and then take the opportunity to coach the employee to help them find a solution.

3. “Oh, you sound just like my son/daughter/wife/ex-wife/husband/ex-husband/grandmother/aunt Betty/uncle Ronnie or any other family member.”

In other words, you’re just as clueless as one of my family members are. This is just another way of dismissing the employee’s concern or idea.

4. “Well, that sounds good in theory, but in the real world…”

So what world are we saying the employee is from? It would be a much better approach to take some time out to hear the employee’s “theory” and check real-world assumptions at the door for a moment.

5. “I don’t have time to deal with this – figure it out, that’s your job.”

While this may be true, again,  a great opportunity to coach is being lost. The bottom line is that as Managers, that’s part of the job – to coach and develop employees. And that’s a fact! If you don’t like it then why are you a manager?

6. “I know you’re feeling ______ right now, but you really shouldn’t because…”

We should never assume to know what an employee is feeling or tell them how they should be feeling. Rather, ask them how they feel and acknowledge it by responding with empathy.

7. “You don’t seem to understand…” or “I don’t think you’re listening to me…”

Well, maybe they do, or they are, and just don’t agree with you. Chaos and disagreement can be healthy. Chaos if channeled correctly and disagreement if approached properly. Try finding out why there is a disagreement, you might come away with having learned something new.

8. “Well, you’re the first one to complain about this – no one else seems to have a problem with it.”

Maybe… just maybe, that’s because no one else had the cojones to speak up. And if others are asked if they “have a problem with it”, you’ll most likely hear exactly what you want to hear, not the truth. Is that really what we want at the end of the day… living a lie and not being honest with ourselves? That’s not learning and not growing as human beings.

Think this is missing something? Sound off in the comments section if you think anything else should be added to this list.

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