Throughout my career, I have heard these three statements with a fair amount of consistency, from all different types of managers and leaders and across a wide variety of companies. Unfortunately, these statements have become “acceptable.” What managers and leaders may not realize is the long-term impacts these types of statements have on their employees.
1. “You are overly sensitive.” First let me say that, yes, the employee you hired may be sensitive. Is it possible that you hired them because they are sensitive, is this a quality that is missing in your organization that was needed to round out your team? If this is not the case ask yourself this, what are you hoping to accomplish by calling them out on their sensitivity? If your intention was to make them feel less than adequate, or to make them feel that there is something wrong with them then congratulations you have accomplished what you have set out to do. However, if this is not your intention then maybe, just maybe you should reframe your approach. It is possible that the employee does not realize the body language or tone of voice they are using, or possibly something else is going on beneath the surface that they have not shared with you. This is an opportunity to coach and help them grow. Consider how you can use their sensitivity as an advantage.
2. “That will never work.” I am not sure that there is another statement that is more demotivating than this one. This is a sure-fire way to ensure that staff will not present new idea’s or alternate solutions. Consider thanking them for their idea and contribution and then have a discussion around it. What are the pitfalls? What will work? This is a great way to build relationships and make your staff feel like a valued member of the team. Hopefully a great idea will come out of this especially as you work to make it a collaborative process. This will also encourage staff to continue to bring ideas to the table.
3. “What were you thinking?!” Have you ever been in a meeting and heard this statement? I have. This statement was then followed by a 20-minute tirade of how they cost the company millions, ruined the company’s reputation, etc., etc., etc. The collateral damage that this caused was far reaching. This tirade discredited a high performing, seasoned long term employee. The team no longer trusted this individual to lead and make good decisions, it leaked out to other partners in the community who also lost trust, and the employee lost faith in themselves. This statement created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Consider the consequences that words have. The right thing to do would have been to have a private discussion with the employee and instead of berating them find out why they made the decisions they did. You may be surprised to discover they had good reason even if you do not agree with the approach. This is also a good time to provide coaching and counseling and cultivate that relationship of trust.
In closing before asking any of these questions or others ask yourself, “What purpose are these statements going to serve?” And remember, your greatest strategic advantage is your employee’s.