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In this weekly series, Todd Dewett, PhD, shares the tips respected and motivated managers use to improve rapport, navigate tricky situations, build better relationships, and drive the business forward. Each week, we'll release two tips ranging from avoiding the dreaded micromanagement to managing a multigenerational workforce, cultivating better listening skills, and developing an understanding of your organization's politics. Check back every Wednesday for more Management Tips.
Sometimes success at work is all about knowing what to say. Other times, it's about knowing what not to say. Even good people sometimes say things that inadvertently hurt morale or productivity in the group. Start right now by thinking about these five common phrases to avoid. Steer clear of each of these and you'll be on your way to positive, productive conversation. First, that's not my job. We've all heard this one. Here's the issue. Even when it's technically true, it never inspires and it's never helpful.
When you say, that's not my job, what you're really saying is, I'm here for me, not you and I can't be bothered with the needs of the team. If you don't have time to help someone, okay. Tell them you'll help them later. But don't dismiss them with, that's not my job. Or how about, we've tried that before. This is often a standard response when discussing a problem at work, and someone suggests a possible solution. It's a type of block people use to avoid the extra work associated with change. Maybe what was proposed has been tried, but that doesn't mean you can't find a new approach.
Even if you've struggled in the past without success on this issue, don't quit before you even try with a phrase like we've tried that before. Here's one of my favorites. There's no budget for that. If someone smells extra work ahead based on some proposed solution, they might say you can't afford it, or it's not in the budget. Smart leaders are good with budgets, but they know that budgets are only guidelines. In the face of great solutions they look past the numbers and make the right decision, then fix the budget by moving around other priorities.
Next is a very harmful phrase you always wish to avoid. I told you so. If someone does something after you advised them not to, and it blows up in their face, your goal is to be understanding and helpful. I told you so is immature, derogatory, and demeaning. And it never helps. It only inflames the person. So you're better off saying nothing at all. Last but not least we have the phrase, that doesn't follow procedure. Or they might reference a policy or a rule or simply the way something that has always been done.
Let's be honest. We all know that there are rules that can't be broken and others that can be bent. If progress is within reach and the solution is new, or if it's not clear whether the solution follows your typical rules and processes, you should probably act. Avoid danger and breaking actual laws, but remember that most rules are not absolute. Great conversation is the backbone of team productivity. Remember these phrases to avoid and you might be surprised how many people start listening to you.
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