There are some remarks that are so counterproductive that the best strategy is simply to bite your tongue:
1. “We’ve always done it this way.”
This is not a reason for doing something. It’s a reason for the boss to avoid the work of rethinking the problem or situation.
2. “Just figure it out.”
Employees don’t ask the boss how to do something when they can figure out how to do a difficult task themselves.
3. “I don’t have time for this.”
It can be frustrating when employees put demands on you, but a boss’s primary function is to ensure employees can do their own jobs.
4. “You think that you’re stressed?”
Any competition to see who’s more stressed is truly a waste of mental effort.
5. “Is this the best you can do?”
Well, yes, it probably is the best that the employee can do. And if it’s not, do you really think that the employee will admit that?
6. “Just do as I say.”
This remark may work with children, but employees need to know the “why” behind the “what” and “how.”
7. “Sorry to interrupt your vacation, but…”
If something goes wrong while an employee is on vacation, the boss should chalk it up to his own lousy planning.
8. “Your predecessor did a better job.”
This is ultimate unhelpful remark. All it does is make the employee feel bad without any way to improve performance.
9. “You’re lucky that you have a job.”
On hearing this, the best employees start looking for a different job and the worst ones freeze up, worrying that they’ll be fired.
10. “That’s a dumb idea.”
A remark like this, especially when delivered during a brainstorming session, ensures that employees never surface another idea.
11. “You’re doing a lousy job.”
When employees are floundering, the boss needs to throw them a rope, not point out that they’re about to drown.
12. “You look cute today.”
Just don’t go there. Ever.
13. “What’s wrong with you?”
It’s insulting enough to be told that you’re wrong, but it’s beyond insulting to imply that the wrongness is part of who you are.
14. “Why are you so lazy?”
To be useful, criticism must address the behaviors than need changing, not character or personality issues.
15. “I knew you’d fail.”
If the boss knew that the employee would fail, why assign that project? To make the employee feel bad?
16. “I told you so.”
Even if (especially if) you warned the employee that an approach wouldn’t work, gloating should be beneath you.