Magazine article Talent Development

10 Career-Tanking Phrases to Avoid Using in the Workplace: Reframe and Reword These 10 Common Phrases to Improve Workplace Communication and Professional Outcomes

Magazine article Talent Development

10 Career-Tanking Phrases to Avoid Using in the Workplace: Reframe and Reword These 10 Common Phrases to Improve Workplace Communication and Professional Outcomes

Article excerpt

The famous poet Rudyard Kipling once said, "Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."

As a leader of learning, you're an expert in knowledge transfer--you use words every day to infuse others with information that empowers them to excel at their jobs and achieve results for the company. Through the "powerful drug" of your language, you help employees believe in themselves and their abilities, and persuade management to invest in the value of corporate training. Like any medicine, however, words can heal or harm depending on how they are used.

Based on my experience as a speech coach, here are 10 of the most common phrases I hear that have the potential to hinder versus help empower professionals to develop knowledge and skills successfully.

1. "I can't do that." Even though you may feel this way on the inside, this negative phrase is perceived by others as pessimistic, unconstructive, and even stubborn.

Your boss, colleagues, and trainees most likely want to hear what can be done. Instead say, "I'll be glad to check on that for you," "What I can do is ...," or "Because of company policy, what I am able to do is ...."

2. "You should have ..." Though we may not intend it, when we speak the words should, could, and ought they often imply blame, finger-pointing, and fault.

There's no quicker way to offend a trainee or upset your colleague than to suggest she is guilty of something (even if she is). Instead, take a collaborative approach.

"Please help me understand why ...," "I understand your challenges; let's resolve this together," or "Next time, may we adopt an alternative approach?"

3. "That's not my job." If you're asked to do something, the request is likely important to the other person. Therefore, as a training professional, goal number one is to serve as a source of empowerment. Even if the request is not in your job description, saying so displays a career-limiting bad attitude.

For example, if your boss lays an unreasonable request on you, reply by saying, "Jim, I'll be glad to help you accomplish that. Given my current tasks of A, B, and C, which one of these would you like to place on the back burner while I work on this new assignment?"

This clearly communicates priority, reminds the boss of your current workload, and subtly implies realistic expectations--all while maintaining a positive, helpful attitude.

4. "I may be wrong, but ..." Eliminate any prefacing phrase that demeans or negates what you're about to say. For example, avoid saying, "I know we have a limited budget, and this idea may be too expensive, but I'd like to propose a new selling skills class."

Instead, get rid of the negative qualifier, drop the but and assert your recommendation. For example, "To ensure we reach our sales forecast next year, I recommend we invest in the XYZ selling skills class. It has proven results and the highest attendee evaluations in the industry."

5. "I don't have time to talk to you right now." On more than one occasion, I've heard training managers reply to an inquiring new employee with this phrase.

Other than sounding abrupt and rude, these words tell the employee that he is less important to you than something or someone else. Instead say, "I'd be glad to discuss this with you. I'm meeting a deadline at the moment. May I stop by your desk (or phone you) this afternoon at 3? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.