5 Statements To Demotivate Your Employees – Why Words Matter

words matter

We all know the feeling. You’re plugging along just fine, trawling through the pile of tasks awaiting you that day. A normal day at the office.  Then: wham! Your boss says something – something crude, something thoughtless – that smashes the wind from your sails quicker than you can say ‘hypocrite’. Bye-bye productivity, hello job site search. Yes, carelessly used words matter.

But what if you’re the boss herself? What should you be saying – or rather, not saying – to your employees? Whatever you do, avoid these five demotivational one-liners.

 “What do you mean, ‘high workload’? How long can it take to do x?”

Have you ever done x? Have you ever done your employee’s job for more than a few weeks? Do you have a detailed, intimate knowledge of their daily workload, their personal obstacles and difficulties?

If the answer’s ‘yes’, congratulations: you’re a micromanager. If the answer’s ‘no’, stop right there. Adding a task to an employee’s pile is fine; you’re allowed, as their boss, to assign them work. They, equally, are allowed to say: “Sorry, this may take some time as I am busy with other tasks at the moment.”

When you disparage someone for bringing their high workload to your attention, you accuse them of inefficiency when in fact they’re just trying to their job. Seek to understand, not judge – and for goodness sake don’t insinuate that someone’s not doing their job properly. Unless you know for a fact they’re not, in which case why are you still employing them?

bad boss cartoon pixy

“I’m your boss and I pay you, ergo you have to do what I say.”

There are two problems with this statement.

Firstly, by coming down on your employees with ol’ ‘I pay you’ spiel, you make it clear that you see them as cogs in a wheel. You blackmail them with their salary – something they work for daily and fairly – and use the company’s pay roll to enforce your authority over them. Attempts to strong-arm people into doing what you want only ever end in one thing: resentment.

Secondly, it’s not technically true that an employee has to do what you say. You can pay a worker as much as you want, but if you ask them to do something unethical, unsavoury or even illegal then they are perfectly entitled to say no.

 “The rules are different for me to what they are for you.”

This ol’ double standard is a classic of workplace tyranny. If you’re the type of boss to rule out flexible working for your employees then work from home once a week, or trash your colleague for being late when you left early the day before, then you are the worst kind of workplace hypocrite.

People – office workers among them – respect managers who lead by example. If you can’t follow your own rules, don’t expect your underlings to bother. Or to stick around, for that matter.

darth vader boss flickr 0629

 “That won’t work. Let’s do it my way.”

You hired your employees to work for you, and that includes offering new solutions to old problems. So why reject those offerings out of hand?

When a colleague comes to you with an idea, listen carefully and consider the pros of what they have to say. Nobody’s forcing you to say ‘yes’; just listen. Considering other approaches with care convinces employees that you value their contribution – and, when implemented successfully, that you’re a good employee yourself.

Good leaders make use of all the resources available to them. That includes ideas.

“It’s not important.”

“What’s that? My job’s not important? Okay. Well. I guess… I’m not important to the company. I’ll go elsewhere then.”

People want to matter. People want to know that the work they do day to day, whether it’s in the context of the wider world or merely the office itself, is valuable. When you tell someone that you don’t care how they do something, or don’t mind if they hit their target or not, they feel devalued. And they’re going, sooner or later, to stop thinking their work matters at all.

This is the kind of statement that can be made without saying anything, merely by lack of reward. If you don’t thank your employees when they hit targets, give them rewards when they land deals or otherwise show any kind of gratitude, you are saying – quietly – that they don’t matter.

Words Matter

If you’re a manager, chances are you’ll feel like saying the above more than once in a while. But, before you let rip, consider the implications of your words.  Because your words matter.  You have been placed in a position of power by your company and entrusted with kindling the spirits of your fellows. Don’t mess it up; watch your language.

This guest post was authored by Inspiring Interns

 Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs, visit their website.


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