Career Center Blog

March 28, 2013

7 things bosses should never say to employees


Last week's post featured seven things employees should never say to their bosses. Well, it's a two-way street. Bosses, it's your turn:

"I pay your salary. I'm the boss." Signing paychecks does not make you lord and master. It does make you a leader, however. Leaders lead by praising in public, criticizing in private, giving credit where credit is due, respecting employees' capabilities and asking for feedback.

"I don't want to listen to your complaints." Hey, boss, you do want to listen to employees' complaints. Complaints point to the processes and practices that need improvement. You should actively look for and listen to complaints. It may be annoying, even painful, but that's why you get the big bucks.

"I was here on Saturday. Where were you?" This kind of "subtle" pressure to work 24/7 does not get more productivity out of your employees. It burns them out. If they are working way more than their job descriptions call for, something is wrong. Look for ways to fix this problem.

"We need to cut expenses" (while you are, say, redecorating your office). Even if the new office is justifiable from a business standpoint, or was a gift from your uncle, it looks hypocritical and is demoralizing. Leading by example is the best way to lead.

"Isn't your performance review coming up soon?" Yikes. Intimidate much? A better way to motivate people is giving them a stake in your success. Let employees know what they have to gain by doing a good job. The results may surprise you.

"We've always done it like this." If you wanted to crush employees' initiative, you couldn't think of a better way. Employees who come up with improved ways of doing things should be rewarded, not squelched.

"You should work better." If your employees are making mistakes or not performing up to par, maybe it's because you're giving vague instructions like "work better." Good leaders communicate expectations clearly.

Bonus tip: Another little gem to avoid is, "Do as I say, not as I do."

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at

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How about "I hate [my field of work, different from hers]", or "I don't want to hear it". Both said to me repeatedly over the years.

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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