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Ten Things Only Bad Managers Say

Liz Ryan

Here is an excerpt from an article for Bloomberg Businessweek online in which Liz Ryan explains how and why bad managers reveal their thoughtlessness and insensitivity by what they say and how they say it as well as by their behavior.

To read the complete article, please click here.

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We know the kinds of things good managers say: They say “Attaboy” or “Attagirl,” “Let me know if you run into any roadblocks, and I’ll try to get rid of them for you,” and “You’ve been killing yourself—why don’t you take off at noon on Friday?”

Bad managers don’t say these things. Helpful, encouraging, and trust-based words and phrases don’t occur to them.

Crappy bosses say completely different things. For your enjoyment, we’ve gathered together 10 of the most heinous, bad-manager warhorse sayings. Do any of them sound like something a manager in your company might say (or might have said this week

[Here are the first five. To read the complete article, please click here.]

If you don’t want this job, I’ll find someone who does.
 Great leaders understand that the transaction defining the employer-employee relationship—the fact that an employer pays you in cash while you cough up your value in sweat and brainwork—is the least important part of your professional relationship. Good managers realize that to get and keep great people, they have to move past the dollars-and-cents transaction and let people own their jobs. Good leaders give people latitude and let them know that their contributions have value. Lousy managers, on the other hand, love to remind employees that it’s all about the transaction: “You work for me.” They never fail to remind team members that someone else would take the job if you ever got sick of it or let the lousy manager down in some way.

I don’t pay you to think.
 This is what a bad manager says when an employee offers an idea he doesn’t like. Maybe the idea threatens the inept manager’s power. Maybe it would require the lousy manager to expend a few brain cells or some political capital within the organization. Either way, “I don’t pay you to think” is the mantra of people who have no business managing teams. It screams, “Do what I tell you to do, and nothing else.” Life is way too short to spend another minute working for someone who could speak these words.

I won’t have you on eBay/ESPN/Facebook/etc. while you’re on the clock.
 Decent managers have figured out that there is no clock, not for white-collar knowledge workers, anyway. Knowledge workers live, sleep, and eat their jobs. Their e-mail inboxes fill up just as fast after 5:00 p.m. as they do before. Their work is never done, and it’s never going to be done. That’s O.K. Employees get together in the office during the daytime hours to do a lot of the work together, and then they go home and try to live their lives in the small spaces of time remaining. If they need a mental break during the day, they can go on or without fear of managerial reprisal. We are not robots. We need to stop and shake off the corporate cobwebs every now and then. If a person is sitting in the corner staring up at the ceiling, you could be watching him daydream—or watching him come up with your next million-dollar product idea. (Or doing both things at once.)

I’ll take it under advisement. 
There are certain words that we never use in real life—only in business and only in ways that let us know that the speaker is shining us on, bigtime. “I’ll take it under advisement” means “Go away and die, and don’t speak to me again unless I ask you to.” It means “I am not going to do whatever you just suggested that I do, and I want you to know that I value your opinions less than I can tell you.”

Who gave you permission to do that? 
My brother worked at a huge tech company, and one day he and his team of Software Quality Assurance folks were meeting at the office before heading to the airport. They gathered at 6 a.m. in a conference room to talk about their plan once they hit the ground in the destination city. The door opened and a manager walked into the conference room. “Who called this meeting?” he asked. “Only a grade level E5 can call a meeting.” My brother left that job a few months later. People who obsess about hierarchy and permission and grade levels and the like are people you’d be better off avoiding, especially in relationships that give them power over your life and career.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace, a former Fortune 500 HR executive, and the author of Happy About Online Networking: the Virtual-ly Simple Way to Build Professional Relationships. Liz speaks to audiences around the world about work, life and networking, and works with employers on attracting and retaining world-class talent.

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