What ticks off a team member to disengage?

Imagine you as a manager are allocating a task to a team member and you say something innocuous and the team member suddenly withdraws or goes into a silence.

Almost every manager would have faced this scenario making them wonder what caused the employee to suddenly switch off.

Seemingly innocuous (not harmful or offensive) words tick off employees and as a manager you should consciously avoid uttering these words. Some example are:

  1. As of yesterday - Managers think that by using phrases like "I want it as of yesterday" or "I want it ASAP" they are driving a sense of urgency to the underlying task. However, employees have to be convinced about why the task is so urgent for them to leave everything they are currently doing and jump on to this task.
  2. Get it done - Managers sometimes feel that by saying "get it done" they are actually empowering the team member. However, the employee feels the opposite thinking the manager is not helping by providing the necessary resources.
  3. Great job - Ron Carucci, in his Harvard Business Review article, refers to managers saying great job as "drive-by praise" which is in no way meaningful, or contextual or well thought out appreciation by the manager.
  4. Get this monkey off my back - One of the popular management phrases used by the managers is 'getting monkey off the back" meaning getting rid of major problem or the source of irritation. This harmless phrase can make employees to disengage immediately as it shows lack of concern for the employees time and does not clearly state the task or expectation.
  5. Not now - When employees share ideas, managers tend to say "not now" without meaning any disrespect. However, the employees perceives it to be discouraging causing them to actively disengage. A manager can respond in a better way by saying "Can we please discuss this next week same time?"
Wait! Before you go!

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