news

2 phrases to use to be a more successful employee or manager—and 2 to avoid, according to leadership coaches, psychologists

Fizkes | Istock | Getty Images

Workplace relationships can be tricky to build — you want to look competent, form connections, and also not overstep boundaries.

To be a better manager or employee, there are some phrases you should use more at work, and some you shouldn't say at all.

Here's what to say, and what not to say, to be a more successful employee or manager, according to speech experts, leadership coaches, and psychologists.

To be a better manager

Say: "Thank you."

In his 2022 book "Say Thank You for Everything: The Secrets of Being a Great Manager," former Insider editor-in-chief Jim Edwards outlines 19 things every new manager needs to learn — and saying "thank you" is the kicker.

"You can defuse virtually any job stress among staff by saying 'Thank you for doing that ... it was a lot of work and it did not go unnoticed,'" Edwards writes

In fact, three out of four employees say motivation and morale would improve if their bosses simply said "thank you" more, according to a 2019 survey.

Don't say: "It is what it is."

If an employee is venting, especially about circumstances that are out of your control, you might respond by saying, "It is what it is" or something of the like.

This can come off as dismissive, though, John McWhorter, an author, linguist and associate professor at Columbia University, told Bill Gates on his podcast "Unconfuse Me." 

"The first time someone said that to me was when something unpleasant had happened to me, and he didn't care. And he said, 'Well, it is what it is,'" McWhorter said. "And I parsed it and I thought, 'What a gorgeously chilly way of saying: Your problems don't matter to me.'"

To some, this phrase signals resilience, psychologist Cortney Warren wrote for CNBC Make It. However, it can also seem flip.

Instead, listen to your employee. If their qualm truly cannot be solved by you, try saying "I have to see reality for what it is, even if it's not what I want, so I can move forward," Warren suggests.

This shows empathy but also recognizes the reality of the situation.

To be a better employee

Say: "I appreciate your patience."

Many of us say "I'm sorry" in the office, even if the hiccup or inconvenience is not our fault. You might think this is courteous, but experts say this can make you look weak and often comes from a place of insecurity.

"We are taught culturally, especially from a Black woman's perspective, to be super humble and to downplay our wins," Patrice Williams Lindo, CEO of career consulting firm Career Nomad told CNBC Make It. "It was a problem to be prideful in the way you spoke about yourself and your accomplishments. So we feel inadequate and insecure."

Instead of apologizing for occurrences that are out of your control, Lindo suggests using phrases like, "I appreciate your patience" and "Thank you for working with me," to overcome any awkwardness and reinstate an air of confidence.

Don't say: "Not sure if you saw my last email."

One-fourth of workers said this was the most annoying phrase people use in work emails, according to a 2018 survey.

Probably because, more often than not, the person did see your email. They just forgot to answer it or didn't prioritize responding, Rebecca Zucker wrote for CNBC Make It.

Follow up, but make your email short and include a clear ask. It might sound like "Can I introduce you to this client?" or "Do you have any feedback on this ad copy?"

This let's the receiver save face.

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC's new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay. CNBC Make It readers can save 25% with discount code 25OFF.

Copyright CNBC
Contact Us