Leaders often have the messy job of navigating conflict and delivering negative feedback. In these situations, you may feel tempted to use office jargon to soften your words.
But indirect language confuses your employees and hurts your reputation as a leader, argues management expert Suzy Welch. While some phrases just sound annoying, certain buzzwords make you seem dishonest, Welch tells CNBC.
She highlights a few buzzwords leaders should stop using immediately—and what they can say instead.
"Let's take this offline"
When an office conversation grows tense, you probably end the discussion with the phrase, "Let's take this offline."
But Welch warns that your employees know you're really saying, "We've reached an impasse and things are getting awkward, so I'm going to have a private meeting with a smaller group of people later to get what I want." Instead, push through the challenging conversation and address the issue head on, says Welch.
"Empower" and "Ownership"
When you pair these buzzwords in a phrase like, "I'm empowering you to take ownership of this project," your words feel inauthentic, argues Welch. To empower your employees, you need to do more than tell them "I'm empowering you."
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Instead, be direct about what you're giving your employees the power to do. Welch suggests the phrase, "I'm giving you the authority to run this project, and I will hold you responsible for its results."
To get your employees to take ownership of their work, you need to make them responsible for the outcomes, writes management expert Alison Green. When you delegate specific outcomes to your employees, you also empower them to find the best way to reach their goals, she explains.
Leaders often use "bandwidth" to politely dismiss an employee's idea, as in "That's a great idea, but we don't have the bandwidth for it right now."
But this word just "gloss[es] over your real reason for saying 'no,'" says Welch. Instead, be transparent about why the idea isn't a good fit. "Even when the truth hurts, everyone prefers it," argues Welch.
To decline an idea honestly, Welch recommends these phrases:
- "The idea doesn't fit our strategy."
- "We don't have the money."
- "Our competitors already do that better than we do."
"I could go on and on, because, honestly, all buzzwords are bad," she says. "Fight like crazy to banish them from your vocabulary, and you might be surprised how truly empowered you become"(Connley, CNBC, 10/16/2018; Green, Ask A Manager, 5/24/2016).
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