phrases you hsould not say to your employees

5 phrases you should never say to your employees

There is a range of phrases you should never say to your employees, and it is essential to watch out for such phrases as they can affect their well-being and self-esteem.

These are profound, solemn-sounding phrases intended to recognize, reward and encourage employee performance. Therefore, those who utter them do so hoping that it will impact some HR KPIs of particular interest, such as retaining talent within the company and improving productivity. The paradox is that many of these phrases to motivate employees turn out to be empty at best and, at worst, can generate discomfort in them and turn, like a boomerang, against what they are trying to achieve.

Although we will spare you for intellectual health, providing a few examples of these phrases is tempting to motivate employees. However, if you search the Internet, you will find an unending array of supposedly exotic proverbs and quotes attributed to inspirational gurus, celebrities, or historical figures of all kinds (with no guarantee that they are statements actually made by them). 

phrases you should not say to your employees

Even anonymous quotations are stated as if they were significant milestones of human wisdom when, in fact, they are purely simple statements that anyone could have uttered at any time. 

The standard is, more or less, as follows: if someone were to tell you, “The sun rises early in the morning,” it would seem like a goofy platitude. However, if you see written “The sun rises early in the morning (Gandhi)” it will seem like one of the phrases to motivate employees that no employee would deserve to miss. Chances are you’ve paid good money for an “impact speaker” or “inspirational speaker” to reveal the secret of work motivation. 

The core of the phrases you should never say to your employees

By far, the core is the concept of success and the drivers for achieving it: tireless effort, insistence, external collaboration (sometimes motivation is spoken of for teams and not only individuals), and eternal nonconformity. Therefore, if you look at the most common phrases you should never say to your employees, you will notice that they punish tiredness, doubt, conformity, and discouragement.

Everything is possible

The primary phrases you should never say to your employees are all over the Internet, constantly making implicit and explicit references to the idea of omnipotence, of total possibility in the workforce. There is nothing impossible, nothing that cannot be achieved… if you want it. 

It follows that what is not achieved is because it has not been tried in the right way. The basic message to employees is that it doesn’t matter how often they fail (or how often they crash into reality). If they overcome enough failures, success awaits them in the end. In other words, success is the new version of patience and perseverance: if you keep trying, there’s a prize for sure; if there’s no prize, you haven’t tried hard enough. 

It’s all about attitude

And, of course, “attitude” is something we choose. To be in bad shape (discouraged, without energy, pessimistic, unhappy) is a free and deliberate choice of each individual and a skill that can be trained until it is sufficiently toned

No matter what happens around us, we are the masters of our own well-being and motivation because we have the attitude we choose to have at any given moment. Everything depends on us. So when things go well for us, we have a good attitude and make good decisions. When that does not happen, we have not made the best decisions regarding our philosophy.

All of these messages are enormously harmful, and although they may motivate a handful of employees for a few minutes in a superficial way, they are a torpedo in the entire waterline of our psychological well-being

The phrases you should never say to your employees that follow this line contain:

  • An intensely blaming message.
  • Placing all the emphasis on the individual’s abilities and decisions in isolation.
  • Decontextualizing them and minimizing the influence that the circumstances they strive for and make decisions can have on their success. 

This generates a lot of anxiety and, in the medium and long term, can hardly help to motivate more than good working conditions, a good recognition policy, and work objectives that are moderately in line with the values and capabilities of the employees

5 phrases you should never say to your employees

Okay, we had said at the beginning that we were going to spare you the examples for the sake of intellectual health. However, we can’t resist pointing out at least five phrases you should never say to your employees that are not only intellectually silly but, above all, are false and do not favor employees’ psychological well-being. 

1. There is nothing you can’t achieve if you set your mind to it.

2. No matter how many times you fail, an effort will always be rewarded.

3. Nothing is more powerful to achieve your goals than the desire to achieve them.

4. If you don’t try, you’ve already failed.

5. Every time you fail, do not regret it, just think about when you will try it again.

It is unnecessary to use pages and pages to argue why these five statements are five pieces of nonsense to be avoided, as each one dismantles itself. 

We set our minds firmly on many things and fail to achieve them because not everything is in our hands, and everyone experiences this over and over again throughout their lives: there must be a reason for this. 

Sometimes we try to achieve our goals and are rewarded, and sometimes it just doesn’t happen because not everything depends on our insistence or our talent. 

The desire to achieve what we want is a great driver that fills us with energy. Still, other things that are just as powerful or more powerful are needed. Unfortunately, we have no influence since they do not depend on our desires or our decisions but on the desires and decisions of others. 

Sometimes among the best phrases to motivate employees, we forget a classic that always works: a timely withdrawal is a win. There are times when we give up quickly or prematurely. Other times, giving up can be a huge sign of intelligence when we observe that nothing we do generates the desired result. 

Not complaining when we don’t achieve the desired result is typical of robots but not of normal, healthy humans, who are programmed to feel bad and express it when something doesn’t go the way we want it to. Repressing that permanently has its consequences for our psychological health.

phrases you should not say to your employees

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Improving emotional well-being in companies

At ifeel, we are committed to improving employee and company well-being. That is why we strive to help them in the challenge of generating stimulating and healthy work environments for their employees.  

For this purpose, our psychologists have created an emotional well-being program for companies. Through this collaboration, your company’s HR managers will be able to receive personalized, data-driven advice on how to improve their teams’ psychological well-being. In addition, this program provides employees with a complete mental health care service structured at different levels according to their needs. Try our program now to see how it can help you.

Visit our Resources section, where you will find podcasts, guides for Human Resources, or interviews with leading HR professionals. In addition, you will have access to a Psychosocial Risk Factors Template, which will help you comply with the Labor Inspection requirements.  

We hope this post about phrases you should never say to your employees has helped you gain insight on how to motivate them properly and how to look out for their psychological well-being. Contact us to learn more about how our emotional well-being program for companies works

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