8 Condescending Things a Manager Should Avoid Saying to an Employee

Condescending:
having or showing a feeling of patronizing superiority

Most managers would be shocked if they found out they
were seen as condescending. If confronted by a brave employee, they would
probably deny it (“that’s not what I
meant”, or “you’re being too sensitive”).

However, even decent managers sometimes say things to
their employees, with good intentions, that may come across as condescending.
Given how hesitant most employees are about giving feedback, they may never
know how they’ve made the employee feel.

Below are 8 things that run the risk as coming across as condescending. I say “run the risk”,
because there are always exceptions, and context is everything. Also, it’s
often not what is said, it’s how it’s said – the tone of the message.

A simple phase like “How
are you doing today”
can come across as condescending if truly someone
feels that they are superior to the other person.

Then there’s my favorite, when you try to disagree with a
boss, and they respond by talking LOUDER and slooower to you, in order to help
you understand.

Whatever the case, just beware of the following phrases …
and please excuse my condescending remarks after each phrase. (-:

1. “I’m not a
detail person, but Leslie here is, so she’ll take care of that stuff”
.
I really doubt that Leslie loves slogging through those
mundane details any more than you do, but she has to – it’s her job, and not
yours, so she does it. And because she takes pride in her work, she does it
well, just like you do. So don’t call her out in front of others as a “detail”
person, as if it’s in her DNA, and pat yourself on the back for being a
big-shot “big picture” person.

A similar condensing bit of “praise” is something like “Hey, let me introduce you to Leslie – she’s
the one who really runs things around here, not me (har har har)”.

No, she really doesn’t – you do. Leslie is simply doing
her job, stuff she’s supposed to do.

2. “Don’t worry about
it”, or “It’s no big deal”.

It may not be a big deal to you, but it must be a big
deal to your employee, or they would not have brought it up. You need to take
the time to listen, and find out why the employee is concerned, and then take
the opportunity to coach the employee to help them find a solution.

3. “Oh, you sound
just like my son/daughter/wife/ex-wife/husband/grandmother or any other family
member.”

In other words, you’re just as clueless as one of my
family members are. This is just another way of dismissing the employee’s
concern or idea.

4. “Well, that
sounds good in theory, but in the real world….”

So what world are you saying your employee is from? Gee,
maybe you might want to take some time to hear the employee’s “theory” out, and
check your real-world assumptions at the door for a moment.

5. “I don’t have
time to deal with this – figure it out, that’s your job”.

While this may be true, again, you’re missing a great
opportunity to coach. And oh yeah, that’s your
job – to coach and develop your employees.

6. “I know you’re
feeling ______ right now, but you really shouldn’t because…”

Never assume you know what an employee is feeling or tell
them how they should be feeling. Ask them how they feel, and acknowledge it by
responding with empathy.

7. “You don’t seem
to understand…”, or, “I don’t think you’re listening to me…”

Well, maybe they do, or they are, and just don’t agree
with you. Try finding out why, you might learn something.

8. “Well, you’re
the first one to complain about this – no one else seems to have a problem with
it”.

That’s because no one else had the cojones to speak up.
And if you ask the others if they “have a problem with it”, you’ll hear exactly
what you want to hear, not the truth.

How about you? What does “condescending” sound like to
you?