How Common, Simple Phrases can Help Managers Connect with Employees

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Human communication is a multi-layered, complex activity. It involves not only speech but body language, tone and subtle messaging. Still, in many situations it is the simplest spoken words that can have the most impact and make that important emotional bridge of trust between people. These phrases are so simple it can be easy to forget about them. Here’s a list of common phrases that can be overlooked in our busy work lives yet can improve the morale in any workplace.

“Thank you.”

There’s a common attitude that employees don’t need to be thanked just for doing their jobs. But “please” and “thank you” can let people know they are not just being given orders but are recognized and appreciated.

“I trust your judgment.”

People are uplifted when they know others have faith in their abilities. It can inspire them to try to live up to it and do their best.

“I don’t know.”

Admitting you don’t know something is a good place to start dialogue. Nobody has all the answers. You are willing to face the unknown with your fellow workers and find the answers together.

“Tell me more.”

Asking people what they think, or what they would do in a certain situation, can be a flattering way to say you respect their experience and opinions. A productive exchange can result.

“What I hear you saying is…”

This phrase is a good way to signal that you are really listening to someone. Rephrasing their words can keep the conversation going and help them formulate their thoughts and articulate their ideas better.

“I’m on it.”

This casual assurance puts people at ease and let’s them know you are in their corner. It tells them they don’t have to worry, that you are giving the problem your full attention.

“How else can I help you?”

Sometimes people are shy about asking for what they want or need. Your expression of humility lets the person know they are entitled to request as much help as they need.

“I’ve got your back.”

Let workers know they have your support and are not alone, especially when things are not going their way.

“My pleasure.”

A subtle reminder that you are there to help and are happy to do it. The person feels worthy of the good service you are giving them.

“What if…”

Imagination, wonder, inspiration, vision, and spirit are all part of a positive workplace energy. Channel the creative forces with phrases like “how can we make this happen?”, or “let’s try this out…” as you put every option on the table.

“Let me play devil’s advocate…”

This can be a subtle way to critique someone else’s ideas, while giving an air of detachment. It can redirect people if they are off course or help them hone their tactics and message. It’s a great way to stress test ideas!

“Let me think about that.”

This shows open-mindedness and should not be used as a cop-out. Use it when you genuinely need time to assess a situation, or if you are lack the authority or expertise to make the final call. Make sure you follow up at a later date to let the person know that you really did think about it.

“Well done.”

Give employees acknowledgement that they did more than just complete a task at hand. Show you recognize their extra effort and good results.

“You’re right.”

Acknowledging that a worker is right about something is good way to signal that you are not in competition. They can let down their defences and feel more comfortable share their thoughts with you.

“I understand.”

Sometimes people don’t need suggestions or advice. They just need to feel understood and know that others have shared their experience. Just be there and paying attention to what they have to say.

This material has been drawn in part from SEEC’s upcoming program Certificate in Business Skills for Managers (starting Jan. 28, 2019). The program is designed to help managers acquire the critical skills and foundational competencies they need for maximum effectiveness and sustained career success.