10/22/2013 05:05 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2013

Things Bosses Shouldn't Say... But Do

Supervisors may underestimate the power of their words on employees' morale, loyalty, and engagement.

We have all heard stories of the truly egregious things that supervisors have said (and done) to subordinates that make us wonder how they were ever put in a position of authority. In cases like intimidation, harassment, claiming subordinates' work as their own, engaging in falsehoods, playing favorites, pitting peers against each other, etc. there is no excuse.

But when I asked people for their experiences, I was surprised that the common theme that ran through so many of the experiences that they shared were not the 'big' things, but rather the unwitting things said and done by most likely well-meaning bosses. These supervisors may find themselves losing loyalty and the passion of those in their department by underestimating how much the little things that they say can negatively impact those who report to them. Since most people still report that they stay -- or leave -- a job because of their supervisor, I thought it would be enlightening to share some of these dis-empowering and counter-productive things that bosses have said to their subordinates.

I wonder how many of the bosses would be surprised to know that their comments still 'sting' (in some cases many years later).

One caveat, while these are actual quotes, the sentiment behind each one was shared more than once, so if you think it refers to you specifically, (a) it doesn't and (b) if you think it could, you probably should take it to heart.

1. "Why don't you try for a job that doesn't require you to work with people?"

2. "You're too valuable in what you're doing to be given a promotion."

3. "I don't know if you will ever make it!"

4. "Don't give me any suggestions -- anything you could have thought of I've already considered and discarded."

5. "The job you applied for was a lateral move, so there's no reason to be disappointed that you didn't get it."

6. "Why should we invest in developing new skills? You'll just take the knowledge and go elsewhere."

7. "You're s---. You're the best I've got, so I'll keep you, but you're s---."

8. "We can discuss your performance review, but I cannot change the overall rating because it has already been submitted."

9. "You're paid to do... not to think."

In addition to these things that bosses shouldn't have said, I'd like to add one more very salient point.

10. "The worst thing a boss ever said to me was... nothing, not even a peep."

Do these sound familiar? What have you heard (either directly or indirectly)? Anyone willing to share things that they said and later regretted?

In a future post, I'll explore some of the inspiring, encouraging, most valuable things that employees have had bosses say as well.