7 Things a Boss Should Never Say to an Employee


boss yelling at employee

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Alex Wilson
Alex Wilson
April 17, 2024 at 5:30AM UTC
These days, it’s a lot harder to find examples of great leadership than bad.  Everyone has quirks that give them a unique management style, but sometimes — a bad boss is just a bad boss.
How should a boss treat employees? Is it okay for a manager to yell at an employee? There are lots of red flags that signify bad management, but there are some things that bosses should never do — regardless of the circumstance.  Here are the four things a boss should never say to an employee.

4 Things a Boss Should Never Say to an Employee

1. "You're doing a bad job."

When a supervisor criticizes an employee in public, it’s a sign of bad leadership. Your boss’ criticism might be valid, but choosing to put you in a situation where you’re taken down a peg in front of your coworkers highlights your boss’ poor decision-making skills. “No reasons, logic, rationalizations, or excuses make it okay to publicly embarrass colleagues or subordinates,” Alan Goldman, a professor of management, wrote for Psychology Today. “The act of publicly demeaning employees is toxic, and it ultimately seeps into organizational culture.”
Toxic behavior creates a toxic workplace. A good manager should look out for their team and focus on their well-being; they don’t go out of their way to make their employees uncomfortable or jeopardize their professional identity within the office.

2. "I don't care about your opinion."

Whether you're an entry-level assistant or a senior manager, your opinion should matter. Your manager doesn't need to base the entire company strategy around what you think, but she does need to acknowledge your input, whether you're coming to her with an idea or want to try to resolve a work issue. She should never tell you what you think doesn't matter.

3. "That doesn't involve me."

You're not an island, and if you're having a work-related issue, your manager should know about it and work with you and anyone else involved to address it. If you come to her with a problem and she wants to stay out of it, then she's not doing her job.

4. "You're lucky to work here."

No matter where you work or how well-compensated you are, a manager should never use the fact that you have a highly-coveted role against you. She should never attempt to end a discussion by telling you that you don't deserve to have problems because you should feel grateful to have the job you do. Instead, she should listen to you and try to make you feel comfortable in your role and at the company.

5. "It's out of my control."

Imagine this: your boss consistently praises your work and gives you a glowing performance review. In response, you ask for a raise and your boss... does a 180° and tells you ‘no.’  Not because your work isn’t good enough, but because they “aren’t comfortable” going to talk to their boss about it. Infuriating, right? A crucial part of being a good manager is recognizing and rewarding good work.  If your boss exhibits a regular pattern of favoritism and doesn’t match incentives with good performance, start prepping your resume.

6. "It's [your] fault."

Even when you disagree with your co-workers, it’s important to remember that you are all on the same team. Your boss needs to remember that too. In the event that poor feedback is directed at your boss or at your team as a whole, your boss should never deflect it to a specific employee so they can “save” themselves.  According to BambooHR’s recent survey, 55% of employees will leave their job if a boss won’t stand up for them and 53% of employees will leave if their boss focuses on only their weaknesses. How would any team function without half its staff?

7. "I don't trust you."

There are several ways your boss shows a lack of trust in their employees. Micromanaging, refusing to give you all the information you need, and disbelieving what you say are all signs that your boss is uncomfortable with giving you the freedom you need to do your job. Employees can’t thrive if they aren’t given the room to do so, and your manager should understand that. (Especially because they have a boss of their own!)

Can an Employer Threaten Your Job?

In short, yes. However, even in the case of at-will employment, many employers will offer a warning and trial period for improvement before terminating an employee. If your boss threatens your job in anger or without reason, she's contributing to a toxic work environment that is uncomfortable for you and the people around you. 
Being a good manager may be hard, but it’s necessary to the function of a team. Managers are tasked with resolving conflicts, leading a team in the right direction, motivation and so much more.  Without good managers — nothing would get done.

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