With the current controversary raging about “player welfare issues” and” being in an unsafe environment” raging in Mayo GAA circles it got me thinking how language can really escalate disputes into something major.
The tone of voice, accompanied by inflammatory language has the potential to really stir up hostilities in the workplace, even over the most mundane of matters. Consequently, the message is often lost as the recipient is often so enraged by the language and the tone used to convey even the most minor of criticisms.
For example, your boss wants to catch up with your progress and clumsily asks “What are your doing” with a negative emphasis on the word DO in “doing”. You immediately get your back up and go on the defensive. Suddenly, a dispute arises, caused by a mere clumsy statement that could have easily been replaced by “How are you getting on with X, Y and Z”.
Other phrases which often cause people to get their backs up are “What value are you adding by doing this?”. This “value add” comment is often interpreted by the recipient as someone questioning their value as a person and as a member of the organisation.
The use of dramatic words in sentences is the best avoided, especially when you have something critical to say. “I’m very disappointed that we missed the deadline” is best replaced by “I’m disappointed that we missed the deadline”. The word “very” adds drama to the statement unnecessarily. It is often said that when one uses fewer words, each word you use becomes more powerful and impactful. So, avoid the use of superfluous adverbs where possible.
“I’ll try to get it done” is a sentence which infuriates managers, as there is so much doubt and uncertainty associated with this statement.
“Sorry about that” when used flippantly can also infuriate your boss as you are not really sorry.
When you answer a question with the word “obviously”, this demeans what the person is asking and is almost sure to get their back up.
The expression “So, as I was saying”, can give off an air of arrogance and when combined with a superior tone, it can really infuriate your co-workers.
“Nobody is talking about the elephant in the room” is a potentially incendiary statement. “Rats are first to leave a sinking ship” can really get peoples backs up if there is uncertainty and major change occurring in an organisation.
Vivid metaphors such as the above can get the blood boiling. Another popular expression in Ireland is “You were thrown under a bus”. Chances are you feel you were the victim of a great injustice on hearing this sentence as it stirs up strong emotions.
When you are at work having an open discussion about strategy with your peers, with differing views and a colleague says, “what I have suggested is a no-brainer”. You hold a contrary view so is your colleague calling you stupid?
When your boss askes you to do something, which is important to him/her and you reply by saying “I have too much on my plate at the moment”. This act of dismissiveness is sure to get your boss’s back up.
The phrases above which really annoy people are endless and many are specific to the individual. Do you have a specific pet phrase which really gets your back up?