The things that we say to one another at work can have a big impact on our job satisfaction and how comfortable we feel in our work environment. We sometimes don’t think carefully enough about what we say, but we spend so much of our time around our co-workers that we don’t want to alienate them and cause them psychological damage But if we aren’t careful about the words we use, it’s all too easy to make the workplace an unpleasant place to be. Seeing and avoiding rude or innocuous phrases is essential, whether they are obviously rude or seem harmless. Here, we will go over some psychologically damaging things we might hear in the workplace and why we should avoid them.
SAYING “NO OFFENSE” OR “NO DISRESPECT”
We’ve all heard these phrases before, and never once has someone saying “no offense” made what they actually said less offensive. Putting the precursor of no disrespect or no offense before you say something disrespectful or offensive doesn’t take away the sting. It’s basically just a condescending way of trying to avoid hurting someone’s feelings despite the fact you still fully intend to say something hurtful. Don’t use these phrases, they can be extremely offputting and upsetting. Avoid saying something offensive or disrespectful in the first place, or consider a way you can word what you’re going to say more tactfully.
TELLING PEOPLE YOU DON’T HAVE TIME FOR SOMETHING
It is vital to maintain psychological safety within teams. Without it, the dynamic can quickly fall apart. Those who study psychological safety in the workplace describe it as a mental space where employees feel that they can share bad news, ask for help, and speak up without fearing consequences.
Telling the people you work with that you don’t have the time for something destroys psychological safety amongst a team. It quickly sends a message that they aren’t important. It also encourages employees to feel like they have to rush when speaking, or that they’re taking up their time by voicing their needs. These phrases silence a team and prevent them from taking responsibility for their mistakes.
TRYING TO REPHRASE WHAT SOMEONE ELSE HAS SAID
Have you ever experiences a co-worker or boss saying something like “What they’re trying to say is…”? The frustration of hearing someone rephrase what you just said in their own words is understandable. When you rephrase what someone has already said, you’re sending the message that the speaker was inadequate in some way. You might make them feel they’re stupid, can’t speak clearly, aren’t understandable, or aren’t respected. Essentially, you make the speaker feel insufficient, unsure and can destroy their confidence in speaking up again.
USING UNINTENTIONALLY UNDERMINING OR CONDESCENDING PHRASES
Often, unintentionally undermining comments are sometimes made when you disagree with a colleague about how they present themselves in the workplace. For example, using phrases such as “you look so young for your age” can actually be offensive. It’s a backhanded way of undermining someone or making it feel as though their authority should be questioned. In fact, there have been cases where people have changed their appearance to seem older because they felt they were being undermined. Essentially, these types of phrases can make people feel as though something about their appearance is making them less valuable or less authoritative.
“I DIDN’T MEAN IT LIKE THAT”
Even though words can be interpreted differently, you should take care not to dismiss something you’ve already said if you notice someone taking it wrong. Even if you’re trying to acknowledge that something you said wasn’t supposed to be rude or offensive, the phrase “I didn’t mean it that way” is a common defensive statement.
It’s better to avoid saying anything that you might feel the need to take back. To do this, recognize the importance of your words, and that they can be harmful. Remind yourself who you are communicating with, ask first, and don’t say anything until you’re ready and sure it’s productive.
Far too often, when a coworker or employee raises a concern, invalidating responses are made. For example, responses such as “no one else has brought this to my attention”, can make someone feel as though they’re being overly sensitive about a situation or they shouldn’t have brought up something that was bothering them.
Invalidating your own feelings, or invalidating others’ feelings, can prevent much-needed conversations. It’s extremely undermining and dismissive to make someone feel as though they’re taking something personally or being too sensitive. These types of phrases can quickly break down the ability of a team and coworkers to communicate properly. It stops people from bringing up anything that concerns them. Co-workers who stop speaking to one another because of these types of phrases lose their ability to communicate as a team, which means more mistakes occur, tensions rise, and everyone loses out.
Even though we might not realize it, the words we speak, whether intentional or not, have a huge impact on our coworkers and teams. It’s important that we watch what we say in the workplace, or think more carefully about words or phrases we might be using that could be unintentionally offensive. Not being careful about the things we say can easily lead to tension in the workplace and break down the ability of a team to efficiently communicate and feel comfortable around one another.