4 things modern managers should stop saying

Often the most well intentioned managers use verbiage which doesn’t translate well in the modern professional era. While networking or interviewing many managers, I’ve come across a few phrases that can be off-putting to me if I were a member of their team. Some of these terms and phrases have carried over from the early days of post-industrial era and they need major reassessment. I’ve put a list of 4 things that one should stop saying if they are in a management position.

1. Calling people resources

This is a common mistake which many managers make even in the most high skilled professions like software development, which is literally powered by people alone. Calling people resources when talking about assigning individuals to different teams, tasks or projects is very common. This also gets termed as “resource allocation”. It is both inhumane and rude to the individuals who are being referred to as resources. A better way to describe the same scenario could be “project staffing”, “staff allocation” or something along those lines. Changing one’s diction requires one to truly internalize the rationale behind these choice of words. You can’t treat people like resources and then call them staff or something more humane unless you genuinely think that way. I’d recommend trying to find out how often you end up calling people resources the next time you are in a meeting and try to change it gradually over time. It’s a good exercise in empathy and will help you internalize the right verbiage over time.

2. “I run the team”

This is another phrase which reads or sounds very presumptuous. Sure you are a leader of the team and you are accountable for team’s success. However, I’m fairly certain that as a manager you are most likely facilitating the “running of the team” by providing team the appropriate context, delegating responsibilities to different individuals and mostly relying on everyone to do their bit to run the team. So effectively you are “leading” and not “running the team”. Team runs itself and it should be that way. When individuals say that they run X team at Y corporation it sounds very loaded and translates as taking all the credit for team member’s accomplishments. Replace the word “running” with “leading” which is a fair, accurate and honest way to describe your job.

3. “X worked for me”

While networking I’ve come across this phrase when people refer to some common contact. “Oh — you know X too? X worked for me 2 jobs ago”. It could be genuinely true that X worked for this individual but most people sign up to work for a mission, a goal, or a team. They work with individuals not for them. “X worked for me” sounds like you owned X. “X worked with me” is more humane and collaborative way of describing the relationship. Today most people want their managers to be their support systems not their bosses. It is highly likely that as a modern manager you are already your report’s support system and their collaborator, so don’t signal it otherwise by saying that they worked for you.

4. Referring to Manager as Boss

Saying you are someone’s boss is a very similar but an alternate way of saying that someone worked for you. It’s the same message but coming from a different angle. There is a reason “bossing around” is a negative expression. No one wants to be bossed around. Most people don’t confuse managing with bossing but they do make the simple error of referring to managers as bosses. This one is a very simple habit to fix. Fixing this takes away the stress of being misunderstood by the virtue of being called someone’s boss.

These are very simple choices that a modern manager can make in how they say certain things but the impact it makes goes a long way in showing compassion and not sounding obnoxious.