· 5 mins · Management Skills

9 things a boss should never say to an employee in a meeting

When it comes to effective team meetings, we talk a lot about the things you should do (more on that…

Avatar of Paige Magarrey Paige Magarrey

When it comes to effective team meetings, we talk a lot about the things you should do (more on that here!). But today, we’re talking about what you shouldn’t do. More specifically, what you shouldn’t say in meetings – unless you want productivity to spiral.

Here are nine things a boss should never (ever!) to an employee in a meeting – and what to say instead. (And check out our handy infographic at the end!)

1. “Let’s get this over with.”

Sure, everyone groans over a meeting here or there. But as the leader, your job is to energize the team, not encourage negativity. It also sends the message that you’re too busy to meet with your team – and as any manager README tells you, a good manager should never (ever!) be too busy to make time for their team.  

Say this instead: “Thanks for coming. I’m excited to get started.” 

2. “Let’s put a pin in this for now…”

This is how meetings go from effective to a complete waste of time. It might seem like you’re keeping the team moving through the agenda, but a crucial step in effective meetings is making decisions. If the team seems to get stuck on agenda items often, consider assigning a meeting task master to keep the conversation directed toward making decisions and assigning next steps.

Say this instead: “We’re a little stuck on this item. Bill, what do you think the next step should be?”

3. “Sorry, this is off-topic, but…”

Meetings are jam-packed enough without side convos and tangents. At SoapBox, we recommend going way off-topic with an icebreaker question at the top of the meeting – and then keeping things strictly business from that point on. And even if your off-topic side chat is actually pretty relevant to the team, it should be on the agenda ahead of time. Otherwise it should wait until next time.

Say this instead: “That reminds me of something – but I’ll add it to next week’s agenda.”

4. “Can’t you guys just figure it out?”

According to Bamboo HR’s Bad Boss index, one of the top 10 “bad boss behaviours” is not providing proper direction on assignments/roles. An amazing manager makes sure that their team has everything they need to succeed – and team meetings are a great time to offer up your support and encouragement (without micromanaging, of course!).

Say this instead: “What do you need from me for this project?”

5. “We already tried that.”

Nothing takes the wind out of an engaged employee like these four words.

“People add value by sharing their thoughts and ideas about processes they see or are using on a daily basis. There’s a good chance that the ideas they share have been thought of before or even tried before. Phrases like, ‘We already knew that’ or ‘We already tried that’ can shut down initiative and innovation without considering a fresh perspective,” explains Pete Hinojosa, Sales Leadership Development Director at HR tech company Insperity. “A simple thank-you is a great way to encourage open dialogue and ideas.”

Say this instead: “Thank you for sharing that.”

6. “We don’t have time to hear from you on this.”

There should always be time for everyone’s voice to be heard in a meeting. If that seems impossible, it probably means your meetings are too big. Otherwise, there should always be time to hear from everyone – even the quieter voices that don’t rise up above the loud ones. Go around the table and make sure everyone shows respect to the speaker. This will encourage the more introverted team members to speak up more often.

Say this instead: “Who hasn’t added their input yet?”

7. “You’re always _____.”

One way to derail productivity in a meeting is to make your team feel attacked – and an easy way to make them feel attacked is with generalizations. “Generalities are the quickest way to put the employee on the defensive,” explains Darlene Price, president of Well Said, Inc., in an interview with Business Insider.

It might feel like this is a stretch for meetings, but it can happen more than you think. “You’re always going on about that idea!”, or “You’re always a couple days behind on that project!”, or “You never add to the agenda!” – any of these generalizations can put your team on the defensive and make them feel unsafe.

Say this instead: Nothing. Save those difficult conversations for a one-on-one meeting.   

8. “No.”

We’ve all heard the warnings around close-ended questions. Same goes with close-ended answers. Unless someone is pitching something that is illegal or unethical, shutting them down this abruptly sends a very clear message to the team: I don’t care about your ideas.

It’s a similar situation to “We already tried that” mentioned above – this kind of language doesn’t encourage creative thinking and brainstorming. It encourages your employees to keep their ideas to themselves.

Say this instead: “Thank you for your idea! Have you thought about _______?”

9. “Are we done?”

As the manager, you need to have a positive attitude during the meeting from start to finish. And why not? This is valuable time together. So when the meeting is start to wind down, check your language carefully. A phrase like this one sends the message that you’ve been counting down the minutes until this meeting is over.

Say this instead: “If there isn’t anything else to discuss in this meeting, I think we can end it here. Thanks so much guys.”

👇 Here’s a handy infographic to help you remember these 9 things a boss should never say to an employee in a meeting! 👇

9 things a boss should never say in a meeting


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