Things our bosses do that make us stupid (part 2 of 6) – fuzzy, generalized statements

This is the second in a series of 6 blogs, in which we are exploring common practices in workplaces that make people stupid. (You’re free to substitute “less intelligent” for “stupid” if you feel the need.)

Our bosses make us stupid when they make fuzzy, generalized statements, truisms, or low-IQ commentary about the way the world is. 

Here are three examples:

  1. We need to get the right people on the bus. 
  2. I’d like to see a greater sense of urgency around here.
  3. I think young people want things handed to them these days.

Each of these statements is representative of some degree of dissatisfaction on the part of the boss. But each one of them makes me stupid when I hear them because none of them give me a path forward. They all just come out of the boss’s mouth, lay there like turds, and create fear, anxiety, and often, actions with no real purpose.

Let’s deconstruct a few of them and see why they make us stupid.

We need to get the right people on the bus. 

This statement, in addition to being one of businesses biggest clichés of the past 20 years, is just a rant in disguise. It’s not a plan, and it’s not an inquiry, it’s just a way of saying, “I’m not surrounded with the people I want to be surrounded with.” That makes me stupid when I hear it because I know my boss is unhappy, but all I can do is try to guess at what might need to be done – or whether I should be looking for another bus to ride on.

I’d like to see a greater sense of urgency around here. 

Yeah, this is a useful statement, isn’t it? If there are ten people in the room when the boss articulates this particular gem, there will be ten different interpretations of what they mean, and everyone will leave the room a little less smart.

I think young people want things handed to them these days. 

OK this makes me stupid because it has no facts behind it, it’s a stupid generalization, and it plants a bias in my mind that potentially makes me likely to judge “young people” more negatively. This statement, like the ones above, is also a victim statement—”Things would be better for ME if everyone just acted the way I want them to.”

I could come up with dozens more. There are the truisms above, but also non-specific goals like “let’s see if we can’t bump sales some this quarter,” or “someday soon we’ll need to look at an IT upgrade.”

What are the generalized, non-specific, “convenient” things your boss says that make you stupid? Let us know!

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Sarah Thomson

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