On life…and learning

10 Mean Things You Shouldn’t Say To Your Star Performers…

with 11 comments

Angry BossWell, you are the boss. And like to believe that you are a good one.  You lead a bunch of smart, hardworking and well-intentioned subordinates or, as I call, teammates.

These subordinates are real stars; they are result-oriented, ownership-driven and work with high passion & commitment. They have a reputation of delivering consistent results.

And then, there are those rare few occasions, when these smart, hardworking and well-intentioned teammates make mistakes; sometimes, really silly ones.

Well, since you are the boss, the said mistake of your teammate makes you suffer poor results, undue embarrassment and/or undesired pressure from seniors, you get to hear not-so-nice words from your own boss, and what not.

And with all the right and might of being the boss, you would like to reprimand the one who erred.

Oho! That could be really tricky.

Many of otherwise well-meaning, well-respected and admired managers make an uncalled for error on such occasions. They end up saying undermentioned ten sentences whilst engulfed in the fist of fury, or shall I say, in a weak moment of lapse of good judgement. These 10 sentences, once uttered, can be the real deal-breakers for the motivation of your star subordinates.

Let’s see what they are:

  1. “Well, you are really turning casual in your approach these days.”
  2. “You let me down, terribly. How could you?”
  3. “I should not have trusted you with this big responsibility.”
  4. “I trusted you, and you broke it.”
  5. “Henceforth, don’t even try this. Let ABC do it.”
  6. “Can’t you do just one simple thing right?”
  7. “I knew it. You are just not up to the mark.”
  8. “You failed all of us.”
  9. “It is because of your stupidity that the entire team suffered embarrassment.”
  10. “You will not be able to successfully complete this. Let me take it back from you.” 

Well, well, well… there you go. Above cut-&-dry sentiments, once verbalized whether using same words or similar, leave a casting negative impact on the recipient. Worst, it affects their personal sense of dignity and hurts their self-pride. Remember, the very fact that these are your star performers also makes them feel a higher sense of pride in themselves and their achievements as a professional. As a result, such criticism hits them even harder.

One such sentence, uttered in one such momentary lapse of good sense, ends up alienating your star teammate from you, most of the times. And that is where the entire disengagement at work begins.

Dangerous, isn’t it? Then think of it, do you too say similar things when your star performer goofs up?

I encourage you to share your experiences when you were the recipient of such a bashing. I am sure our experiences will help many managers reflect and become better leaders…


Image-credit: chrismower.com

11 Responses

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  1. Hmmm.. Totally agree with your point here RRG, but i think it totally depends on person how he/she takes it. Well, i myself have received dese kinds of bashing .. Sometyms for the mistakes i have done & sometyms for the mistakes which are not committed by me.. In my opinion when one commites a mistake, it should be taken in positive sense: as a learning or as a experience, so that the same is not repeated again.. But , when you havent done any mistakes & then also you get to hear from ppl , in this case its better to ignore becoz sme whr deep done it will effect you n demotivate you… More over, whn you commit a mistake dont hesitate to accept it becoz in the end its your inner conscious which tells you whether You are Right or the the other person is Right …!!

    Astha Sharma

    August 2, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    • Astha, very well put. Thank you for sharing your experience. And I agree with you. Motivation is a big term and I think that comes from within. However, what leaders need to watch out for is to loose it when they shouldn’t, specially when dealing with star performers. Some leaders, you and I know, do it really well when it comes to addressing a goof-up. Most of them suffer of lapse of judgment and fail to distinguish between a constructive reprimand and rude words.
      I wrote a while ago on Leadership and failure. It may interest you…

      Let me know your thoughts.


      August 2, 2013 at 7:18 PM

  2. very well said. but i had experienced when i have worked hard and tried my best to achieve positive results. whole team and my boss was with me on my decision. but when the result came it was negative and my boss was looking at me in meeting and waiting for answer . As if it was my decision alone. It hart me lot. I felt this is result of my sincere and hard work. otherwise i would have also been salient audience and looking at my boss for team failure. so i have seen bosses when project fails they will announces that team has failed to achieve desired goal. but same boss when project successful they announces it was master planing guidance of management etc. then team is last in the list.


    August 5, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    • Rambarat, thank you for sharing your experience. I agree that there is a void of leadership talent and that is one of the prime reasons behind poor engagement of the employees at the workplaces.


      August 5, 2013 at 11:15 PM

  3. Sir, I want to share one incident where I goofed up big time. it was related to one SH case in my previous organisation when I was bashed big time & I felt very bad. But I also want to share that after that call, nobody gave me a call regarding the case. All I know is that my boss took care of the same & I was never questioned again. That was all bcoz of my boss. Regards

    Gurpreet Singh

    August 5, 2013 at 9:52 PM

  4. I m sorry to say here RRG SIR,
    But junior level like TLs or SMs were also afraid frm you in previous company….when I was in training at gurgaon for training. ..bt literally I found you very dynamic personality. …I wish I worked under you….bt I even didnt get a chance to talk to you….cause I also afraid frm you….bt really u r best

    manpreet singh

    August 6, 2013 at 10:15 PM

  5. Thank you for sharing the link…wowww you just played it with the words!! Well do you really think ppl in corporate world are ready to hear the word FAILURE?? I wont say i have worked much but in working span of one year , I have realised one thing Ppl r just afraid of being called as Failure. I wish written things would be true enough in daily Life!! I wish i could make some one read that link!! Thanks again for sharing such a wonderful piece of your experience!!

    Astha Sharma

    August 11, 2013 at 7:14 PM

    • Hi Aastha – I am assuming you are commenting on my earlier blog – ‘Leadership and Failure’. Thank you.
      I believe failure should be treated with less complexity and criticality – it is just an event, an outcome. And as I wrote, it is NOT the person who fails, it is the idea or activity that fails to deliver the desired outcome – that’s it. The moment we start confusing mistakes with failures and that too with an exaggerated sense of personal failure – we mess up.
      I am of the view that people, whether in corporate world or life, should be allowed to make their fair share of mistakes. And the onus lies on the leaders. That’s what I believe strongly in…
      And that’s what makes great teams!

      I am sure you would like to read this one too – ‘What Makes A Team Work’


      August 11, 2013 at 11:16 PM

  6. […] I wrote my recent blog on ’10 Mean Things You Shouldn’t Say To Your Star Performers’, many of my readers, friends and colleagues, who were team-leaders themselves, asked my views on […]

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