When you say ___, employees hear ___

Bosses are full of bossisms. You know, a certain way of speaking to your workers that naturally comes to all who enter the gates of management.

And whether you’re euphemizing, energizing or just skating by the moment with a threadbare phrase, just be aware that those words you say are going through your employees’ decoders.

Here is a list of common bossisms and their interpretations by the rank-and-file.

When you say: “It’s company policy.”

They hear: “I don’t agree with that dumb rule either, but I’m forced to enforce it and not criticize it.”


When you say: “Bring that up at the next meeting.”

They hear: “Don’t bother me with that now because I don’t have an answer. Maybe someone else does.”


When you say: “I would like you to …”

They hear:This is a direct order, but I if give you a direct order, you’re going to see me as a bulldozer boss and tell your cubicle-mates how I’m overloading your plate.”


When you say: “I’m not sure what’s going on here.”

They hear: “I do know what’s going on, but I don’t know how to say, ‘It’s none of your business’ in a gentle way. But really, if it gets out that I told you what’s happening, I got some explaining to do.”


When you say: “Let’s not reinvent the wheel.”

They hear: “Look. Let’s not waste time reviewing what we do here because we attacked everything from all angles. We’re good.”


When you say: “Where are we on project XYZ?”

They hear: “Where are you on project XYZ? I’ve only included myself to make it look like we’re all in this together. And I’m only asking because I’m sort of losing trust that you could keep this thing on track.”


Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today, Manager’s Legal Bulletin, Managing People at Work and Communication Briefings newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.