10 things a boss shouldn't say

Jacqueline Vance, RN
Jacqueline Vance, RN

I was recently reading an article in “Business Insider” that discussed the Top 10 sentences a manager or boss should never let past their lips. You should think, “Run for the hills!” if they say any of these things.

They are so true. With a couple of my past positions, I kind of wish someone had clued me into these red flags. But, hey, what doesn't kill you only makes you smarter!

Here are the 10 statements, with the Real Nurse Jackie take on them. Remember: No bosses or managers should ever utter any of these.

1. “You're lucky to even have a job.”

Wow, that statement makes me feel appreciated, now doesn't it?  A manager's job is to retain staff. That requires them to let staff members know they are needed, appreciated and a valuable part of the team. If you want to be a good leader, make appreciation part of your everyday routine. How about, “I'm lucky to have you on the job!”

2. “Its work — it's not supposed to be fun.”

That's a bunch of malarkey. What we do in long-term care is stressful for sure, and we deal with people who have end-stage diseases, are critically ill and have severe cognitive/behavioral deficits. So unless we find a way to have a little levity in our workplace, we won't survive. A good leader will find ways to bring a little fun and joy into the job … reasons to celebrate or just get silly.  And guess what? When staff have fun, they don't leave!

3. “I don't pay you to think.”

Uh, yes you do! If not, people are going to get seriously hurt, or worse. Not only do you pay me to think, you need to glean knowledge from my experience and professional education. Your staff can teach you. And I pointed out in my last blog “Leave the cape at home...”, your job as a leader is also to help your staff learn how to problem solve. That requires a lot of thinking.

4. “I don't make the rules.”

Hmmm, so you have no authority as my boss? That makes me feel confident. Who is running the store, so to speak? Maybe you aren't the top decision-maker, but if you aren't going to advocate and speak up for your staff, you are a lousy boss and no one will have confidence in you as a leader.

5. “Your job is what I say it is.”

Guess what? I know I am an adult but I need clear descriptions and expectations of what I am needed to do. But I get it — sometimes we have a crisis that needs to be managed and need to do some reassignment of responsibilities. But explain the “why” if you do. Otherwise, I am going to feel abused and think you just view me as a drone.

6. “This is the way we've always done things.”

OK, and they used to bleed people to heal them in the 14th century (though that usually killed people). Can we evolve here too? A leader who doesn't take input from the experience and expertise from their team is no leader in my book. Way to respect my education and years of experience!  And I bet if this is your manager, you're nowhere near a 5-star rating, are you? 

7. “I'll take that under advisement.”

What, what? What does this even mean? Did I just take my concern to a wall? Let me know you heard my concern and give me a time frame you will get back to me. I know you can't fix everything and that sometimes the answer isn't going to be what I want, but the most important message I need is that you respect me enough to hear my concern and consider it.

8. “I received an anonymous complaint …"

Nope, this won't do at all. I have no confidence there is a basis of truth in “anonymous” or “people are saying.” Put your big-boy pants on and let's deal with this. Mediate the problem if a coworker or supervisor has an issue. Or deal with the complaint. Let's say some staff are complaining about a coworker taking an extra five to 10 minutes on a break. Validate it and then talk to the staff member about it and the impact of it. But a generic “anonymous complaint” won't get you the solution you need.

9. “Just figure it out.”

Um, I wouldn't have come to you if I could have figured it out on my own. Now, it's OK to say, “How do you think it should be handled?” and help the person work through problem solving. But just dismissing them totally undermines your ability to lead. You just told me either you can't solve it or my problem isn't important enough to you to bother with. Either way, I just lost respect for you as a leader.

10. “Sounds like a personal problem.”

Oh yeah it is now — and with YOU!

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie


The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, a 2012 APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. She has not starred in her own national television series — yet. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.

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The Real Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, a 2012 APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.

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