Words Can Hurt. Seriously.


EmpBlog-7.31.2013-KingThere are certain responsibilities that come with being a supervisor, and knowing how to talk to people is one of them. As supervisors well know, things do not always go smoothly in the workplace. There are employees that work harder than others, employees that make mistakes and those that need to be reprimanded. Some employees do not communicate well, others might not know how to get along with coworkers, and some, although well-intentioned, simply have no idea what they are doing.

Generally, if an employee has shown any of these signs of negative performance, a good supervisor will want to work with the employee to see if this person can improve and become an effective part of the team. Although it can be a frustrating experience to deal with certain types of employees, the supervisor must not lose his or her cool during this process.

According to mental health care professionals, the language used during coaching, counseling, disciplining and, ultimately, firing an employee is important. If a supervisor chooses to use offensive terms of any kind while engaging in these activities, it can later backfire into some type of employment law-based lawsuit. Foul language and/or insults, even when unrelated to the decision made by management, tend to be remembered by the recipient, often becoming the motivating source for subsequent acts of retaliation in the form of various claims and, indeed, other forms of rebellion.

In addition, supervisors should avoid direct comparisons to other employees as justification for employment decisions as this too can breed resentment. Such comparisons can be misconstrued as personality assessments or, worse, perceived as premised upon legally prohibited inequalities in the workplace. When possible, employees should be disciplined or counseled because they fail to meet well-established standards, targets, or behavioral expectations.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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