Say What? Time to Spring Clean The Workplace Vocabulary

Spring is in the air (finally!). I'm a flurry of cleaning, organizing and overhauling my space this time of year...and am bound and determined to keep it that way (good thing I have a new partner in crime who helps...swoon!). I find the whole spring cleaning process very therapeutic. "Out with the old, in with the new" as they say. This same mantra can apply to the workplace too, whether you need to figure out a way to get a handle on your email (inbox zero, anyone?) or maybe you want to spring clean and throw out those toxic phrases that unintentionally sneak into everyday conversation.

Frequently the results we achieve are based on how we communicate our ideas or respond to a request for our time and resources, especially in the workplace. Often our default is a "Sorry, no I can't." (or worse), because we are overwhelmed, burned out and simply don't have anything extra to give but part of being successful is being likable.

How can you be more likeable with a full plate? By helping someone when they need it most. But when you have limited time, often by adjusting your response you can help someone without getting invested in their project or problem- and retaining or adding to your likability status.

You can get more out of your interactions (and build relationships) by carefully selecting your words to ensure your ideas- and intentions- are understood and well received. With or without a title you can lead in the workplace. Here are a few toxic phrases to spring clean right out of your vocabulary:

Throw Away:

"We've always done it this way."

New and Improved:

"I appreciate your suggestion. How do you see an alternate method/process/idea being more effective for us?"

When you respond this way you are encouraging open communication and demonstrating that you can be persuaded to do things differently going forward if you are convinced of a greater result.

Throw Away:

"That's not my problem."

New and Improved:

"What resources do we have to address that concern? I'd like to help you but I am not sure I am the right person to assist given my role and other high priority projects."

There is nothing more frustrating then someone telling us it is not their problem.  This is not helpful and makes us feel like the other person is not being a team player.  By asking questions about the situation and explaining why you might not be the best person to help due to a limited role or time restraints there is a greater understanding of why another option is needed to quickly solve their dilemma. And maybe, just maybe all they wanted to do is vent.

Throw Away:

"There is nothing I can do for you."

New and Improved:

"I see why you are struggling to get answers.  Who would be a better resource for your questions? Let's figure out who you can talk to next to get the support you need."

Instead of throwing your hands up in the air, try to help someone solve their problem- even if you only make a suggestion or point them to someone who might better be able to assist them.  You can provide support by encouraging the person to loop back if they hit a dead-end and aren't sure where to go. If that is the case, you can brainstorm with them on the best course of action. This will make them feel heard and supported. Win-win.

Have any of these phrases slipped out of your mouth?  I know I am guilty!

Instead of a "throw away" default response pause a minute to flip the situation and think about how you'd like someone to respond to you if you hit a wall or were just plan frustrated. Spring cleaning toxic phrases help you go the extra mile to support your team. Plus, you never know when you will need the favor returned!

How do you overcome workplace politics? What's one thing you do to support your team? Please share your ideas- or ask a question below. I'd love to hear from you!

Posted on April 20, 2015 .