As a Generation Y’er with the habit of changing careers as often as other people change socks, I’d like to think I’ve achieved a trained and keen ear for painfully common idioms. More specifically, and at the detriment of my own self-esteem, I’ve come to learn exactly what these everyday phrases really mean when directed towards job-seekers and employees.
The all-too-pervasive idioms I am speaking of are being constantly abused by interviewers, CEOs and managers across industries as far as the eye can see. Some of these lines are nauseatingly cliche, some hurt like a bad bruise, and others are just generally baffling.
If you or someone you know is a repeat offender of any or all of the following remarks, never fear. I’ve devised fool-proof solutions for re-working these antiquated everyday-ism into clear, constructive, and not-so-obnoxious statements.
The goal? To forever eradicate these pervasive everyday-isms once and for all.
Mostly taken from real life experience, these are the 6 phrases used WAY too often in business.
1. “We need you to…”
This is perhaps the most gut-wrenching phrase any employee will ever hear. However, more than feeling like a bee sting to the inner ear lobe, it also can have a detrimental effect on company culture.
Whether you’re uttering this phrase to the janitor or the R&D guy, delineating a “we” and a “you” in any work relationship, is simply bad for business. When you say “we”, not matter how gently you say it, you are essentially building a rigid construct between yourself and the employee. You are causing whoever it is you’re speaking to feel like a commodity with no autonomy. In uttering this line, you have made yourself the “corporate” in the room, and this makes everyone uncomfortable.
The reason why you’ll hear so many obviously-companies still claim to be “startups” or at least to maintain startup culture, is because nobody likes the “we.” What people want to hear when interacting with their “superiors”, is that they don’t view them as a subordinates, but rather a very valuable entity to the company.
Instead of approaching employees with, “We need you to,” try something such as, “Because your obvious strengths lie in your ability to analyze, I would like to see you take on X.”
This way you are addressing their strengths as an employee while motivating them to act.
2. “It’s groundbreaking.”
Ugh, spare us.
For starters, let’s be clear, Groundbreaking is only to be used when you are Alan Turing and you’ve just cracked the enigma or you are Bill Gates and and the internet has just expounded from your very fingertips.
A marketing ploy to get more people to click the “like” button on your Facebook page or a hack for getting editors to pick up content pieces does not constitute as groundbreaking. Intuitive at best, but groundbreaking? No.
You see, this phrase has been so saturated across all industries, it’s vagueness and presumptuousness acts as as a red-flag and comes off as evasive more than as an enticing feature. This rule is true for any potential suitor, be they an onboarding employee or a potential investor. Groundbreaking is not helping your case, no matter how many times you use it.
Instead, be specific and let the product or platform speak for itself.
3. “I wish you all the best.”
Whether you’re saying this at the end of an interview or after a meeting with potential clients, this phrase is so finite it has the potential to leave a bad taste in the mouth of your counterpart.
Using these stagnant phrases at the end of conversations or meetings says, “Goodbye, I may never see you again.” Though that’s probably not what you mean, this phrase de-motivates businesses to fall upon your brand when searching for a partner or service of your like.
Instead, try using an exit remark that opens the opportunity for a future with that person. Something that says, “We may be seeing each other sooner than you think.” Such as, “Please be in touch if you need anything at all and we hope to see you around these parts again.”
Whether or not the relationship is ending on a sour note is inconsequential. Your parting words speak volumes, especially if you are able to tell your counterpart, “We’re open to a future with you, if you’re open to a future with us.”
4. “It was a good learning experience.”
This sweet little phrase is filled with good intentions. However, this form of self-motivation, should remain just that – to one’s self.
Sure, tell yourself that you're not upset over a missed opportunity because every process is a chance to learn. We all do this. However, saying this out loud to employees or team members just makes you sound naive.
The learn-as-you-go tactic, while still in full force, is less talked about than ever. Why do real time analytics platforms get so much attention? Because they cut much of the guessing out of the test-fail, excruciating and expensive process. In other words, while experimental strategies are very much alive and in practice, this way of working is no longer a bragging point. Therefore the phrase, “It was a good learning experience” is counterintuitive to how people either are working, or should be working.
Learning and experimenting, as a side-by-side processes, can be a money pit. So to make this claim proudly is dangerous. People want evidence that the action or plan was situated around more than a let’s-give-it-a-go experiment.
Rather than posing a misstep as a learning experience, identify what went wrong and speak to that and that only. Address the root of the problem first and foremost and do the motivating throughout.
5. “It’s a great time to be a part of our company.”
This line is the one you will hear at every first interview of any company no matter how large or small. Why?
It’s an obvious and very claimable truth.
The only reason for you sitting there, in that interview, is because the company needs you right now and will obviously offer a mutually beneficial reasoning as to why you need them. This reasoning, however, should be more in-depth, thoughtful, and altogether extensive than just, “The timing’s right.” Especially when you’re searching for a loyal and passionate team member.
Interviews are a two way street and in order to get the best employee interested in a long-term position with your company, you’ll have to give them a lot more than, “This is a great time.” Just know that they’ve heard this line at every other company they’ve interviewed for and it is beginning to burn their ears.
Rather than just using this phrase like the other guys, give verifiable reasoning as to what makes YOU different. Whether it be culture, positive growth patterns, or the opportunity to free gym access, use your positive, differentiating factors to really sell the job seeker on your company.
Unfortunately, the perfect candidate will not be enthused by timing alone.
6. “We’ll be in touch.”
If you are using this phrase than you are a cliche and you should take a long hard look at how corporate you’ve become.
Usually commandeered following a not-so-great interview, “We’ll be in touch” seems like the natural next best thing to say. And why not? It’s light, dismissive and comes with no-strings-attached. However, this phrase has been so used and abused my interviewers that its meaning has been re-shaped into a tasteless, harsh and passive way of saying, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of, “We’ll be in touch”, you know that the feeling it elicits is so low and hopeless that it can actually make you distressed for hours to come.
If you’re still using, “We’ll be in touch,” drop it like a bad habit (because it is) and instead try something such as, “It could take up to 3-5 days and we’ll get back to you with an answer.” This line is great in that it’s precise while still remaining non-specific, it has no negative connotations and if you are a half decent human with a moral compass, you will have them an answer in that time frame… even if it’s “no”.
Language in a Company Matters
The idioms you use can have just as much of an effect on your business as a product or feature. Often methods of communication within a company are downplayed in importance. However, the effect of language on a company's culture and reputation cannot be stressed enough. No matter who you are and who it is you are speaking to, it's not what you say but how you say it.