Don’t mistake my intro. This blog is not about religion. Rather, it’s about some funny phrases bosses use to “motivate” their employees. And by “funny,” I mean, really, really, awfully scary and not funny at all.
I thought about this today when a friend explained that his boss was “turning up the heat” in the office (the boss’ words, not his). When I facetiously asked if it was cold in his office, he replied, “No. It basically means everyone is going to be heavily scrutinized and she is looking for you to screw up.”
Ouch, what a horrible way to work! Essentially, this boss is setting the expectation that there will be screw-ups and there will be consequences – of the dire variety. While this is of course true of all work environments, why does the approach have to be so damn toxic? I mean, the language! So aggressive, so threatening, so warlike. If we were silver-back gorillas, war would have been declared already.
Can you feel the thump-thump of the war drums?
Unfortunately when war is declared through threatening language in an office space, it’s not a fair fight. The boss is in charge and he and she will win. Not only because they’re in charge, but because they’re also drawing up the territory and creating the rules of engagement. The only thing you, as an employee, can do is do your damnedest to stay under the radar. And guess what that means? You got it, a total lack of creativity and innovation. Why on earth would you go out on a limb if the heat is turned on? It will catch on fire and you will plunge to your death (or dismemberment)!
So what are some other things bosses say to hurt productivity and morale?
Let’s review a couple of these “fun” phrases that I have personally heard uttered, either to me or about other people.
- I’m going to bring the hammer down.
- He needs a real kick in the pants.
- I’m turning up the heat.
- It’s going to be my way or the highway.
- I’m going to pull out the big guns.
- She’ll never know what hit her.
- And my personal favorite….”We’re going to have a come to Jesus.”
A “come to Jesus?” Really? Let’s take a moment to ask a few probing questions, Mr. Bossman.
Who is Jesus in the scenario? I guess since I’m coming to you, that means you are, indeed, playing the role of Jesus. So let’s start there.
Karen: Good morning. I understand you’d like to talk to me.
Jesus (remember, played by Bossman in khakis): Yes, I want to talk to you about your performance. We need a little “come to Jesus.” (he puts up air quotes).
Karen: Oh, OK. Are you Jesus in this scenario?
Jesus: No, I’m not saying that I’m Jesus, I’m just using a phrase. It means I’m having some serious issues with your performance.
Karen: OK, so you’re not Jesus. So why do we need to have a come to Jesus? HR says you shouldn’t ask me about my religious beliefs.
Jesus: I’m not asking you about your religious beliefs. It’s just a phrase. Like Jesus, I’m holding you accountable.
Karen: I thought you said you weren’t Jesus.
Jesus: Let’s just, for the moment, pretend I am Jesus. Your performance is substandard and it’s time to bring the hammer down.
Karen: Like Jesus did?
Karen: You said you want to me to come to Jesus and then have the hammer brought down. I’m confused. I don’t remember that part of the story.
Jesus: Stop it. You’re taking this too literal. You have some accounting to do for your work. Forget the Jesus thing.
Karen: Forget Jesus? That’s a little harsh.
Jesus: I’m not telling you to forget Jesus. I’m telling you to stop pretending I’m Jesus.
Karen: I wasn’t pretending, you told me to come to Jesus in your office. I thought you were forgiving me for something. Now I’m really confused.
What does Bossman Jesus say next? You decide. I’ll work on part deux, especially with your suggestions. Calling all survivors out there — based on your experience with a “fun” boss, submit the next line in this dialogue and I’ll put you in the story.
Submit to me karen (at) creativegunconsulting.com.