Sheakley Updates

You Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Say That

Ella Baker
You Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Say That
Reading time 4 Mins
Published on Oct 23

While many employers and employees may think of their co-workers as family, it’s important to remember that there are some lines that just shouldn’t be crossed when talking to employees. From the socially awkward to the downright illegal, there are just some things that business owners and managers just can’t say to their employees. To keep your company’s reputation intact, avoid charges of discrimination, and keep your employees engaged, here are 5 things you can’t (and shouldn’t) say to your employees.

Are you pregnant?

You also shouldn’t ask if an employee is married, if they have children, or if they have reliable childcare. In fact, any questions about an employee’s family status or caregiving responsibilities should be avoided altogether.

Employment decisions, including hiring, discipline, termination, promotion, and demotion must be made only on job-related factors and performance, with no regard for the employee’s caregiving responsibilities or any other factors unrelated to the job. Employers should never inquire or try to get an employee to reveal information about their family life or any responsibilities outside of work. Current employees and applicants are under no obligation to inform employers of pregnancies, family status, or caregiving responsibilities unless they are seeking pregnancy- or dependent care-related leave or accommodation.

Failure is not an option.

Innovation and change are critical to keeping up with constantly evolving markets, technology, and customer expectations. When employers and managers tell employees that failure is not an option, they severely impact employees’ willingness to take risks and suggest new ideas.

Employees are a treasure trove of new ideas for most companies. From offering brand new ideas to making suggestions about how work can be done more efficiently, when employees feel that they are involved in helping the company grow and innovate, they are more loyal and engaged in the company’s success. Meanwhile, discouraging employees from trying new things or introducing new ideas can lead to higher turnover, lower production, and an overall less engaged workforce. Check out Failure Tolerance: Encouraging Your Employees to Become Risk Takers to learn more.

We don’t need to do a performance review this year.

Every employee wants to know how they measure up to the expectations set out for them in the workplace. Performance reviews are a crucial tool for both employers and employees to use in gauging the growth and performance of the worker.

Performance reviews allow employees to understand their past performance and what changes they can make to improve in their jobs, what is and isn’t working, and what may need to be changed. Additionally, performance reviews are an ideal opportunity for managers and employees to establish future goals and performance expectations. While they can and should be used to praise employees for work well done, they can also help managers identify employees who may need additional training and provide documentation to support employment decisions.

Don’t tell other employees how much you make.

We’ve all heard it – and you may have even said it to an employee before. However, Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act gives employees the right to discuss wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment with coworkers.

Prohibitions against discussing pay have been found to violate Section 7 rights by the National Labor Relations Board and many courts. Employers may inform employees that not everyone earns the same rate of pay, but they cannot instruct employees to not share information regarding their pay rate with fellow employees.

You look nice today.

Along with any other comments about an employee’s appearance, this statement can be classified as harassment. Unless an employee’s wardrobe choice constitutes a violation of the company dress code, comments about an employee’s attire should be left out of workplace discussions.

Instead of commenting on an employee’s dress or looks, keep things professional by complimenting a worker for their performance on a recent project or on a new idea they’ve introduced. This will do far more for building their confidence than a passing remark about their appearance. Check out “New” Rules for the Workplace in the Age of #MeToo for more tips on creating a more equitable work environment.

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