Phrases Leaders (Shouldn't) Use That Drain Energy and Shut Down Communication. 

When people in positions of authority use phrases that shut down multi-directional communication, it creates barriers to action that did not exist before. Tactics such as sarcasm, minimizing, fault finding, and power grabbing language are a primary cause of low morale and energy drains. These tactics are an attempt to give the impression of a fair and open dialogue, however, these tactics effectively shut out other’s voices. Projecting authority with counterproductive language short circuits discussion, buy-in, accountability, and energy toward the work.

 Sam is in a project planning meeting, discussing recent challenges, setbacks, and ideas for moving forward when a Team Lead chimes in to the discussion,

“Correct me if I’m wrong here….”

Just before lunch, Sam is in another meeting and a colleague says,

“You and I won’t agree, but…”.

Later that day, a supervisor calls a team huddle and proposes

“a simple fix by just doing this one thing.”

At the end of the day, Sam wonders why she feels like there is nothing to contribute, and that no one is listening. Sam wonders why the energy that runs her team is drained.

Our team of coaches and consultants at CMCC know and trust that the clients we work with have good intentions when they use counterproductive communication tactics, but our clients don’t always realize the effect their communication style has on others. They have a destination they see as the obvious end point and want to get there as quickly as possible. Frustration mounts when they see and learn that their communication builds even more frustration for their colleagues who have a different view of the situation, questions, or could have come up with a solution on their own if simply asked.

The damage counterproductive communication tactics can do to a team (and an organization) is vast:

  • creating a culture of distrust among colleagues and managers
  • lowering moral
  • making people feel like they are not valued
  • out-right bullying

Phrases Leaders (Shouldn’t) Use That Drain Energy and Shut-Down Communication reveal more about the speaker than anything else. The most common reasons people give for leaving positions (and organizations) include distrust, feeling undervalued, being bullied, and supervisors lacking self-awareness. People truly do quit bosses.

Here are some steps leaders use to enhance communication, build trust, and get back to the action:


When your team has a discussion or needs support…

  • Listen carefully with genuine curiosity
  • Eliminate criticism, invalidation, preaching, direction, erasure, blame, sarcasm, and judgment from your mind and visible irritation from your face
  • Do not take it personally
  • Stay present for as long as necessary to fully understand what each person needs to take action.
  • Ask clarifying questions.
  • Before responding, ask what you can do to help.
    Be honest as to whether you can provide help at the time, or whether you need anything in return.


  • Take each comment seriously and express interest and support, even if you have reservations.
  • Listen intentionally to drive action, increase production, create stronger bonds among coworkers, provide energy toward the results you need.
  • Allow others to be heard so they feel like they are contributing to something worthwhile and will be part of the accomplishment.

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