I once worked with a gentleman known around the office as the “But-Man.”
That appellation had nothing to do with cigarettes (or the size of his rear end, for that matter).
The But-Man earned his name through the aggravating use of a simple, three-letter word:
“But” can be a troublesome thing to say. In my experience, servant-leaders in the workplace use the word carefully.
Here are 3 ways “but” can cause trouble at work.
- “But” can deflate praise.
Maybe you’ve heard phrases like these.
In an annual performance appraisal: “You’ve had a wonderful year, BUT . . . [some form of criticism follows].”
After a project is complete: “Excellent work, BUT next time . . . [some form of criticism follows].”
After a decision is made: “Good choice, BUT did you consider . . . [some form of criticism follows.]”
You get the idea.
If you’re going to give praise, give praise. Skip the “but.”
Once you insert the “but,” the praise is deflated. Then the person you’re talking with only hears criticism.
- “But” can chill conversation.
“Yes, BUT . . .”
Let me translate the statement immediately above:
“But” is an argumentative word. As a noun, it means an objection. Like in, “No, ifs, ands or buts about it.”
Not that servant-leaders don’t argue or object during conversations. Of course they do.
But rather than saying, “Yes, BUT . . .” servant-leaders I know will often say, “Yes, AND . . . [some improvement of the original idea is then offered].” In doing so, they build up a conversation; they don’t tear down an opponent.
- “But” can stifle innovation.
“BUT we’ve always done it that way.”
“BUT that’s never been tried before.”
“BUT that’s risky.”
There are few phrases in the workplace more dangerous than these.
Every day the business world seems more global, more competitive, more complex and more rapidly moving. Innovation is essential for success.
Leaders who stifle innovation do so at their own peril. When leaders tell innovators – expressly or figuratively – to “but out,” they risk their own careers – and perhaps the futures of their companies.
So, my friendly advice to leaders, especially servant-leaders in the workplace:
Don’t be But-Man or a But-Woman!
What do you think? Are you as sensitive about the word “but” as I am? What would you add?
Let us know.
As always, we appreciate your views.
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