Sticks and Stones and Words at Work

This childhood saying may not be completely true: "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me."

Recently I revisited an article on workplace communications. Maybe it was because summer was definitely in the air or maybe it was because the weekend was soon to arrive, but my inner child came out and recalled this expression:

"Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me."

I don't know how many generations of us used this expression. It was supposed to be the perfect retort to someone who called you names on the playground or in the classroom.

Unfortunately this childhood saying is not necessarily true. Words may not cause physical damage, but they sure can do a number on your psyche. In fact many of the bullying issues faced by children and young adults today stem from words.

When you recall some of your unhappy workplace moments, you are probably remembering how you were treated and how you were treated most likely
involves how people spoke to you or about you. Sometimes words really do sting.

There can even be times when words are well intended and yet they still cause hurt feelings. Imagine the surprise of the manager who delivered some good news to an employee only to receive a less than enthusiastic response. This particular employee wanted to have more 'work from home days' after
careful consideration her manager decided to grant her request. The manager
called the employee to her office and said the following:

"I don't care where you work or when you work. I just care that you get your work done on time."

Ouch, the good news was lost behind the message of "I don't care." Negative language was used to deliver a positive message.

This would have been a better way to deliver the good news:

“Because I know that I can trust you to complete your work in a timely and professional manner and because I know that you have expressed an interest in telecommuting and flexible hours, I would like you to know that starting next week…..”

Be careful with sticks and stones, because yes they can break your bones, but
words can be hurtful too.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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