phrases that kills especially at workplace

buzz • kill   / noun :  a person that ruins an otherwise enjoyable event or moment. Known to lurk under the bright fluorescent bulbs shining down in the workplace. 

No matter how hard you try, a “buzz kill” or sometimes referred to as a party pooper or killjoy are everywhere – especially in the workplace. Like a mosquito feeding off a person’s blood, these individuals feed off of brainstorming sessions where the ideas are plenty. As a recovering creative director from the ad world I witnessed firsthand how these 7 phrases can take down the best and brightest in the room.  

  1. We tried that before. An oldie but a not-s0-goodie. True, sometimes ideas don’t workout the first time but that doesn’t mean they won’t work in some other fashion. Some of the best ideas come from past failures. Discussing the mistakes of the past opens the door for you or your team to ask, “What’s different this time around that could make this a success?”
  2. We don’t have the time. People always make time for what’s important. If there is value, and the people involved see the potential possibility or light at the end of the tunnel – it is more likely that there will be time allotted to bring the ideas to fruition. Come prepared and keep current timelines front of mind when discussing new ones.  The key is in not in spending time, but to invest in it.
  3. I’m not saying you’re wrong but…The old passive aggressive commentary. Similarly found in the phrase, “I don’t disagree with you but” – either way, this dance around speaking openly and respectfully can derail an idea and sugar coats both your message and the potential importance of what you wish to convey. Contrary to what you think, people do pick up on the not-so-subtle negative in the set up.
  4. It isn’t in the budget. Be careful about applying dollar signs prematurely as it’s “almost” impossible to fully assess the commercial potential of an idea until you’ve built it out and understand what it actually is. The balance sheet and budget will have its time and place but that isn’t now. When creativity produces value for an organization, the money will follow.
  5. Let’s put that one on the back burner for now. Although this sounds nice and professional, it’s actually an instant killer. That’s not to say it won’t be revisited but brushing it off with some reason is a speed pass to the ubiquitous “parking lot” we all talk about but never actually park our car in. If you have to park an idea because you believe the group will genuinely end up off-track if it’s explored, always make sure to come back to it.
  6. It can’t be done. One of the most blunt and hardheaded statements around. Typically found in a basin of cynicism, defeat and despair. Although negative, it can be overcome. When confronted with this phrase, simply ask the ask person “why not?” and listen for the objections or reasons. Remember, you can’t address what you don’t know.
  7. We’ve always done it this way. Well, you may have “tried” but that doesn’t mean it failed or couldn’t work now with a new set of people and parameters. Sometimes you need to start the creative process by acknowledging that change is difficult and growth is uncomfortable, even when it is inevitable.

Final thoughts:
There were plenty more phrases that came to mind such as: That’s Too Risky, That’s Not Our Job, What If They Don’t Like It and I’m Not Sure It’s The Right Direction but ultimately, they were all variations on themes around timing, money and fear of the unknown.

It’s in your DNA to judge and assess but if you happen to work in an industry where you’re required to generate new ideas, here’s a great article showcasing how the likes of Nike, Etsy and Minecraft create new ways of thinking and find inspiration. Like a good mosquito repellent, keep an eye out for these killers and you will increase your possibility for a successful meeting.

The floor is yours: What phrases have killed your meeting?

Please leave your comments below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,