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3 Cringey Phrases to Avoid Saying to Your Employees

Effective communication in the workplace is crucial for maintaining a positive and productive environment. However, a recent survey has revealed that employees are growing tired of vague and empathetic statements, commonly referred to as “therapy-speak.” This form of communication, characterized by its empathetic tone but lack of genuine understanding, is leaving employees feeling resentful and disconnected from their leadership teams. In this article, we will explore three cringe phrases to avoid using with your employees and provide tips on fostering genuine and honest communication in the workplace.

The Impact of Therapy-Speak:

According to the Harris Poll survey, two-thirds of American workers have experienced therapy-speak at work, leading to feelings of resentment and disingenuousness. Phrases such as “We understand your point of view,” “This is a growth opportunity,” and “We understand that this may be challenging” are seen as insincere and fail to address employees’ concerns effectively. It’s essential for leaders to recognize the impact of their communication style, as 79 percent of Americans believe that workplace communication strongly influences their job satisfaction.

The Need for Genuine and Honest Communication:

Lindsay Lapaquette, a workplace communication expert, emphasizes that employees’ frustration often stems from not feeling heard. While not all vague statements can be categorized as therapy-speak, leaders should consider incorporating elements of genuine human connection into their communication strategies. The survey reveals that 81 percent of Americans prefer authentic and honest communication over therapy-speak. Effective communication is a shared responsibility, and both leaders and employees play a role in fostering open and honest dialogue.

Tips for Authentic Communication:

To avoid falling into the trap of therapy-speak, experts suggest a few simple strategies. Leadership communication expert Skip Weisman advises employees to speak up when they sense something is amiss, encouraging open dialogue. When employees express concerns, leaders should actively engage by listening attentively and acknowledging their perspectives. Repeating their concerns back to them demonstrates genuine listening and helps employees feel valued.

Lapaquette emphasizes the importance of validating employees’ feelings while maintaining boundaries around decision-making. Although employees may not always be satisfied with a particular outcome, clear communication about the reasons behind decisions is crucial. The authentic connection doesn’t require full disclosure on every matter, but it does involve being real and transparent about what can be shared.

Fostering a Culture of Authenticity:

Creating a culture of genuine and honest communication requires ongoing effort and commitment. Leaders should prioritize active listening, validation, and clear explanations of decisions. By fostering an environment where employees feel heard and valued, leaders can build trust and promote stronger engagement within the team.


Therapy-speak and vague, empathetic statements are no longer effective in the workplace. Employees crave genuine and honest communication that addresses their concerns directly. By avoiding cringey phrases and adopting strategies such as active listening, validation, and transparent decision-making, leaders can foster a culture of authenticity and improve overall employee satisfaction. Remember, effective communication is the cornerstone of a thriving and engaged workforce.


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