A surefire way to frustrate a manager is to provide qualified input. Qualifying input is a strategy instinctively used by many employees to avoid committing to a response as a safety measure in case they end up being wrong. However, it also makes employees seem unsure, indecisive, and even lazy.
‘I Think’ Suggests Uncertainty
A great example of qualified input is using the phrase “I think” before providing advice or offering an answer to a question. The word “think,” though, “doesn’t sound definitive,” writes Judith Humphrey in an article for Fast Company. “It subtly saps the power of whatever follows it.” Humphrey points out that the word “think” “derives from an Old English word (‘þencan’ or ‘thencan’) meaning to ‘conceive in the mind, consider, meditate.’” In other words, it’s a word that signals uncertainty.
When employees say “I think,” it means they aren’t able or willing to give more definitive input, thereby forcing their boss to make the final determination, with the employees’ input being just another piece of information to weigh. What the boss is really looking for is something definitive he or she can count on, and employees who provide that kind of input are viewed as more valuable.
Taking a Stronger Stance
Of course, it’s not advisable for employees to simply drop the qualifiers if they’re unsure. That would only provide a false sense of certainty, which can lead to faulty decision-making. Instead, employees need to think about what they would need in order to provide a more definitive answer to their boss. Is it more information? More time to think about the problem? More self-confidence? Whatever it is, it’s employees’ responsibility to close the gap and ensure their input is more definite and therefore valuable.
It can be intimidating to make a definitive statement to one’s boss, but it’s part of what separates an average employee from a trusted, valuable team member. Employees who are willing and able to provide that certainty set themselves up to be their organization’s rising stars.