I am sorry to start September with a RANT, but i have heard this question being asked a couple of times in as many weeks and it really annoys me! The question seems to be asked more and more by managers and team leaders, particularly in the corporate world. The irony is that it is mostly asked of the best employees and top performers in an organisation to make them feel valued, but has exactly the opposite effect. It ticks me off, and there is no need for it.
The Phrase – What If You’re Hit by a Bus?
Okay, you’re sat talking about projects, resources, giving updates about projects, blah, blah, blah and the manager / leader turns around and says:
- “What if you’re hit by a bus tomorrow, what do we do”?
I cannot think of a more horrific thing to say to an employee!
If a Leader uses the “Hit by a bus” Phrase…..
This is what you’re saying to your employees:
- I don’t care about you, just keep doing whatever it is you do
- I dont have time to think about the team
- We have a work environment where employees regularly think about leaving
- I haven’t given this meeting much thought, and so I’m blurting out whatever pops into my head
I get it that team are often lean, thinly-resourced whatever you want to call it. But there are ways and means of asking a resource based question, and for me “what happens if you’re hit by a bus” isn’t it.
Do you use this dreaded phrase? If so, ask yourself this question:
Would you ask the “what if you were hit by a bus” question to a friend or family member?
How about these alternative questions?
What about using some other phrases such as:
- What if you won the lottery tomorrow? (This is my favourite!)
- What if you decide take up another role within the company?
- What if you took a more senior role at another company, what would it mean for this team?
- Do you think the team is adequately resourced?
There are a number of ways to ask the question in a way that would make the person feel valued and even inspired! If you use the “hit by a bus” question, think about it next time…