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Human Resources Management

By Michael Mercer, Ph.D.
May 7, 2015, 12:13

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Beware:  Some words and phrases employees use are warning signs that those employees may be
-  Lazy
-  Unproductive
-  Unengaged
-  Thoughtless

Here are seven phrases and words that spell trouble – if your employees use them.

1.  “No Problem” 

An important reason you hire anyone is to handle activities that are a “problem.”  An employee who joyfully spouts, “No problem” implies he happily will do work that is “no problem.”  But, what if the work feels like a “problem?”  Will the employee want to do it?  Do not bet on it!

2.  “My pleasure” 

Saying “my pleasure” is pseudo-sophisticated drivel.  Like “no problem,” it implies the employee gladly does work considered “pleasure.”  But, jobs entail activities lacking “pleasure.”  OMG!  Do you want an employee who may avoid unpleasant duties?

3.  “Have a good one!” 

Have a good what?  Lousy customer service employees love this phrase.  Actually, customers prefer hearing “Thank you.”  Employees who say, “Have a good one” have no clue they should say, “Thank you.”

4.  “I don’t know”

Motivated employees who do not know answers say, “I’ll find out.”  Lazy people say  “IDK.”  Avoid hiring lazy employees.

5.  “Like” 

If the employee does not know what to say, the person could pause or say, “Um.”  But, “like” sounds like they are, like, hanging out at the mall, like with friends.  I bet you do not pay employees to, like, socialize with friends, like, at the mall.

6.  “You know?” 

If employees or customers do not know something, then tell them.  If they know, then why ask, “You know?”  You know what I mean, you know? 

7.  “Try” 

Saying “try” is a way to avoid doing something.  Productive employees actually do their work.  Unproductive employees “try.”  In fact, saying “try” is similar to saying someone is “a little bit pregnant.”  Either you are or are not pregnant.  Either you really do your work assignments or you do not.  Employees who say they will “try” implicitly warn you they may not complete work assignments.


First, hire employees with a good work ethic, and enough brains to do the job.  Use pre-employment personality and intelligence tests to assess job applicants, plus in-depth interviews, role-plays, work simulations, and realistic job observations. 

Second, make sure new employees know they will stay on your payroll only if they improve your company’s productivity and profits. 

Third, if an employee uses any of the seven phrases or words mentioned here, tell them to stop that, and explain what those phrases imply about their work behaviors.

Finally, de-employ, fire, terminate and get rid of any employee who does not help you grow your business.


Michael Mercer, Ph.D., wrote the book “Hire the Best & Avoid the Rest™.”  Dr. Mercer created 3 pre-employment tests – the “Forecaster™ Tests.  His pre-employment tests are used by many companies to do pre-hire assessments of job applicants. 
He is a frequent speaker at conferences.  You can subscribe to
“Dr. Mercer’s HIRE THE BEST Newsletter,” and see info about the 3 pre-employment tests, at

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