Entire weekend was a write off. I was so anxious. And yep. They shut down the unit (but I got to keep my job).
As a result this is forefront in my mind as a manager. One thing that works great is whenever I ask questions about something, anything, I also say “this is on my mind because…” and I find that both calms people and gets me more useful information. Context matters so much.
He took the opportunity to pick on someone different each time and rip them to shreds. It was a horrible thing to be part of.
Needless to say my Sunday evenings were a write off during that period with the stress of having to go to that the following morning (and it potentially bring my turn to receive the wrath)
I almost think he was sociopathic or something. No one else I’ve ever come across has been any where near as cruel.
In the end managing by force or coercion don’t work in my opinion, people don’t want to work for those managers. His entire leadership group turned over in the 9 months I was there. That was the longest 9 months of my career.
It probably pushed me to become self employed, chose the people I work with.
But probably mostly venting out own frustrations, while believing this is a effective managing style to get people motivated in fear.
Promote on Saturday so that they're not distracted on a workday.
Specifically: incompetent bosses mis-citing a study supposedly saying it's a good idea to fire at the end of the week.
I'm not sure I'd count on an employee that's being laid off to really put in the effort to finish up his projects ;)
Maybe your remembering giving as news on a Friday so it gets lost by the media over the weekend?
Layoffs on Friday are awful. People have lives. They have appointments and kids’ soccer practice and grocery shopping and such. Now they have to reconcile that they’re unemployed during those tasks?
I’d call that respectful. Well, as respectful as you can be when you lay someone off.
Infact its better to get laid off early in the week, now you can do other tasks that are easier to do mid week as opposed to the weekend.
The person laid off can "take things in" just as easily mid week as they can on the weekend.
I understand that most(?) Of the US is an "at will" jurisdiction, but where I'm from all employment contracts have a notice period in them. So when employment is terminated, by either party, there is a 2-4 week period where the employee works out their notice.
Often in the case of lay offs there would be plenty of heads up before the official notice period as well.
Only in the most egregious cases of misconduct could an employer get away without a notice period.
The reason for this is because the HR person drafting this policy probably had someone take advantage of the window between when someone is told they are laid off and when they are actually terminated, and so the policy gets made to reduce that liability. It sucks for the 90% of people who wouldn't do anything, but that's how it works. Imagine getting told you're your laid off, then your laptop handed in before you even leave the meeting room, then a security guard or HR person escorts you to your desk to pack your things in a box before they walk you out the building.
Mind you, you'd probably still get some severance bonus or keep getting paid for weeks or months, but you just wouldn't be expected (or able) to work.
Because of labor laws in the UK, HR did everything they could to avoid laying off the UK office staff because the process and cost was prohibitive. We kept people in the UK office for years just because it would have been a pain in the butt to remove them even if they were redundant or basically had no tasking.
A Friday shit-can means you have to keep the rage up and avoid letting rationale thought take hold for a few _days_ before the opportunity for a shooting spree at work is available. And chances are you've got a support network that'll be available Fri/Sat night to go have a drink and bitch with.
A Tuesday shit-can means less support network (it's a work night for everyone else) and everyone you want to murder back in the office less than 24 hours later.
I'm not taking a position here, but I can see a definite difference between a Tuesday and a Friday lay-off.
Postal, or just depressed with the news, in may help to have higher odds for the comfort of others.
Going postal wasn't an option, everybody was working remote. I had to bring my work computer back to the office, and I had less hassle than I expected getting access to my desk to pack my personal belongings.
There were three options
1. Just out of curiosity
2. To challenge the team
3. Because they didn’t understand something
This helped a lot to lower anxieties of teams in discussions.
I still get nervous any time there’s a meeting called for 9. At least they had the good sense to not announce them for the next day.
First 10 or 15 minutes is beating around the bush about how well things have been going, buuuuut....
Another 10 minutes of different leaders explaining how difficult the decision was, crocodile tears and all.
Everyone, meanwhile, is waiting for leadership to stop wasting time and get to the point. If it wasn't obvious at the start, it would be crystal clear now.
Another 5 minutes or so of hand-wringing about how amazing everyone is and how hard this was, to complete the bullshit sandwich.
Everyone expecting layoffs or some such bad news. Turned out the guy heading up marketing was leaving, and ego being a thing, needed a platform to announce this.
This fricking act put unnecessary fear into folks with mortgages and kids, for absolutely no reason!
It is so tempting to waste a bunch of time "softening" the blow of whatever you're trying to say, but you're never doing the audience any favours, you're just trying to control how they're going to react. You need only think about the last time you got an important email (job interview follow up, redundancy announcement, pay review etc). You immediately scan through the document for the one line that says what you need to know, usually starting with "unfortunately, we..." Or "we're pleased to...". The rest of the document is just fluff getting in the way of what really matters. Anyway, I'm waffling, but it never ceases to amaze me the variant ways management screw up that one simple rule.
Almost any time there's a same-day all hands I write off the entire day after getting the invite
This should be engraved on a plaque in every office building.
I'm not going to do more work if I am going to get walked out so work stops _right now_ to resolve the vaguery, so in the end there is a net loss in productivity when the message could've been, "Need to chat about <x>, no rush", then we can minimize context loss for 2+ people.
Basically the same length but clarified.
These days when you have chat as an alternative to saying it out loud with other people around, you can afford to tell someone what negative thing is coming: “hey when you have a moment let’s talk about how you handled _____”.
Then they know what’s coming. It might be unpleasant, but it’s not spooky.
And if you have to drop the news without a prior hint, regularly scheduled meetings can do that without people having their guards up.
Just call them without setting anything up or if you’re in the office pull them into a immediate quick chat.
(Imo never take a counter but always listen to one. That's valuable market information)
In my experience only two scenarios offer a substantial raise in pay: Switching jobs or Getting a new role/title.
Somehow just doing your job well is not enough.
Then the manager will usually schedule an exit interview for the report (or, if you’re at a bad company, fire you on the spot).
On the other hand, I don't react well to having news spring on me. My heart can race, I need some time to think through it by myself in order to be ready to discuss it rationally. I doubt I'm the only IT person in this boat. And likewise, if I'm delivering bad news, I end up spending more time worried about reactions that properly explaining myself. So a note in advance, to break the tension, could lead to a more effective conversation, vs. surprising someone. I understand there could be legal reasons why you'd have to terminate someone in person, but outside of that, it's nice to give people time to consider what they'd like to discuss before pulling them into a discussion.
The first meeting I don't beat around the bush, I get to the point within 60 seconds. I explain what I need to explain, and don't really leave them a chance to feel like they need to talk.
I finish up by telling them if they have any questions right now I'm totally happy to answer them and discuss, but I'm scheduling a follow-up meeting at $earlyTime tomorrow so they can sleep on it and we'll check in and have a follow-up conversation. And also that if anything comes to mind late tonight, they wake up in a cold sweat, whatever, to give me a call and I'm happy to talk whenever.
Because yes, even the most composed people I've worked with have been thrown for a loop by stuff like this and the first meeting is never really a productive two-way conversation. I just try and make it make as much sense as possible and don't take anything personally, and then have the real conversation about it the next day.
Funnily enough my boss had the same idea so we were both informing each other that we were leaving, in the same conversation.
"Wanna see somthing cool?"
"Lets shoot the shit after this"
"Yo, you wanna hang for a minute at 4"
if it works for headlines, why not messages to your co-workers?
A meeting without agendas or context are often wasted and longer than needed. I constantly remind anyone that I plan meetings with to let me know an agenda so I can bring solutions or useful information.
Sometimes preparation is nothing more than having time to think about a topic in advance.
The problem often stems from [easily distracted|poorly motivated|time poor] people using meetings as a way to force their attention to a topic.
I have a few clients who are so bad with this now that I simply decline their meetings and force them to collect their thoughts into email in their own time.
Another 'spooky' indicator is if your manager texts you with a similar urgent message.
But i wholeheartedly agree that spookiness should be confined to layoffs.
"A person who can arbitrarily make your life hell, including by ending your job right now, tells you 'let’s talk when you get a minute.'"
I think the standard American corporate system of power is kinda ridiculous. But it is what it is, and whenever I'm a manager in that kind of system I try hard to remember that everything I say has that preface to it whether I like it or not. Everything. And everything people "beneath" me say to me will have an equivalent preface about what they think they can safely say.
Yes, there's some economic power difference - and sometimes it is out of balance. The idea that your boss has control over you is silly; your boss has the control over you that you give them in exchange for compensation, and you can always just quit - I wish people would do so more, because many of the worst attributes of the modern workplace are because people don't just quit.
I saw another comment saying you need more than 10M to be truly financially independent in case you get sick … to a single person!
It seems to me that much of the system is designed in a way that gives a lot of power to the employer.
But you're very breezy here about quitting jobs. It's easy enough for a young, single guy in a hot industry. It's quite difficult for others, especially given how things like health care are tied to employment.
In the 1980s, it was possible for families - Two adults, two kids - To buy health insurance for <$100/mo. https://listwithclever.com/research/healthcare-costs-over-ti... . Prices started spiking in the 90s, but really skyrocketed in the 2010s.
If you’re going to tell me something unpleasant is coming, at least give me enough clues to steel myself for news about:
- technology problem
- customer problem
- team communication problem
- team performance problem
- personal performance problem
- litigation problem
Any of those things still might lead to me getting fired for any number of reasons, but at least my imagination can spin something potentially productive to bring to the meeting.
If you say only “let’s talk” all the time, it just becomes a background anxiety due to being acclimated to it, sure, but I don’t see how it’s productive.
This whole “you need to have anxiety now” makes absolutely zero sense to me. The meeting can be for the details that you’re not prepared to dig into right now, that’s fine, just give me enough broad context to hang a hat on.
Edit: I guess if there’s zero power imbalance, I might be fine with just “let’s talk,” but I still don’t see why providing zero context results in a better meeting.
Can take years to establish something like that. That isn't a luxury most managers have.
Moreover, having enough empathy to understand the power imbalance and going out of your way to not be "spooky" when you first start working together is partly how a rapport like that is built.
If our request isn't high value enough to provide the other person additional context, our request isn't so important it can't wait until coincidence or regular schedule allows the discussion. We're responding to our own feelings of urgency in the moment rather than the planned and understood needs of our roles. When we do that, our communication, even if we feel like it is healthy and well-built, is only coincidentally so and its health is subject to swift erosion.
I learnt in one job never question anyone superior in a Jira comment. Although innocent I was taken to task for it and I believe my life got worse after that point. I was just trying to solve some technical thing. I wasn’t fired but I still didn’t have fun.
No matter the connection between two people, how close they are privately, none of that can fill in the missing information.
Even your best friend or even your spouse can have some very bad news for you. In the context we are discussion it is rare that only one person and exactly the one giving you the request will be completely in control over what it's about.
The news does not have to originate from them, they are just reporting it. So you may have the greatest of relationship with that person and you know 100%V they have your best interest in mind at all times, but you don't have that same connection with the rest of the entire universe which can be the real origin of the message you will be receiving.
There also is to take into account that humans are much more likely to try to delay bad news while good news is shared much more easily and quickly. So receiving the discussed communication already tends to be used more frequently for talks people would rather not have.
I think this might not necessarily be the case. Judging from the frequency the topic is brought up here on HN, a lot of highly skilled, well-performing people suffer from impostor syndrome or other forms of anxiety in the workplace. A ‘spooky’ message then easily leads to reinforcement of their (skewed) negative self-image, without it having anything to do with distrust in either direction.
P.S. I do completely agree with both the scenario and conclusion you illustrate in the rest of your comment and think my supplement of the premise in your first sentence in no way changes the validity of said scenario and conclusion.
No matter how good my relationship is with my direct manager, someone above them can decide I’m gone and neither my boss or my boss’s boss can do anything to save me. Happened to me twice.
Every time some bad happened in my career, it’s been preceded by vague request to talk.
This isn’t helped by having an unrelated anxiety disorder.
I talked with a former boss about this (in a good way): trust. I always think about this when thinking about my relationship with an employer: do I trust them to do right by me? Typically when the answer is "no", I know it's time to leave.
You need to build and maintain trust in the relationship. It doesn't need to be on a friend level but you need to have built trust that your boss is watching your back and wants the best for you as a person.
Then if a hard discussion needs to occur, even if it doesn't end in termination, the discussion can begin at a place of "how do _we_ solve this" rather than having to work on an unstable and untrusting platform.
Right now, it also complicates things that so much communication is over toneless chat or email; something that's clumsily worded or just brief can come across a lot worse than it was meant.
Years back, I was entirely remote my first year at the job. When I finally went to a work retreat I was shocked how nice people were to me. For the whole year I'd thought no one liked me and I was on the verge of being fired! (Also, no one's faces looked how I had guessed from their voices on conference calls :D)
I've had good trust with most of my managers but since they'd usually include a few words to indicate what they'd like to talk about, then the rare cases where that context is missing tends to imply that it's something too sensitive to mention over e-mail or chat. That's almost always bad news.
This is too all-or-nothing. It's a business; things can happen that are nothing to do with trust. Not everything can be avoided by better relationship.
Or you haven't had the time and chance to build up communication and trust. That takes a long time, it's perfectly natural that it would take many months to a few years for somebody to feel perfectly safe in their relationship with their managers
Oh... Not necessarily. If I heard this I couldn't resist the temptation to guess what the talk would be about. In a work environment normally a lot of things happens at the same time, so any of these may be the topic of the coming discussion. Which one of them? Is this important enough so I should stop doing what I'm doing? Or it may wait for some time? For how long? An hour? A day? A week?
I cannot talk about everyone, maybe I'm not socially competent enough to decide on how long it may wait (could I infer it from the tone used by the manager?), so it is easier to me to drop my recent work and to start talking right now, then to risk showing disrespect or something like this. Or I can go clever and to pretend that I'm busy right now, but to show up to the talk in a half an hour. Probably doing nothing for half an hour because my mind wanders trying to guess what it is about, so I cannot concentrate. Such a delay is not very helpful for the work done, but it helps to not look super awkward, but shuts the question on "how long it may wait".
From the other hand, if I know at least something about the coming talk, I can judge (at least vaguely) on how it is important, how long it can wait. I can shuffle my priorities in a meaningful way without any anxiety that I'm making a mistake now.
All this is a description of my normal reaction, but sometimes I'm stressed a lot, or maybe feel myself not totally healthy, and then I can be really anxious. Without any rational reason.
> In short, if you think someone might want to know something, and they have a reasonable claim on deserving to know
In a short it is easier to give a bit of a context, then to simulate the mind of the others to guess what they might want to know, and what the reasonable claims they can have. It may be just me, but it is hard to simulate properly -- you need to know what they know, what they didn't know but you know, to shuffle all this to prepare a context to a simulation, then to spend some effort on the simulation itself, ... Why to do all these difficult tasks, if you can say instead "I wish to talk with you about X, because I got bits of information X and Y". It would take 0.5-1.5 seconds longer, and no theory of mind needed.
There was a psychological experiment, where experimenter came to a queue to the copier, and tried different strategies to make his copies in a hurry. The key insight is a word "because": you can ask people of anything, but you need to give them a reason, why your claim should be respected. You can give dumb explanations explaining nothing ("please, let me be the first to copy, because I need to hurry"), it is nevertheless a way better than to give no explanation. The position of managers let them to ignore these rules of a common decency (they are so much more important for the company, and they can make your life a misery, and in any case they find some excuse to blame you instead of themselves, like "you must be a team-player and to forgive your teammates for a small mistakes they made in a hurry"... they have power, so just get over this crap), but it doesn't mean that they should do it. Sometimes I think, that they do it to remind everyone about their position in a pecking order. Not consciously, but the pecking order is wired deep inside our brains, it doesn't need consciousness to drive our actions.
That happened only once, the other 300 times it was just about something they were working on and needed more information.
In our company's culture of few meetings, about 90% of the time I received a Slack message "Can we chat when you have a quick minute?" it was indeed the employee quitting. Eventually I would just respond in Slack to confirm they wanted to quit, so we could skip the dog & pony show that is assumed to be necessary for a "proper resignation," which I don't think employee nor manager enjoys.
Has this ever come back with a "no"? I would find it pretty unnerving to have a manager ask if I were quitting out of the blue, although I totally get why most of the time that pattern means a resignation.
That seems to imply that your opposition to a person not being spooked is not a moral one. Please tell us more about it.
That said, nothing beats a good track record. If I don't have a reputation for stabbing people in the back, throwing employees under the bus, being rude, inconsiderate, and obnoxious, then I'll likely be a lot less scary to my employees, even when I have to withhold information, or toe stupid corporate lines.
A lot of folks think that kindness and empathy are interpreted as weakness, and, in some cases, this is true, but, in the aggregate, it's entirely possible to be quite authoritative, respected, and obeyed, while also being kind, honest, and sympathetic. At least, this was the case for me. YMMV.
As an extreme, think of the worst manager or company you worked for saying "let's talk" vs the best manager or company you worked for saying the same thing.
Honestly, I've worked in places (and with managers) where a message like that would scare the crap out of me, and places where a message like that would make me really excited, because:
- I trust that my manager will rarely negatively surprise me.
- I feel like most news is generally positive (ie positive feedback, good opportunity opening up, etc).
- I know that even if it is going to be negative (ie negative feedback, etc), I have room for failing and learning and my manager will generally have my back.
Our product offers real-time collaborative notebooks, and we use that feature to create a notebook that contains the agenda for what we'll address in a scheduled meeting. Each member writes down the issues they think are pressing. Then we get on a call and go through the points one by one, and we collaboratively edit the document based on the roadmap, customer conversation, etc.
We try to leave as little to interpretation as possible, and when someone isn't clear enough, others usually reply with clarifying questions. Usually a "What do you mean by X". The person then clarifies with a more specific answer, but we evolved to be much more systematic.
We strive to be "clear, concise, complete, and correct" in our writing, even more so for personal matters precisely to avoid people filling the void, and putting effort into what we'll actually talk about before the talk. I have addressed that issue with the same words and am aware that we fill the void with fear.
By the time we have the chat, the person has already done the groundwork and is prepared, and we both use time wisely.
Do a little 5 whys analysis and ask why in the absence of information your employees are moved to terror.
It might be a normal human reaction and an unavoidable power asymmetry between labor and management.
On the other hand, if the median expectation is terror, perhaps that provides some valuable information about the background energy left behind from all your other communications.
2. Why does firing cause terror? Bad news could be a firing, which can be done at any moment without cause or notice.
3. Why would that cause terror? They need a job to have money.
Is it really realistic for working relationships to have a level of trust that even most intimate personal relationships don't achieve?
In an environment where there is constant positive feedback from your work, you wouldn’t feel as scared from such “spooky” messages.
Sometimes they back that up with high pay, and in those cases, perhaps it's fair enough. Oftentimes though, it is not.
But....clearly there are people out there who use this kind of communicaton, some of them doubtlessly reading this thread. So my question is: those who do say vagaries like "let's talk when you have a minute* - why? What is your intention?
* I know I'm interrupting so you don't have to act on this immediately.
* I also don't want to be overheard (in my case I didn't want the family member I was using it with to share something if they were with friends), so the message doesn't let on what the conversation will be about.
* Hopefully it won't be a long conversation.
I don't know if I've just gotten lucky or something, but even in a work context "let's talk when you have a minute" doesn't bother me. It and variations have been used a few times, and it's always been neutral or positive - a manager I don't have regular conversations with wants an update on something big they know I'm working on, my immediate manager wants to tell me about an upcoming project and if I can take it on/put aside current stuff to do it (and it's urgent enough it can't wait until our normal 1-on-1), stuff like that.
Yes, it usually is. But the whole point of avoiding phrases like this is that the person does not know this beforehand, which can put them in a state of uncertainty. It's not at al difficult to just say "hey, can I get an update on your project" in your example.
When IMHO, it's better just to carry secret water as the manager in those circumstances, and have the conversation when you have time to have it.
The key to avoiding spooky messaging is asking "How is the person I'm saying this to going to receive it?" and "What good is going to come from their knowing what I'm going to tell them, between now and the actual conversation?"
Sometimes it's important! Like "Do it this way ASAP, we'll talk about why later." But in the meh version the person cannot do anything productive with "We should talk later." And in the worse version, they're worrying about it.
The intent is to deliver a message in person over a synchronous communication. In many cases, dropping a message over Slack, text, or email, does not feel fair to the other person. For example, "Hey, I need to talk about my departure from the team when you have a minute".
Well - you're busy, they are busy - you need a moment of their time at their convenience and you're asking for it.
Although I've learned to add context or just jokingly say "nobody's getting fired" which does relieve the tension.
Nobody except you that is, haha! Oh how I crack myself up.
In the end, it turned out he was leaving the company and wanted to tell his fellow engineers one by one. It was sweet and the secretiveness made sense in that context, but it did leave me a bit spooked.
Conversely, during a one-on-one my supervisor ended our small talk with, "So I have something a bit more serious that I want to talk about..." immediately followed by, "--it's nothing bad!" So luckily he was a bit better about not being spooky. Turned out they were promoting me.
>[...] when it comes to text messaging, the period has lost its original purpose because rather needing a symbol to indicate the end of a sentence, you can simply hit send on your message. But caution is needed, said McCulloch, noting that problems can start to arise when you combine a period with a positive sentiment, such as "Sure" or "Sounds good." "Now you've got positive words and serious punctuation and the clash between them is what creates that sense of passive-aggression," said McCulloch.
In digital text-based communication, you have to choose: either go all-in with proper style - capital letters, proper sentences, correct punctuation - or don't capitalize at all, write in single sentences, and never use full stop. In the latter case, full stop is equivalent of hitting the desk with your fist for emphasis.
Related: don't end sentences with ellipsis, ever. That's (in my experience) almost universally read as being disappointed with something or someone, and the lack of explicit target usually implies the disappointment is with the recipient.
This is very true. It happened to me some time ago, that I was performing very poorly - at least according to my team (I think it is at least partially true but there were circumstances)
Instead of telling me so I have a chance to improve, my boss just fired me during my probation time.
If I would have known earlier they are not happy I would have adapted my work style according to their expectations and tried to please them. This way I didn’t even receive a chance.
Context: I just started a new job and then the first lockdown due to corona happened. Nobody was prepared to onboard me properly. I was a junior developer, but in hindsight I believe they expected a senior developer
I did also once have a manager who chronically used "we need to talk" for every conversation out the usual routine and got everyone stressed out for no good reason.
Best thing to do is to not work in ane enviornment where things are so toxic to begin with.
> A corollary to “don’t be spooky” — deliver constructive but critical feedback as close to the “original sin” as possible. Receiving feedback that you did poorly weeks after the fact is disconcerting. It can lead the recipient to wondering what other things they’re doing poorly but won’t hear about until later. Which leads to story-crafting, and the whole negative cycle starts a-new.
Specifically, if you're going to penalize people for doing something, tell them that you're doing it, rather than hide behind some cryptic, "technical difficulties"-sounding error message. Treat people like adults, and I suspect you'll have better results most of the time.
One day at a past company, I noticed in a videoconf team meeting that the CEO and the head of my dept. looked atypically grim. After the meeting, dept. head texted for a call with me. I think the gist was something like:
are you available for a call a little later?
uh oh. you and bob looked unsmiling in the meeting
lol nothing bad! just want to talk about the project
I suppose he saved me an hour of worry before the call, but these days we're friends, and if he ever tells me some forthcoming meeting isn't bad, I will probably instantly remember that time it actually was. :)
Just tell me what you need in the first message. It takes combined less time for you to continue typing the original message than it does to send a message, interrupt me (or multiple people!), so I can wait for you to finish typing what you actually need.
That being said, there's a world of difference between "let's talk when you have 5 minutes" (= let's discuss something small which isn't worth detailing the context right now) and "come to my office on Monday, we need to talk" (= this is important, but I don't want to give you context right now).
I understand this can be stressful, and a manager should never accidentally flag that they want a difficult and serious conversation by accident. Sometimes you need that conversation though, and foreshadowing it by giving context in text form is not better.
Best case I think is simply to come see someone and speak to them immediately, or give them a phone call and do it that way.
Second best is a meeting as soon as possible. When you need to speak to several people, it can be very stressful too to try to catch them one by one, find some are unavailable or not responsive, when you are trying to be respectful by sharing difficult news ahead of the grape vine.
This advice applies beyond the manager/report relationship.
I always ignore these freaking "hey" or "got a minute?" messages on slack. For the life of me, I can't imagine how either dumb or disrespectful you have to be to send such a useless message.
Just tell me what the f you want to talk about. If prod is down yeah, I definitely have a minute buddy. If you're wondering how to organize next quarter's roadmap it can wait until I'm done doing whatever I'm in the middle of.
Go through a startup layoff? It can weigh in you for a few years. Are they going to re-org? Did I do something? Is my team going to get cut or moved around?
It's also subtle, so it's not obvious when a good manager does this right. It's just really obvious when a less-good manager does it...
I write back "Hi", and then then I sit there waiting...
Don't be spooky: "how can you drop that BOMB on my lap without warning? YOU MONSTER!".
I may be thinking about romantic relationships, though...
They usually start by: "we need to talk", "I have something to tell you".
Also... "did you do that thing we talked about last week".
(Not at a distance.)
Using the word "niggardly" can get you fired because it's slur-adjacent. Anyone who uses it in 2021 is looking to give offense. As we understand words like "spook" in a new light, it becomes prudent to avoid using them as well, lest we be seen as deliberately offending people.
It's always important to think about the social effects of what you say.
Most people in the world have no idea of the current state of racial tensions/issues in the USA. The majority of English speaker in the world don't live in the USA.
I genuinely can't tell if your message is 2nd degree or not.
NPR fortunately also does not make the rules. Refusing to use the word 'spooky' because someone might imagine racial connotations creates those very connotations, while continuing to use it the regular way prevents those connotations from creeping in.
Those looking to be offended, especially on behalf of others, are ofcourse free to do so, and they are also free to be offended at being publicly ridiculed when they attempt to use their cultivated sensitivity to redefine acceptable discourse.
If your workplace has common toxic symbols (e.g. the HR folks bought some pink envelopes), then you need to avoid them in your day-to-day unless you are trying to signal an abandon ship to your folks.
On a weird sidenote, if you commonly phrase things the same way, then don't decide to be different and change for change's sake. Consistent and predicable are gifts to anyone you manage. Variety is the spice of life, but consistency gets you better service.z
Monitoring language for signalling is the warning flag.
Give me context. If you want to chat for twenty minutes just to catch up, then that's fine but just tell me.
See it’s not some ungodly burden to add one or two words of context
Frankly, someone disturbing my flow by adding information that I don't need now and making me subconsciously think about something new is now respecting my work.