Three Careless Conversations That Threaten Your Small Business

Like a small leak can cause a major flood if it's not caught soon enough, careless conversations can ruin your small business. It only takes one casual comment or discriminatory joke to set off lawsuit and ruin your company and reputation. Take note of three types of conversations and avoid them as you communicate with your employees, partners and clients and protect your livelihood.

  1. Empty Threats

    It may be tempting to motivate employees by threatening to demote, suspend or terminate them if they don't meet sales or performance goals. However, those threats are considered bullying if you don't plan to follow through or are legally not allowed to follow through with the threat.

    Rather than make empty threats, be sure to spell out the expectations you have for employees and the consequences in your employee manual. Refer to that manual when you deal with your employees, and make sure your managers use it, too, as you prevent bullying and empty threats.

  2. False Promises

    To boost morale or encourage team members to perform at their best, you may say things like "I see a future for you here" or "You're going places." These remarks could be considered contracts whether they're made in writing or verbally and even if you said them but don't intend to follow through.

    Making these false promises could result in a lawsuit if the employee is fired or does not receive the promotion. Rather than make a false promise, set up a tangible reward system with extra bonus pay, time off or branded products for your employees who achieve specific goals. This system boosts morale, employee retention and productivity without making false promises.

  3. Inappropriate Comments

    A simple joke or comment about someone's race, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion or gender might be funny in the moment. You won't be laughing, though, when you're sued.

    Be vigilant about avoiding any kind of conversation that could be considered offensive or insulting to your employees, customers and anyone. If you're not sure about what's considered inappropriate, refer to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's website.
Water cooler conversation, private emails and even casual remarks made in passing could be the downfall of your small business. Set an example for everyone in your company by modeling the right conversation. Make sure your managers and supervisors are aware of these three conversational threats, too. You should also do regular trainings for your entire company as you encourage others to avoid careless conversations and protect your small business.
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