When I received a copy of "The Manager's Phrase Book," I laughed.
The book is a collection of more than 3,000 canned phrases a manager can use in different situations, rated on sliding scales such as "casual to formal" or "encouraging to punitive."
For example, in the category "How to Boost Your Team's Confidence," the most subtle phrase is: "I'd like to see you guys projecting a bit more confidence."
Well, that sure is handy!
One of the tenets of my workplace philosophy is that every office should have a soft-serve ice cream machine. But equally important is that workers, bosses and managers should not be afraid to act like human beings.
A reference guide of prefabricated comments would be useful for programming a Roomba to become vice president of sales, but not for getting people in the workplace to loosen up and be themselves.
Keith Murnighan, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, said he, too, bristles at anything that drives business leaders away from authenticity.
"Young people, what they're looking for is people who are authentic," Murnighan said.
I'm not sure who decided people in leadership positions should adopt personas different from their own, but it's more common than not, leading workers of all ages to demand greater sincerity.
"You have to sincerely care about the people you work with," said Murnighan, who wrote a book called "Do Nothing! How to Stop Overmanaging and Become a Great Leader." "If you don't care about them sincerely, they will read that. They're not fools. You don't have to like them; you just have to let them know you care. You care about their careers, and you care about their families, and of course you care about them getting the job done."
Unfortunately, that seems to come hard for some people, so they seek shortcuts, such as a book of phrases to dish out as needed.
"What I'm seeing is a movement toward books like this," said Jamie Showkeir, an Arizona-based leadership coach. "The longing is to simplify leadership or management to the point that people can do it with a collection of phrases and techniques."
I reached out to Patrick Alain, the French-born author of "The Manager's Phrase Book." I told him my concerns, and we had a thoughtful conversation in which he said the book grew out of his experience coming to the United States in 2004 and struggling to find the right words in business situations.
He said his previous book - "The Leader Phrase Book" - has sold well in the U.S. and internationally, reflecting the need for such a resource.
I understand Alain's intentions and certainly credit him with filling a void.
But I'd love to see managers spend less time looking for the right thing to say and more time saying what they think is right.