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Vocabulary for Denying a Promotion - Performance Appraisal


It’s always tough when delivering bad news, no matter the setting. In the workplace, it’s important to maintain your professionalism at all times. These conversations are delicate for the person on the receiving end of the bad news and mishandling the situation could devastate the morale of the employee.

Diplomacy refers to interacting with others in a way that fosters good relationships. It involves tact and skill in handling interpersonal communication so that good relationships are maintained and there are no (or few) bad feelings.

There are verbal and non-verbal diplomatic language techniques that are important to remember when delivering bad news to someone in the workplace. The main aim is to ‘soften’ your language in order to let the listener down easy.

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Let’s say someone has applied for a promotion, but their application was unsuccessful. Here are some tips which show how softening your language can be helpful:

Instead of…

Why not try…?

+ (options)

  • We don’t want you.

  • You didn’t get the promotion.

  • Forget about the promotion. Get back to work!

  • At the moment…

  • On this occasion…

  • Unfortunately…

  • While we appreciated your experience…

  • …you don’t fit the criteria.

  • …you haven’t been successful.

  • …we can’t proceed with your application.

  • …we’ve chosen a different candidate.

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Using hedging language also lessens the (negative) impact of a statement. Hedging words and phrases are the things we say to soften our language, to make it less direct or abrupt, and to limit or qualify claims and statements we make:

Instead of…

Why not try…?

+ (options)

  • We don’t want you.

  • You didn’t get the promotion.

  • Forget about the promotion. Get back to work!

  • I’m not sure, (but)…

  • I’m afraid…

  • I’m sorry, but…

  • …you (don’t) fit the criteria at the moment.

  • …we’ve gone with someone else.


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