Have you been dropping “BUT Bombs” at the office? What a 10 year old can teach you about work etiquette.

April 29, 2013


I was thinking about a class that my daughter Simone and wife Rebecca went to a couple of months ago. It was a girls leadership course for moms and daughters; my daughter is 10 years old.

In one of the three workshops that they went to they came home with a tool that I found pretty interesting. It’s called the “But bomb.”

The general idea is that when my daughter, and to be clear … anyone, is presented with a situation where they need to describe what it is that they need, give a compliment or deal with conflict they shouldn’t add anything to what they intend to say.

For example:

“I appreciate your position on that Parker … BUT, let me tell you why it’s wrong.”
“You look wonderful today Rebecca … BUT, your shirt is wrinkled.”
“I didn’t get to my homework … BUT/BECAUSE, i had a basketball game.”

You get the point. The initial statement is what is important. The second is another thought. They shouldn’t be packed together.

I find myself with this bad habit often and I’m sure many of you see or commit this yourself. Remember being at that meeting when you said that’s a really great idea but…. You are invalidating everything that you’re saying to the person that was a compliment and packing everything into the problem. And it’s passive agressive.

Imagine how much more powerful and direct these statements can become:

“I appreciate your position on that Parker. I disagree with the following assumption.”
“You look wonderful today Rebecca.”
“I didn’t get to my homework. I’m sorry.”

The effect of the but bomb in the office is substantial and expensive. It’s devalues the contributions of your team. It reinforces distrust amongst peers and it plain-old makes people upset and that contributes to a decline in productivity.

have you been but bombed?

If you find yourself complementing or giving direct feedback followed by a but … stop. Reassess what you’re going to say and why it’s important. We have a little bit of fun with this at home calling out each other’s but bombs; “That was a but bomb dad!” And i’ve started to use it in the office as well.

The ultimate lesson of the but bomb? Be clear with what you say.

Being direct in describing what you mean will benefit you and the person you’re talking to.


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