12 important phrases to use in construction

12 important phrases to use in constructionNo this isn’t an English lesson, but rather a reminder of some phrases we forget to use, or are too nervous to use in our construction business. Here are a few things we forget to say, or don’t say often enough. Could you be guilty?

1. “Hello” (“Good morning”) – Do you greet employees when you pass them. I knew one business owner who would walk right by people in the office every morning without greeting them. We shouldn’t be surprised that these employees found this hurtful. As managers we are often preoccupied with problems and phone calls and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of not greeting employees. But that worker on your construction project will feel recognised and appreciated if you say hello next time you walk-by. That simple act of recognition, which cost you a few seconds, can make your employees feel more included and appreciated and more motivated.

2. “Thank you” (“Well done”) – We are often quick to criticise employees for poor work, but we overlook thanking or praising them for a job well done. Praise can be motivating. A simple thank you doesn’t cost anything and yet it can reap big rewards.

3. “Help” – You can’t always be expected to solve every problem. Sometimes you have to ask for help and advice. You don’t have to use the advice, but just discussing the problem with someone else can provide a new perspective. Many projects sink further into trouble because project managers have been too proud to ask for advice and have continued on making poor decisions until the project becomes irrecoverable. We all need help sometimes.

4. “Let’s check” (“Are you sure?”) – Too often mistakes are made which simple checks could have detected. Mistakes with prices and quotations, mistakes with measurements, even mistakes in letters and emails. Take a few minutes to check what you’ve done and you may just avoid a costly or embarrassing mistake.

5. “Is that safe?” – Most accidents are preventable and if those involved had stopped to ask this simple question they would probably have done things differently and avoided the accident. Don’t kill yourself or others because you didn’t stop and ask; “is this safe?”

6. “Is there an alternative?” (“Can we do it differently?”) – We often accept the first solution without considering alternate methodologies, alternate solutions or alternative materials. There are usually many ways of doing something - more than one may be right - but we should always be looking for the best solution. It may be time for the old dog to learn some new tricks. The way you’ve always done something may no longer be the best solution anymore.

7. “Will we be paid for that?” (“Did we allow for that?”) – I’ve found that contractors often do work for free. Sounds unbelievable! Yet project managers sometimes don’t read the contract so aren’t aware of the basis of the quotation and what the client’s obligations are. They are also sometimes guilty of performing extra work without a written instruction. When you receive an instruction, or open a new construction drawing, ask the question; “did we price to do that work? Will we be paid?”

8. “I don’t understand” (“Can you clarify that”, or “I’m not sure what you mean”) – All too often we make assumptions when we aren’t sure of something. This is particularly dangerous when pricing a project when the request for pricing isn’t clear. It can be very costly when you incorrectly assume something. I’ve encountered many problems on my projects when drawings weren’t clear and people assumed something which in fact was incorrect. Don’t be too proud to ask questions – no question is too stupid, especially when the answer could save money, and even sometimes lives! Just as important is to not assume that the person you are giving instructions to understands what you are saying or knows what you want.

9. “No” (“Sorry we can’t do that because;…” or, “Sorry we can’t do that but maybe we could do this;…”)– I’m sure we’ve all accepted a project schedule that’s too short, or been bullied by a customers into giving a discount or reducing our price to fit their budget. We’ve probably lamented these actions later when we finished the project later than the agreed date, or lost money on the project. Maybe we’ve regretted not saying no to an unsafe act? Employees and customers can be demanding and it’s often easier to say yes when they ask for special treatments or exceptions, yet this may lead to more demands and problems later. Of course we shouldn’t get into the habit of only saying “no”. I’ve known people whose first response was always “no” – “no” can sometimes be over used and destructive. Learn to think before you say “no”. If you do say no it’s often useful to offer an alternate solution, or at least give reasons for the negative response.

10. “We should do it like this because; ….” – Sometimes we expect our crews to blindly follow our orders and rules. Safety is a prime example where companies and customers seem to have endless rules and regulations. On some projects there is often a culture of non-compliance of these rules. But, maybe if our employees understood the cost of their non-compliance, the potential implications to their and their fellow workers safety and health, they might just be more inclined to do the correct thing. It’s time we stopped saying: “you do it this way because those are the rules”, or “that’s the way we do things around here”, or “that’s what the boss says”, or “it’s my way or the highway”. Your crew deserves the respect to know why we should do things in a certain way, and understanding the reasons will probably make them more likely to do as requested. Explaining why we do things in a certain manner is also part of the mentoring process.

11. “Are we proud of that?” (“Am I proud of this?”) – Many quality problems arise on projects because of a lack of pride or a lack of care. Will you accept the quality of the item in your house? Will you be proud to show your work to your family? Our customers are paying for a quality product and we should be committed to delivering it to them.

12. “Let’s celebrate” – Construction isn’t an easy business and there are numerous problems encountered on a daily basis, so when there’s a substantial success embrace and celebrate it. Everyone wants to belong to a successful team – success is empowering, infectious and motivating.


How many of the above words and phrases do you use?

A large part of construction management is about managing and motivating people. Good communication is essential. Don’t be too proud or arrogant to use certain phrases. Take a few extra minutes out of your day to use some of these phrases and you would be surprised by at the results you get on your projects - they could just save you millions and earn you a whole lot more respect from your crews.

Does your manager forget to use some of these phrases? How does that make you feel?

12 important phrases to use in construction

This Image courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. The Image at the top of the page 

courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(Written by Paul Netscher the author of the acclaimed books ‘Successful Construction Project Management: The Practical Guide’ and ‘Building a Successful Construction Company: The Practical Guide’. Both books are available in paperback and e-book from Amazon and other retail outlets. This article is adapted from information included in these books. Visit: www.pn-projectmanagement.com for similar articles and more information on how the author can help you.)

© 2016 This article is not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission from the author.

Paul Netscher 6/7/2016 · #2

#1 Thanks Javier.

+1 +1
Javier 🐝 beBee 5/7/2016 · #1

Thanks for sharing it. Welcome to beBee !