I recently worked with an organization to bring greater health to their staff culture. Every evening the last individual to work the front desk makes a list of all the "mistakes" that were made that day. Thus, the next day staff are confronted with their "mistakes" (it is the vocabulary they have been using) and in our conversations it became apparent that this language was highly demotivating, 

The word mistake conjures up failure and those who made the "mistakes" ended up beating themselves up over it. How would you like to come in every day and start your day reviewing your mistakes. Whether intended or not, those responsible feel like they failed and were being blamed - after all, it was "their mistake."

In the course of our conversation it occurred to me that the language being used was hurting people and the staff culture. I suggested that the word "mistake" is full of negative connotations and that there might be a better way to handle issues that come up. We decided to talk about "best practices" (a positive word that we all aspire to) and ban the word "mistake" (a negative word and charged with the concept of blame.

As I think about places I have worked or organizations I have work with I think of the question "Whose fault was it?" when something went wrong. That very question or phrase is laden with negative connotations. What if we were to ask another question: "What happened here?" That is a neutral question that is not focused on blame but on understanding so that whatever happened won't happen again.

The vocabulary we use can often be negative and demotivating. Try to find positive ways to state the same thing so that we life one another up rather than give people a sense of failure.


  • Feb 09, 2020
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
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