The Dangerous Phrase

February 20 2023
By: Shawn M. Galloway

"We've always done it that way," is a phrase that raises red flags to many leaders driving for improvement. All progress begins by thinking differently. However, habits have strong gravity. A known path is easier to venture down than an unknown path. Cultures work hard to maintain the status quo. Culturally or individually, it is difficult to change behavior sustainably. When receiving the phrase, "… we've always done it that way," here are a few questions that will help drive a beneficial conversation.

The Dangerous Phrase

Why do we do it that way? Why do you feel that's still the best way to do it? What practices did we once view as acceptable risks years ago that today we now consider unacceptable? What worked to change how we approach those tasks? What if it went against company policy or became illegal to continue performing the job that way? What is our plan B or plan C?

When someone is resistant to newer, better, or safer practices, seek to understand why they feel that way and help them realize that gradual change happens all around them and, quite possibly, benefits them without their knowledge. Sustainable behavioral change yields best from intrinsic motivation. Help them see personal value they will experience or receive with the change. If you can't provide an answer to that, perhaps for the time being, their current approach has merit.

"People won't change until the pain of not changing is greater than the pain changing brings." — Just B. Jordan

"The most dangerous phrase in the language is 'we've always does it this way. '" — Grace Hopper

"Nowadays, you form your beliefs to fit your behavior, not the other way around." — Judith Martin

Shawn M. Galloway

Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.

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