Are eu·phe·misms annoying your risk management programs?

During my career, there have been a few constants.  A few of those sayings that I repeat over and over again.  One is “don’t mess with peoples’ money.”  Another is “don’t let the fox in the hen house.” You just don’t do it.  The last is “say what you mean and mean what you say.”

Honesty Rules

Honest and direct.  See reality for what it is – reality.  I think Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, would agree with me.  And when it comes to risk management, this is vitally important.  In recent years we have seen a push to criminalize and demonize every word, picture, and book that offends any person.  Now that push is moving into risk management programs.  Recently, I had a conversation with an attorney regarding an emergency plan we developed.  The attorney wanted us to place euphemisms in many parts of the plan to soften it to her sensibilities.  My honest and direct answer was NO; we are not doing that.  Let me explain.

Death!  Death is something that happens to all of us.  Sometimes earlier than we would like.  When dealing with emergencies, such as earthquakes, fires, floods, tornadoes and the like, death happens.  I wish it didn’t, but sometimes it does.  And when it does sometimes, we have to deal with those that death took – the dead.  Our attorney in this story didn’t like the work dead or death.  She wanted us to change those words to something nicer, softer, something less jarring.

Facing reality

But when the earthquake strikes and you have to call 9-1-1 and ask for help, you can’t “beat around the bush.”  You have to get direct.  It’s time to save lives, and that means giving the facts.  The cold hard facts.  Can you imagine calling 9-1-1 and saying “well, they seem to be, well, they are just lying there.”  What does that statement mean?  Does it mean that you don’t know if they have a heartbeat, a pulse, or they do, but just aren’t conscious?

Consider the audience.  9-1-1 operators are trained to get the facts and not become emotional about the circumstances of the call.  They need to know where to place resources, where to send personnel and how much of each to send.  Beating around the bush doesn’t help anyone.

Planning ahead

If your staff are too sensitive to be able to handle the facts of an emergency, then they don’t belong in the plan in the first place.  And if you are getting this golden information before you assign staff, then listen and listen wisely.  These individuals are going to be an added problem when disaster strikes.  They are going to be the ones that can’t hold it together, that can’t perform and are going to require additional resources.  Plan accordingly.









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