Public Safety Insights Newsletter: Let’s Stop Excusing Bad Behavior and Harmful Outcomes

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October 14, 2015 VOLUME 3, ISSUE 17
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Let’s Stop Excusing Bad Behavior and
Harmful Outcomes
Public Safety Insight: “Politically correct” language is a toxin that results in dysfunctional behaviors and outcomes. It’s time to replace it with candid conversations.

In today’s world, “politically correct” language has run amok, leaving dysfunction in its wake. Instead of engaging in candid conversations, people tiptoe around issues or situations for any number of reasons: they don’t want to upset others, they’re uncomfortable dealing with emotions, or they don’t want to jeopardize their personal interests. As a result, we allow poor performance and even “unacceptable” outcomes to flourish.

Examples of the toxicity of politically correct language and its dysfunctional outcomes abound in the news. Here are a few of the most recent:

The language The reality
A college football coach’s erratic public behavior was blamed on his having been “over-served” alcohol The coach drank too much and behaved in ways that hurt his team’s performance and the school’s reputation
Victims of violent crimes routinely are described as being “in the wrong place at the wrong time” A teenager shot and killed a student as she left her high school’s football game
City council members say, “The money to restore the closed engine companies isn’t available” City council members choose not to allocate sufficient resources to public safety
The Dodgers player whose controversial “hard slide” broke the leg of the Mets’ shortstop said, “That’s winning baseball” The player’s slide – acknowledged as late and high as well as “borderline dirty” – bolstered  the legitimacy of the damaging “win at all costs” mentality


Here’s the problem: politically correct language provides cover for those whose bad or illegal choices harm others because it excuses or rationalizes their actions. Failing to hold people accountable due to fear of being labeled politically incorrect creates a toxic work environment and opens the door to victimhood and feelings of helplessness and despair. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We have a choice: to continue to enable bad behavior and harmful outcomes by tolerating “political correctness” or to say “no” to victimhood by insisting on accountability. We start by using candid language that clearly reflects reality and refuses to excuse or rationalize bad choices and harmful outcomes.

Here are four steps you can take to enable candid conversations in your organization:

  1. Teach people the skills needed to have direct, honest, constructive conversations.
  2. Reinforce and reward those who engage in candid conversations.
  3. Hold everyone, including yourself, accountable for their decisions and behaviors.
  4. Let people know the benefits of candid conversations as well as the negative consequences of indirect or politically correct language.

If you would like to learn more about how a lack of candor can hurt your agency, and how you can realize the benefits of an environment in which candid conversations are the norm, take a look at our article Why and How to Drive the Political Correctness “Elephant” Out of Your Workplace. To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at

Public Safety Insights is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help first responders maximize their performance. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.


©2015 Pat Lynch | Public Safety Insights

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