Why Should You Replace the Word 'SHOULD' with the Word 'WILL'?

Replace the word "SHOULD" with this ONE word!

Date Posted: 16th April 2021

Why Should I Replace the Word SHOULD with the Word WILL?

When I deliver IOSH or NEBOSH training, I often hear people complaining about the way things are at work, they complain about colleagues, systems and managers not doing things the way they should and so on, and I encourage them to, instead of absolving, abdicating responsibility, blaming other people for not doing things the way they expect them too, I encourage them to take responsibility for it.

I got one the other day where someone said the Health and Safety Manager should put the safety data sheets in the first aid room, and I made a simple suggestion, I said: “what you could do that would be more useful, more constructive, was for you to change the word ‘SAFETY MANAGER’ to ‘I’, and change the word ‘SHOULD’ to ‘WILL’, I will put the safety data sheets in the first aid room”.

You see, we spend a lot of time moaning, complaining and blaming other people for the way things are and yet a lot of these things are actually within our sphere of influence, they’re within our control (to some extent at least).

Maybe not the big things, you know, maybe not climate change or lockdowns or Brexit or any of those things, they’re kind of outside our sphere of influence (to a large extent), but things at work, things at home things, things in the family, these are things we can do something about.

So we should replace the word ‘SHOULD’ with the word ‘WILL’, and we can often identify some very simple steps and we can start to push things in the right direction.

I got another one the other day, when someone complained about the lack of space, (a common issue in factories, the lack of space): “we’ve got all this equipment which will never ever get used again and it’s just being stored, taking loads of room, I mean, if we got rid of that you we could use that room for something else”.

And I asked: “what have you done about it”, and he said “well I’ve reported it twice” so I replied “well could you do more? Could you do more to report it? Could you report it differently? Could you report it to somebody else? What else could you do to push this in the right direction?”

And with a little bit of questioning, a little bit of teasing and cajoling, the person kind of admitted that maybe they could put together a better proposal. 

They accepted the responsibility. At first they denied it was their job. They said it’s not their job to do. It’s not their responsibility. So I agreed, I said “|no it’s not your job. It’s not even really your responsibility. but you can take responsibility for it can’t you?”

We can take responsibility for things which are not our job. In fact, I would almost argue that it is your responsibility to sort things out which you know to be wrong. If it’s bothering you and bothering other people, and if your failure to do anything about it is causing a problem, you are responsible for it. In the Health and Safety Work Act, Section 7:  people and employees should take reasonable care of the safety of others who are affected by our acts and emissions.

So if you fail to report something, challenge something, speak to the right people or do anything useful about something, except for complaining, then you are responsible for the situation, therefore, it’s up to you to act. 

And I would go a little bit further with this, if someone isn’t listening to you then perhaps that’s your responsibility as well, perhaps you need to learn how to communicate better to persuade better, you may need to work on that, I certainly have, I was terrible 10 years ago, everyone hated me. Why? It was my fault. It wasn’t other people. It was me and so I had to work on that and it took me a very long time.

So if someone’s not listening to your ideas then perhaps you need to work on how you communicate them. Perhaps you need to build a better relationship with that person, because we don’t listen to people we don’t like. So build better relationships, work out how to communicate better and maybe take some simple steps yourself to correct the situation.

So replace the word ‘SHOULD’ with the word ‘WILL’ and start taking more ownership and responsibility for those things around you.

For more help with communication skills, check out our online course: Managing People Effectively.

Peace to you all. Stay safe!