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Story About Spilled Paint & How We Treat Staff Post-Event..

Recently I got my son, Will, age 10, away from the video games. He used to come home from school and do nothing but stare at a screen and plunk away on keys. To tear him away from these games was always a fight, so, one day I said "enough" and we quit cold turkey. Now, this intelligent young man gets off the bus and constructs models. It's wonderful to see him use his imagination and be persistent in building WWII model ships -- and he's doing it without any help from me! It's just really cool.

One problem, though: Will continually forgets to change into play clothes before working on his models. Plastic model glue and paint are an anathema to school clothes. Yesterday afternoon Will came running up to my office in a panic, and explained that he had just spilled paint on his new shirt, he had thrown the shirt in the washer, and needed my help to fix it. Naturally, being the great father I am, I yelled at Will. He burst into tears and stomped off to his room, muttering that he would never work on models again. I felt like crap.

So, I grabbed the shirt out of the washer, thankfully the paint was still very wet, and I was able to wash it out in the sink. New shirt saved. Problem fixed, sorta. There was still the matter of the crying 10-year old and the father who bit his head off. Full disclosure: There have been prior instances where Will immediately alerted me to a mistake or error in his judgment and I barked at him. Now, I don't want to give the impression that Will is a complete angel.....far, far from it.....yesterday morning Will arose early and raided the Halloween candy, and tried hiding the wrappers under the pillows in the couch. The dog ratted him out. So, regarding the paint incident (and prior confessions), I apologized to Will. I told him I was sorry for yelling at him when he immediately confessed an error to me and asked for my help. I told him that I appreciated him sharing problems with me quickly because it gives us a chance to fix the error or lessen the damage. I said, however, there was still the issue of Will forgetting to change clothes before working on models, and that behavior had to be fixed or there would be consequences going forward. Also, I contrasted this situation with Will shoving candy wrappers under the couch cushions. Will understands going forward that I will react much differently if mistakes are hidden.

How are you behaving when your clinicians share mistakes? Are you "bad Doug," or "reformed Doug?" Are you approachable, or are you punitive? I know this is a big issue in the long-term care industry where people are routinely suspended or even fired for being involved in mistakes. Have you communicated to your staff how they should expect to be treated when reporting an error or mistake? Have you brought your HR people into this discussion? Do the HR folks understand this issue?? Is this topic enshrined in your disclosure policy? Your success at disclosure will depend on your staff's willingness to disclose errors to leadership. If the culture is believed to be punitive, good luck.

We cover these issues extensively in the Sorry Works! Tool Kit. The Tool Kit literally covers everything you need to know to launch and sustain a successful disclosure program. To order the Sorry Works! Tool Kit, simply click on this link.

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