3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Say “I Told You So” When Things Go Wrong

When things go wrong, and you know it’s because the management team didn’t listen to you, it can sometimes feel right to say “I told you so!”. Especially, if you’ve accumulated a lot of grievances with the management team – like they don’t support you, they always shoot down your ideas, or they don’t provide the necessary budget to implement safety.

Though it might feel relieving and redeeming at first, it will slowly damage you and your career. Let’s talk about its three negative impacts as well as what you can do instead of saying “I told you so”.

It Develops a “Cover You A$$” Mentality

To ensure that we can keep our current jobs, it can feel intuitive to protect ourselves by ensuring that we’ve done our job right. And it’s usually done by documenting everything that was agreed upon and every work that has been done.

However, saying “I told you so” will slowly shift our focus from just documenting to ensuring that we are “covering our behinds”. Meaning that we have no fault in our job, that it’s the fault of others.

This CYA mentality can slowly grow on you and change you drastically. Once you’ve changed your mentality, instead of focusing on how you can reach company goals, you’ll be focused if you’ve done your part, if you’ll be faultless for this. And this will cause you to become slowly paranoid and think that everyone is after you.

It Develops a Habit of Giving Up

When someone has already given up on their jobs, although some won’t admit it, it shows in their actions. For example, coming late to work, lacking energy during work hours, and doing just the bare minimum.

And waiting to say “I told you so”, causes you to give up subconsciously. Due to the accumulated grievances with the management team not listening, you might be thinking of things like “I know they won’t approve it, so let’s just document it and not push for it” or “I know what they’re thinking, they don’t really care, so I’ll just repeat my projects last year.”

And this habit of giving up that you’ve subconsciously developed not only damages the safety of the workplace but also damages you as a safety professional. Because the habit of giving up results in no progress being made.

It Hinders Positive Work Relationships

The truth is, individuals, know if they messed up when they’ve made a mistake. And how will you feel if you are that person who messed up, and somebody comes up to you and says “I told you so”? You’ll feel horrible and more frustrated. And it might make you decide not to talk to that person anymore.

That is the same with the management team, when they make mistakes, they know it. They know that they should’ve listened to you. And saying “I told you so”, only drives more pain in the open wound of the management team.

When you’ve hurt the feelings of the management team, they might decide not to include you anymore. They’ll think of you as an annoying burden, like a cop with no responsibilities and liabilities, always just there to police everyone and tell people about their mistakes. And this will result in a very unpleasant working relationship.

What to Do Instead?

So, instead of waiting to say “I told you so”, you need to stay positive.

When they don’t support your projects, don’t think of it as a rejection, think of it as a sign that it’s not time yet and you can always bring it up at the next meetings. And you might have a lot of projects that were unapproved, then just keep these projects together in one list which you can always return back to.

Another thing that you can do, instead of saying “I told you so”, is to help the management team solve the problems that happened. This way, the management team will recognize you as someone who’s reliable and supportive. And this result in more favorable responses once you present again your safety projects.

Take Action

What I want you to walk away from today’s episode with is a way to handle tough situations when they won’t take your advice, then use these to build stronger relationships and lastly to never give up.

And remember, safety management is a process of baby steps. Take your small wins and build off of them.

Safety Should Never Wait To Say I Told You So

[00:00:00] How many times have you had to bite your tongue to keep from saying, I told you so, or I warned you this could happen? Too many times to count, I'm sure, but I think it's a mistake for us to rely on this cover your butt type of approach to safety. Let me explain.

Hey, there's safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast, I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 years safety professional after spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again. I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you.

At the Safety Geek, you will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your management support, and employee engagement, all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career. If you're ready

[00:01:00] to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place.

Let's get to it. Hello. Hello. Hello, My safety friends. How are you doing today? I hope everybody's doing well. I'm actually recording in a brand new podcast studio at the offices that I rent for the Safety Geek, so if it sounds a bit different, we are working it out . Hopefully it all works out very well.

This is actually the second time I am recording this podcast because the first time it did not turn out so well. So hopefully this time you are getting some good audio. So today I want to start off with a story and it is about a job interview that I sat through, and this was very early on in my career, and the two people that were interviewing me were actually from the head office of this organization.

[00:02:00] And they were hiring a dedicated safety person for the local office. And this was the very first dedicated safety job that they were hiring for. That the location just had never had a safety person before, so they were expressing the struggles that they knew that would come with the job. They didn't want anybody to be blindsided.

Basically, what they were telling me was what I would call selling safety to the management team. What they said was that there would be plenty of low hanging fruit . I love that saying. In the beginning, and there would be plenty for me to get by and I would have, you know, huge success probably my first year or so.

They said, but after that there's going to become a point, especially with this management team, that you're going to have issues and getting them to buy into safety and getting them to actually do what you're telling them to do. And one of the guys said, Yeah, so those things are just gonna go on your I told you so list. And at the time, being new in the field,

[00:03:00] I thought it was funny. I thought it was really cute, and I was like, Yeah, I guess you really do have to cover your butt and say, I did tell you that before , Right? And over the years though, I have seen this mentality just kind of proliferate our profession. The um, Oh, well, you know, they won't do it. I'll be able to say, I told you so later, and I think that this is a huge mistake.

Not just because when you get the opportunity to say, I told you that would happen, it means that something bad has happened, right? There was an accident, an injury, maybe a fine or some property damage, right? Obviously that's an issue, but I think it's a bigger mistake for us to be doing that. And let me explain why I think that this common mistake is an issue.

So first what it does is it develops a cover your butt type of mentality. Now, I totally agree that everything we do should

[00:04:00] be documented, but mostly because we have human brains and we can't be expected to remember it all. And I can go into the whole psychology of memory and all of that good stuff, but that's really why I like to document stuff is one to prove to a regulatory body that we did actually do it.

And two, because I don't expect myself to remember five years in the future or whatever, right? So I do agree with documentation, but to document, just so that way in the future you could say, Ah, I told you. See here, it's documented. It actually kind of shifts your thoughts and your mindset about your work and about your job.

And if you think about it, waiting around to say, I told you. Is basically just a negative mindset and it puts a cloud over everything you do. And the first result of having that negative mindset is actually you get physically affected by it. It increases your stress.

[00:05:00] It actually causes little microaggressions in your, in your brain.

It could cause a little bit of paranoia like, Are they out to get me? Are they trying to prove that I didn't do it? And all of that. When you build it up, it can lead to health issues. So if you kind of feel like this is where you're living right now, and the ideas that I give you to help change your mindset around it don't work, then I would highly suggest that that's an environment that you don't wanna work in for your own physical wellbeing, right?

So just think about that. So sometimes I truly believe that every management team can be changed, but I also understand that that change does take time and sometimes your health and your mental wellbeing can't wait out that time. So I get that, and there are ways that you can easily move on. Now, the second downside of having this cover your butt type of mentality is that it actually

[00:06:00] becomes a habit. So let's say that you have a safety initiative, you have a project you're working. You're trying really hard to get it approved. You see the hazard, you see the potential risk. You see what it would cost the company, but the management team or the employees or whoever, they don't see it the way you do and you are constantly having to try to convince them and they just literally won't do anything about it, you know?

You know, you've seen it, right? Like you've seen that hazard that you tell them about over and over and over again, and they do nothing, and eventually what'll happen is that you fall into this, You know, I've done everything that I can mentality, so now it's up to them. It's their problem. I told them about it multiple times.

The problem is, is that this way of solving it, of just throwing your hands up and saying, I'm done. It can become a habit, right?

[00:07:00] So that the next time something comes up, maybe you're not trying as hard, you get the same pushback as you did on the first initiative, and then you go, Okay, well they're just gonna treat it the same.

So I'm not gonna waste my breath. I'm not gonna stress out over it. I'll just give up earlier. Right? And then that habit of giving up actually gets strengthened and then you start giving up more frequently and you start giving up faster. So instead of actually putting in all of the effort, you're not putting in as much effort and then you become less effective at your job.

So those are the results that I told you so, and the other thing I want you to think of, Is like, Let's really talk about what this I told you so means, and I'm using that as an example. You could use the same term and say it's like, I've done all I can. They won't listen. My management team will never support safety. All of those terms. Right. Basically

[00:08:00] when you say that, and if somebody said it to you, how would it make you feel? Do you think that if somebody came to you, let's say you messed up, somebody told you about something and you didn't take any action on it because you didn't think it was a big deal and the bad thing happened and they came up to you and said, I told you that would happen, or maybe they weren't even smug like I like to be, right?

Maybe they were just like, Man, I told you this would happen. I so wish that you had listened to me. Does that make you wanna build a positive relationship with that other person? You know, if they did it once, that would probably be fine. But if this person was constantly like sitting there waiting to say, I told you so just to dig that knife in a little bit deeper, because I truly believe that when people screw up, they know they screwed up.

They don't need you telling them that they screwed up to. So

[00:09:00] when we start being seen as that person that is just waiting around for those little gotcha moments, people tend to avoid us. And then once again, that makes it even harder for us to do the job. This is where you get those situations where you walk into a meeting and everybody gets really quiet, or you walk into the room and everybody signals it, safety's in the room and you know, don't include them in whatever you're doing.

Hide things from safety, right? You don't wanna have those negative relationships. You wanna have positive relationships within your workplace. So the better approach when you've told somebody about a hazard and the bad thing happens, the better approach is just to step in and help clean it up, clean up the mess, and move forward.

It's better to get it right than to be right. I absolutely love that saying, and don't even bring up. I told you so, or we talked about this

[00:10:00] before. Instead, just help them get through it and be seen as a valuable team member. And if you did that instead, what would the result be? It would be a more trusting and better teamwork relationship in the future.

So that means in the future, they will more likely listen to you because not only one or you write right. But two, you weren't really bad about it. When the bad thing happened, you were positive about it and you were helpful. Now, the last reason why I think that waiting to say I told you so is a mistake and developing that mentality is actually going to hurt your career.

Is that, you're telling yourself, every time you think it, you are telling yourself that you're holding onto that company. Instead of looking out for your own future,

[00:11:00] you're basically telling yourself you're gonna stay at that company because you've said, Well, you know, one day I'll be able to say, I told you that would happen.

Well, that means you're gonna be there for one day, right? And who you're working for now may not be the one that you're working for three or five or 10 years from now. So you might not even be there to say it. So wouldn't the better approach be? Let's convince them to actually make this change while I am here and while I have the expertise and while I can put this in place.

So what you're doing is you're actually missing out of an opportunity to learn from this situation to become even better at what you do because as I've told you, you need to be a safety influencer and not just a safety manager. You need to influence them to make that change. And if they're not making the change now and you're waiting around to say, I told you so, that means that you're not influencing them to make that change. So what should you do instead? So the

[00:12:00] mentality of I told you so, or you know, I'll be able to tell them that would happen later on, needs to be replaced with the fact that a no right now does not mean never. It just means no right now. So when you're telling them about a hazard or something that needs to be changed and they say, No, we're not gonna do it.

That doesn't mean never. Instead of it going on to an I told you so list, put it on a tabled list. So just say to them, Okay, I understand that we can't do this right now. I'll do my best to protect against this hazard, but I'm gonna table this and maybe we can talk about it again in the future. When you say, I'm gonna table it in your mind, you are no longer having that negative mindset.

You're having a, That's just something I'm gonna work on down the road. It ends up becoming a more calmer mindset, a more positive mindset that gets you thinking about ways that you can get them to make the change in the future.

[00:13:00] And then this becomes a list, tabled list becomes a list that you can reference regularly.

Maybe every three to six months, you go, Hey, I wanna review my tabled list and get everybody's opinion on it. I wanna review my tabled list and pull a project from it. So as you're working on a new continuous improvement project, instead of brainstorming new ideas, just pull from the tabled list or try to get them to pull from the tabled list.

And honestly, let's say that you don't wanna table it. You feel so strongly about this. That you don't want to table it, then don't drop it. My safety friend, don't drop it. Become that annoying reminder and develop a really strong return on investment. This is something that we lack is being able to sell the business case for our safety initiatives. Keep making your ROI stronger and more

[00:14:00] convincing. Do the research, share the results of your research. Actually give them hard facts as to why they need to do this and why it would be good for the company, and just keep trying ways to change their mind and get them to agree to test it Sometimes this is a really good compromise.

So let's say that I remember somebody one time, they wanted to have everybody in the warehouse wear orange safety vests and the management team just didn't wanna do it. And this is a very simple, cheap initiative. It's a very good one, right? It's not the end all be all, but you know, it's definitely worth the fight, I guess.

So they could not get the management team to approve it, and they said, Hey, what if we just do it in one area? What if we just tested out in this one area of our operation and see how it goes. And sometimes once they see the test, that kind of gets them a

[00:15:00] little bit more buy in too. In this case, it did. They tested it in one area. They even came down to the exact vests that they wanted to wear, what needed to be on the vest because to make the employees happy, you know, different pockets or whatnot. Right? And words on the back and job titles to make it seem really cool. But eventually it, it ended up going companywide, but it all started with a test, right?

So if you feel strongly, if you feel strongly about something, just don't give up on it. And what I want you to walk away from today's episode is a way to handle these tough situations that keeps you moving forward instead of backwards, especially when they're not taking your advice. You are the subject matter expert.

You know what could happen? You know how to solve the problems. I get that. But we have to be the influencers and we have to make sure too, that you

[00:16:00] are using these situations to build stronger relationships. And number three, I don't want you to ever give up. And sometimes when you have that, I told you so mentality, that is a give up.

That's saying I'm done. I'm done trying. And remember, safety management is a process, my safety friend. It's just a series of small baby steps. So take your small win. If they won't let you do the entire project, but they settle with one small part of it, take your small win. You can always build on it after that.

Alrighty, my safety friend. That is all that I have for you today. And I hope the sound is really good, and if it is, I will see you next week. Bye for now.

Hey, if you're just getting started in safety or you've been at this for a while and are hitting a roadblock, then I wanna invite you to check out Safety Management Academy. This is my

[00:17:00] in-depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to entwine management support, and employee participation throughout your processes.

Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that safety police hat forever? Then you have got to join me and your fellow safety scholars over at Safety Management Academy. Just go to thesafetygeek.com/sma to learn more and to get started. That's thesafetygeek.com/sma and I will see you in our next students only live session.

Bye for now.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Three Reasons Why “I Told You So” Mentality is a Mistake
  • How “I Told You So” Mentality Can be a Bad Safety Habit
  • Negative Mindset Can Cause You Stress and Health Issues
  • Building Positive Relationships with the Management
  • How to Approach this Issue Properly and Become a Safety Influencer

Links Mentioned:


I hope that this episode helps you see why “I Told You So” Mentality can damage you and your career. We need to be a better Safety Leader to change this issue in our workplace. It may not happen overnight but with your effort and patience, it will eventually come true.

Share this with your Safety BFFs and let’s all make a better workplace and build stronger safety culture.

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Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world.   I would love to help you too.

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