Author Archives: Barb Phillips

Remembering an Accident: Val di Stava Dam Collapse

Posted: July 19th, 2014 in Accidents, Video

The Val di Stava dam collapsed on July 19, 1985 when two tailings dams used for sedimenting the mud from a nearby mine failed. The subsequent mudflow caused one of Northern Italy’s worst disasters – 268 lives were lost and 63 buildings and eight bridges were destroyed.

What happened?

According to The History of Geology:

“An investigation into the disaster found that the dams were poorly maintained and the margin of safe operation was very small. As last trigger of the failure is considered a leak of water, caused by a pipe in the upper dam, used to drain water, which had been bent by the weight of sediments. The increasing water pressure of the bunged up dam, in combination with the water saturation weakening the sediments of the dam wall, caused probably the collapse.”

See more at:

National Hazards and Earth System Sciences published a report indicating that effective regulation may have prevented this disaster.

Read report:

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

Career Development: Become Indispensable at Work

Posted: July 16th, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips

Chris Gaborit, Managing Director at The Learning Factor, created this video to inspire us to discover our passion and purpose and to achieve our greatest performance. Invest five minutes of your life to become inspired!

Career Development: Lost Respect at Work? by Captain George J Burk

Posted: July 9th, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips

Lost respect at work? A few tips on how to regain it.

Many of us have experienced it. First, it’s the extended lunches. Then, you notice the late arrivals and unexcused tardiness. Next, are the assignments that aren’t finished, not completed to specifications or seem to take longer than usual to complete. When you confront the employee(s) all you hear are the excuses: “I can’t” or “That’s not my job.” That’s your first outward example of a “Wake-Up Call” that you’re a leader who’s losing credibility and respect … and you figure out you need to make some changes … and quick.

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Benjamin Franklin

In every situation of which I’m familiar, regardless of the type of organization, when employees respect and trust their leaders and feel that respect and trust in return, you have a highly motivated employee(s) who are more creative and energized people who actually look forward to come to work every day. Every employee I’ve known, myself included, places a high value on a leader they can trust and respect and from who they can learn. That respect and trust is an important, intangible asset. You can’t touch it or taste it but you CAN feel it and you know when it’s there and when it isn’t in the workplace and in the relationship.

“Leadership is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” John Maxwell

If you need to re-establish yourself as a true leader who your employees and your leadership trust and hold in high esteem, here a few tips to help you reestablish that trust:

Appearances matter. Sometimes dress codes are taken to the extreme. It does seems odd to wear business attire when the company’s culture is T-shirts and jeans. Upgrade you attire to gain respect at work. Develop an approachable presence and internally and externally polished image. Look good … feel good. Don’t over spray with cologne or perfume to mask ‘stuff.’ You know what I’m talkin’ about.

“Appearances rule the world.” Fredrich Schiller

Establish regular feedback sessions with your staff. Leaders who don’t communicate regularly and openly with their staffs miss the opportunity to discover what people really think. Regular feedback sessions not only demonstrate how much you value their opinions, but you’ll also receive an objective, real-time assessment of their strengths and those areas that may need to improve.

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” John C. Crosby

Trust demonstrated is trust earned. Empower your staff to own it. Encourage calculated risks and make sure they know you’ll have their back if things don’t turn out as expected. Trust them. Walk-The-Talk.

Watch your “pie hole.”   Words and actions have consequences! If you believe from your intuition and subtle feedback from your staff that you do receive less respect at work, it may because your actions don’t mirror your words and vice versa. Words we use must always be respectful and clean, most discreet when it comes to personal issues and never openly criticize your staff. Praise in public and provide constructive feedback in private … with the door ajar … and with another person in the room with you … it is what it is … lesson learned.

“Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.” Plato

Know when to be quiet. Emotional tirades earn fear but no respect. Unless you’re one of those (all too many ‘leaders’) who ‘lead’ by fear, tirades may make you feel better but they do little to change the culture at work, except to make it even more toxic. Egg shells are designed to be broken at home, not walked on at work. Address sensitive work issues at a private, one-on-one level not letting your ego show and proudly exclaiming them at meetings and embarrassing the employee(s). The opposite philosophy is always true. When you praise and thank people for a job they’ve done well, always do that in public. Be generous and genuine.

“Nothing strengthens authority more than silence.” Leonardo da Vinci

Share your knowledge. As a leader, you have a great opportunity to be a teacher and mentor. The examples include work directly with a staff member to improve their written and/or oral communications or indirectly, when you lead by example. When you share your information and mentor others, you train and educate the organization’s future leaders.

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” Khalil Gibran

Suspend assumptions. Place any preconceived ideas you may have aside and really listen to an employee’s proposal with an unbiased perspective. If a conflict does arise, remain objective, stay fair, don’t show favoritism and provide the opportunity for everyone to succeed.

Remain involved. Said another way, get out from behind your desk and walk around the organization. Make the time and take the time to ask questions and then listen. Chat informally at company functions like an office party or get-togethers after work. Get to know your staff and encourage them get to know you. Leave your rank at work.

Be transparent. We’ve heard this many times of late. Change comes in many forms and many ways; some when not expected. When change is on the horizon, remain engaged with your employees and keep them in the loop as much as you can.

“One man’s transparency is another man’s humiliation.” Gerry Adams

Establish the limits (Boundaries). If after your efforts to change the dynamics and your team or staff remain disrespectful, or if one or two apples still spoil the barrel and rather increase their disdain, it’s time for more drastic action. Tell them their behavior is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated. Explain the importance to maintain a civil level or respect and trust in the workplace. Then … document, document, document.  This should be done as a routine practice, anyway. Then, at quarterly, semi-annual and annul performance reviews the behavior was documented and at your disposal.

“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has limits.” Albert Einstein

It’s never easy to regain trust and respect at work and with your friends and your family once those values have been lost. A good start is to have a high regard and respect for you … to love yourself but not be in love with yourself. Have that same regard and trust for your team and employees. Want to gain or re-gain trust and respect? Be trustworthy and respectful first. It’s inside out, not outside in … radiate and project what you want and expect outwards. This will most often encourage them to reciprocate.

“Men are respectable only as they are respected.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


This article was submitted by “Captain George” J Burk, USAF (Ret), Scottsdale, Contact:

Career Development: Create!

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips

“You should bring something into the world that wasn’t in the world before.

It doesn’t matter what that is. It doesn’t matter if it’s a table or a film or gardening – everyone should create.

You should do something, then sit back and say, I did that. ~ Ricky Gervais

Career Development: A Conference Call in Real Life

Posted: July 2nd, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips, Video

This video is a hilarious because it highlights everything that can (and often does) go wrong on a conference call. Are conference calls productive? What do you think?

Career Development: Are You Addicted to Stress?

Posted: June 24th, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips

We all know that stress is bad for us both physically (increasing our risk for disease), and mentally (that overwhelming feeling). But in spite of our knowledge, did you know that we can actually become addicted to stress?

Who is at risk?

Type A personalities – those who operate at a maximum speed and aspire to achieve large goals. (Learn more.)

Type D personalities – those who struggle with negativity, depression, anxiety, stress, anger, and loneliness. (Learn more.)

So, how do you know if you’re addicted to stress?

Research tells us that moderate amounts of stress are fine, even desirable, because it boosts our focus and energy. So don’t automatically label yourself. If you are effectively managing your life and thriving under stress, it does not qualify as an addiction. The problem is when we wake up an internal craving for it, just as an alcoholic or drug addict would crave a high. If your life feels out-of-control, and in spite of your best efforts, you are not getting things done, you may be addicted to stress.

Stress-reducing ideas

Whether you’re addicted or carrying a healthy load of stress, don’t forget to balance your days with stress reducing activities.  

Learn 40 Ways to Relax in Five Minutes or Less

And enjoy a happier, more productive lifestyle.

Career Development: A “Beautiful” Way to Increase Productivity & Creativity

Posted: June 17th, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips
I wonder if my boss will let me expense these?

I wonder if my boss will let me expense these?

I have a habit of buying a bouquet of flowers for my office whenever I go grocery shopping – a guilty pleasure. Today, I read research that makes me feel a little less guilty. Did you know that exposure to flowers can:

  • reduce anxiety, negativity and depression
  • promote creativity (a University of Exeter study noted a 45% increase!)
  • enhance innovative thinking
  • increase productivity

One study indicated that people feel happier and had more energy after looking at flowers first thing in the morning. Flowers may even have a positive impact on memory. If you have a green thumb, research suggests that growing your own plants increases the benefits,  improving health, well-being, and life satisfaction.

These benefits were noted in women and men, the young and the elderly.

Learn more:

Want to Be More Productive? Buy Some Desk Plants

Feel Better, Work Better: How Flowers Increase Productivity

Need to Be Productive? Buy Some Flowers

Career Development: Set Yourself Up for Today’s Virtual Job Fair

Posted: June 10th, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips

Today’s job fair leans more toward virtual than the meet & greet at the Convention Center that was popular before social media.

Here is an infographic from by that breaks down how may people have found jobs on the social network:

Social Job Hunt


Is it time to clean up your social media presence?

It may be where you find your next big career opportunity. Sometimes we forget just how many people can see what we are putting online and this can work for or against us.

Here are 3 tips for cleaning up your digital footprint.

1. Search yourself. Put your name, in quotations, into three search engines and see what comes up. Is there anything you want to take off the internet? You may find old social profiles you no longer use (Myspace anyone?) that you are ready to delete.

2. Review the privacy settings. One thing to be sure of about the big three (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) is that their policies will change. You may have set privacy setting years ago and never revisited. Take some time to do so and ensure that the right people are seeing your posts.

3. Always use a flattering profile picture. You may have your Facebook privacy set so that only your close friends and family can see you, but if your profile is searchable, potential employers can look you up online and still see your profile photo, so choose wisely.

What do you think? Have you ever received a career opportunity on social media?

Doctors Make Mistakes. Can We Talk About That?

Posted: June 9th, 2014 in Medical/Healthcare

Baseball celebrates a .400 batting average, Healthcare fires a .900 surgery average! If your doctor had a trading card, what would your doctor’s stats say?

Check out this video of Dr. Brian Goldman, Emergency room Physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Downtown Toronto for over 20 years. He is also a well-known medical journalist and host of CBC Radio’s White Coat, Black Art. He is the author of The Night Shift in which he shares his experiences of witching hours at Mount Sinai, as well as other hospitals he has practiced at over his long career. He talks about the mistakes he has made in his practice. He tells us what he has learned about being transparent with his failures as a way to be sure that he learns something from them. As people in the workforce, in any industry, we need to realize that we are not perfect. We must realize that we make mistakes and we need to look at those mistakes to make sure they do not happen again. That is where TapRooT® comes in to help find the Root Cause of that mistake and learn how to stop it from happening again. We have to redefine how we look at errors. Not as a way to look down on people, but a way to benefit our world by learning from those mistakes.

(This post was submitted by Jordan Harless, Healthcare Research and Development Associate, System Improvements, Inc.)


Achieving Operational Excellence and Profitability Through Safety

Posted: June 9th, 2014 in Summit

Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. presented “Achieving Operational Excellence and Profitability Through Safety” at the 2014 Global TapRooT® Summit.

If you were there, here is a .pdf of the presentation to refresh your knowledge, and if you missed it, you may enjoy learning some great tips:

(View presentation.)

Career Development: When Life Throws You a Curveball

Posted: June 4th, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips

shutterstock_178055471I really enjoy reading the “Career Curveballs” channel on LinkedIn. I think learning from another person’s mistakes and hard times are as valuable as hearing from the experts. I recently read “The Most Important Mistake of My Life and How You Can Make Yours” by Judd Marcello which was posted on his website and then featured in the LinkedIn Career Curveballs channel.

This part of the article really stood out:

“People often talk about and write about purpose as if was a thing, e.g. tradesman, artist, developer. I have come to realize that for me it is not a thing, but my context. It is what I am here to do. It is within this context that I make career and life decisions, let alone my day-to-day micro decisions. When I make my next career move the decision criteria will be based primarily on whether or not I will be in the best possible position to apply my strengths in order to make a positive lasting impact on the business and the people involved. That is what I am here to do.”

You can read the article in its entirety here:  The Most Important Mistake of My Life and How You Can Make Yours

What do you think? Have you ever made a mistake that helped to change the course of your career in a positive way?

Remembering an Accident: The Flixborough Explosion

Posted: June 1st, 2014 in Accidents, Video

On June 1, 1974, 28 employees were killed and 36 injured during a massive vapor cloud explosion at the Flixborough Works of Nypro (UK) Limited. Additionally, hundreds of people offsite were injured and over 1,800 houses and 167 businesses in the surrounding communities were damaged.

The investigation indicated that the explosion may have been caused by a failure of a temporary piping modification. Thirty tons of cyclohexane vapor were released when the piping failed, and when the vapor cloud found an ignition source, the energy released was equivalent to about 16 tons of TNT.

Open the .pdf of the Report of Court of Inquiry:

Learn how to lead your team in root cause analysis and avoid major incidents where lives are lost and workers and community members are injured:

Tips for Avoiding Healthcare Errors

Posted: May 27th, 2014 in Medical/Healthcare

The following post was submitted by Jordan Harless, our Healthcare Research and Development Associate.

doctor'sjacketIn the root cause analysis world, we look back to find out what went wrong after a healthcare error or where the process was flawed or broken. The same can be done before an event happens. We look at data and processes and find the ways that the process will break down.

In healthcare the human element is an unavoidable obstacle. If there were no humans in healthcare there would be far fewer errors. Of course no one wants a robot for a doctor. Human errors can come from many sources such as: procedures, training, quality control, communication, management systems, human engineering, and work direction.

If you or someone you know has suffered from a medical mistake, take a look at the article and see if you can find some tips that could have prevented the mistake. Better yet, use these ideas to prevent the next medical error from happening to you.

With so much that can go wrong we as potential patients at some point in our lives, we need to be especially vigilant in reviewing our care/treatment.

If you work at a facility interested in improving patient safety, consider attending a TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis course. Learn all of the essentials to get to the root cause of an incident in our 2-day course:

Remembering An Accident: How Centralia, Pennsylvania Became a Ghost Town

Posted: May 27th, 2014 in Accidents, Video


At one time there were over 1,000 residents who lived in the mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. By 2010, it was a ghost town of ten residents. What happened?

Fifty-two years ago, on May 27, 1962, an exposed coal seam was ignited by a fire in the town’s dump. The fire was intentionally set by the fire department to tidy up the town for Memorial Day.

After the coal seam was ignited, fire spread underground throughout mines that ran under homes and businesses, threatening the town’s residents with potential poisonous gases and dangerous sinkholes. Rather than put the fire out which would have cost tremendous resources, the residents were relocated and buildings were taken down.

Books have been written about it, “Fire Underground” (David DeKok) and “The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy” (Joan Quigley). Today it is a town filled with unkempt streets, smoldering earth, and ominous warning signs.

Still burning over 50 years later, it is ranked as one of the worst mine fires in the history of the United States.

Worst case scenarios like these can keep us up at night! Rest easier by feeling equipped to find the real root causes of accidents and incidents. Learn all the essentials of TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis in just two days:

Career Development: A Lesson from the Baby Boomer Generation

Posted: May 27th, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips

shutterstock_83910604As part of the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964), I find it interesting how we’ve changed our attitudes about vacations over the last couple of decades. When we were building our careers, most of us didn’t take many vacations at all — vacations were for wimps! Too much work to be done! Unused vacation days were a source of pride.

But the culture has changed over the years (and, well, we’re not getting any younger and realizing there are a few things we missed). And as usual, Baby Boomers who make up about 26% of the population, continue to influence the travel industry who caters to what we want because we control a lion’s share of the money that will be spent on travel.

Since the retirement age is getting older, part of what we want are exciting vacations that don’t eat up all of our vacation days at once so we can take several. So now we are seeing shorter international tours (7-10 days as opposed to 21 days) and shorter cruise itineraries. We are explorers so we are seeing more adventures like safari and backpacking tours (but don’t forget the amenities – boomers like to explore but we don’t like roughing it). So, younger generations, you can thank us for all of these shorter, more affordable options.

Finally, we are leading the workplace in vacation plans this summer. We’ve figured it out — vacations are important!

But in case you’re thinking of not taking one this year due to all the work to be done, here is an interesting fact sheet from the Boston College Center for Work & Family that lists 20 reasons why it’s important to take a work-free vacation:

Open .pdf “Tip Sheet: The Importance of Taking a Work-free Vacation

What are your vacation plans this summer? Have your attitudes about taking a vacation changed over the span of your career?


This Accident Really Stings!

Posted: May 23rd, 2014 in Accidents, Video

A truck transporting bee hives containing 16 – 20 million bees overturned on a curve in Delaware. The driver and two passengers were covered in bees and stung by 50 – 100 bees each. Ouch!

Career Development: How Many Times a Day Should You Check Your Work Email?

Posted: May 20th, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips

shutterstock_84842515I admit, this is one of my pet peeves. Probably because the work I do is done in chunks of time, and any interruption, (especially email), is a kiss of death to my productivity. Nothing annoys me faster than to have someone send me an email and then call me or come into my office and say with a wee bit of an edge in the voice, “Did you see that email I sent? I sent it an hour ago.” Well, I don’t check my email every hour. Sometimes I don’t check it all day if I’m really tied up on something.

Just how often should we be checking our emails anyway?

Minda Zetlin would disagree with my habit. In her Inc. article, “3 Reasons the Experts are Wrong About Email,” she asserts that reading your email frequently makes you and your team more productive, not less. She wrote that a lot of her work happens in email and her team members need more frequent feedback to do their jobs. She also feels she would miss critical information if she didn’t check it frequently.

Others are more in line with my way of thinking. Craig Jarrow, Author of Time Management Ninja, thinks you’ll get more done if you only check your email twice each day – once in the morning and once at the end of the day. He wrote that unless you are a customer service rep “email is not your job.”

Steve Plavlina even did an experiment and only checked his email and social media accounts three times a week to find out what would happen.  He wrote a long list of key benefits including ease of maintaining focus on goals; enjoying the most productive weeks he’s had in years; and greater sense of time. In fact, he could only think of one negative: missing a disc golf game. (Read about his experiment here.)

After reading all of these articles, I surmised that there is really no right or wrong answer. I suppose it all boils down to whether or not email is one of the main tools you use in your job to get the work accomplished you were hired to do.

What do you think? How many times a day do you check your email and why?


System Improvements’ Celebration Picnic

Posted: May 19th, 2014 in Meet Our Staff

We just never know what the weather is going to be like in East Tennessee. When we put our company picnic on the calendar in early May, we were enjoying summer-like temperatures, near 90s, but the day of our company picnic (May 16), the temperatures dropped to the 50s and the rain moved in.

No worries, we put on our jackets and we headed to the picnic shelter! Good thing our public meeting planner, Judy, ordered up some warm, spicy Mexican food for our picnic lunch!




We didn’t want to cancel due to a little cold and rain because we had much to celebrate, including the close of Version 5 Software, a wildly successful 2014 Global TapRooT® Summit, and a fond farewell to our in-house attorney, Amanda who is moving to Arizona (pictured below receiving a beautiful farewell message from our VP, Linda).


But we are fortunate that Amanda helped us bring on our new attorney, Katherine (pictured below with Amanda, Linda and Mark, SI President)


Dan, Director of Information Technology & Software Development was recognized for his lead on development of the TapRooT® Sofware. Pictured below are Steve, Tech Support (left), Dan (center),  and our VP, Ed (right).


And pretty soon the clouds parted, the temps rose a few degrees and it was a nice day for a picnic after all! Some of the staff took advantage of the sunshine to pass a football and Frisbee around.


And the rest of us just enjoyed some well-deserved down-time. Pictured below is our A-Team – the ladies who handle our calls and assist with public course registration – left to right: Nicki, Laura, Angela, Alison (A-Team Manager) and Yasmin.


(Pictured below: Yasmin and Laura)


(Pictured below: Licensing Paralegal, Michelle and Implementation Strategist, Benna)


It was a great day of celebration for our hardworking staff!

Mark Approaches 11,000 Direct Connections on LinkedIn

Posted: May 18th, 2014 in Current Events, Performance Improvement


Mark Paradies, President, System Improvements, is building a network of people interested in root cause analysis and improving incident and accident investigations. Help him reach a milestone of 11,000 direct connections on LinkedIn. At the writing of this post, he only needs 22 more connections to reach this goal. To see his profile and send him an invitation to join his network, go to:


It’s Our Five Year Anniversary on Twitter!

Posted: May 14th, 2014 in Media Room

Today is our 5 year Twitterversary! We when first started TapRooT_RCA on Twitter, we weren’t sure how it was going to go. The Twitterverse was very new to us but the idea that finally sold us was the opportunity to connect with our friends around the world in an unobtrusive way and keep in touch. And now 4,600+ tweets later, I think we’ve got the hang of it! Click the image below and follow us on Twitter!

Follow us on Twitter!

Follow us on Twitter!

Carl Dixon Inspires at the 2014 Global TapRooT® Summit

Posted: May 13th, 2014 in Summit

Did you go to the 2014 Global TapRooT® Summit in Horseshoe Bay, Texas? If so, this video will bring back a flood of wonderful memories.

If not, we think you will want to join us in 2015 after viewing it because Carl will be returning to share his story of courage and resilience. (Save the Date! June 1 – 5, 2015, Las Vegas).

Learn more!

Career Development: Is Your Employee Ready for a Higher Level Job?

Posted: May 8th, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips

shutterstock_70419277I met Tom Foster, author of Hiring Talent, and heard him talk about management myths related to getting the right people in the right jobs. He said that managers spend too much time trying to climb inside the head of their employees to determine if they can handle the responsibilities of being promoted to higher level jobs.

A better method, he asserts, is to stop playing amateur psychologist, and instead give the employee a higher level project (work similar to what they would do in a new role), and wait to see how the employee performs.

Employees will give clues as to whether or not they can handle a higher level job by how they perform on the higher level project. He said when you pass the project (“the ball”)  to the employee, you’ll see these signs when they are ready to move up:

1. They won’t give the ball back.

2. They won’t drop the ball.

3. They will carry the ball to the end goal.

Just because the person is great in a current position doesn’t mean the employee will be great at a higher level position. It may be that the employee is in the right position right now. However, if you are not promoting a capable employee, you are taking a risk that the employee may find a higher level job outside of your company.  If you are on the fence about giving a promotion to a higher level job to one of your employees, try giving a higher level project to the employee at his or her current level, and use the employee’s performance as an indicator of his or her true capability.

Want to know more?

Foster said it was critical to not only understand the work that is being done day in and day out at your organization, but to also study the different levels of the work within your organization. He talked about a scientific measuring stick “Time Span” (Time Span Handbook – 1964) – the length of time a person can effectively work into the future without direction, using discretionary judgment, to achieve a specific goal. He believes that time span, technical knowledge/skill, interest/passion and habits are the best indicators of an employee’s capabilities.

For more information, read Hiring Talent.


Removing Blame from an Accident Investigation

Posted: May 7th, 2014 in Career Development, Human Performance

What would you do if you made a mistake at work that caused an accident, and your co-workers gathered around you to physically beat you as punishment? A PowerSource article, “Energy Companies Study the Role of Human Behavior in Safety” mentions this true-life scenario.

There’s still much work to be done in removing blame from an accident investigation to find the true root cause.  In the PowerSource article, TapRooT® Friend & Expert Joel Haight introduces a new human factors engineering program at the University of Pittsburgh that he hopes will attract industry professionals and assist them in solving this issue.

Click here to read the article.

Career Development: Are You Adverse or Averse to Grammar Tips?

Posted: May 5th, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips

Grammar – love it or hate it? If you are averse to learning grammar tips (“averse” means you dislike them … “adverse” means unfavorable, like “adverse weather”), this post won’t be too painful.

In fact, this quiz may make you feel smarter once you refresh your knowledge, and will also help you give a better impression in the workplace.  And if you feel pretty good about your grammar skills, take the quiz as a quick brainteaser to flex your grammar muscles!


Quiz: Ten Words That Are Commonly Used Incorrectly

Fill in the blank (the answers are at the bottom of the post):

1. When it comes to company culture, we all share the same [principles | principals].

2. [Whose | Who's] laptop is this?

3. We want to [ensure | insure] that this mistake never happens again.

4. Why did you [imply | infer] at the meeting that I would not be receptive to your idea?

5. Root cause analysis training [complements | compliments] his college degree for a quality engineer position.

6. This candidate has a college degree but that [criteria | criterion] alone does not qualify him for this position.

7. There was a small [number | amount] of people at the staff meeting.

8 I hear that [alot | a lot].

9. [It's | its] exciting to know that the next Global TapRooT® Summit is scheduled in Las Vegas.

10. The marketing campaign did not [ellicit | illicit] the response we were hoping for.


1. Principles. “Principle” usually means a standard or rule; “principal” often refers to a person but can also mean first or foremost i.e., “the principal quality we are looking for is trustworthiness.”

2. Whose. Who’s is a contraction for “Who is” – “Who is laptop is this?” doesn’t make sense.

3. Ensure. Ensure means to guarantee. Insure usually refers to financial or insurance policies, although some stylebooks say they can be used interchangeably.

4. Imply. The speaker implies; the listener infers, i.e., “He implied that I was dishonest, at least that is what I inferred from our conversation.”

5. Complement. To complement means something goes nicely with something else. A compliment is something nice you say about someone.

6. Criterion. Criterion refers to one item; criteria refers to more than one (but as our reader pointed, sometimes is used to refer to one item).

7. Number. Number is used when you can count the number of things. Amount is used when you can’t count it in numbers. (“He had a huge amount of contempt for anyone who tried to teach him grammar.”)

8. A lot. Two words. Always.

9. It’s. “It’s” is a contraction for “it is.”

10. Ellicit. Ellicit means to coax, illicit means unlawful or illegal.

How did you do? Comment below!

Career Development: Just Because I’m Nice, Don’t Assume I’m Dumb

Posted: April 30th, 2014 in Career Development, Career Development Tips

Amy J.C. Cuddy wrote about why people make snap judgments about another person’s competence based on how friendly they are in her article “Just Because I’m Nice, Don’t Assume I’m Dumb.”

Would it surprise you to read that most people will stereotype you as less competent if you have a warm personality? Cuddy’s research indicates that they may. Read her article about the warmth/competence model and how to avoid wrongly sizing up your colleagues and co-workers: (Read article.)

What do you think? Have you ever discounted how competent a person was based on his or her warm and friendly personality?

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Barb PhillipsBarb Phillips
Editorial Director
Chris ValleeChris Vallee
Human Factors & Six Sigma
Dan VerlindeDan Verlinde
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Dave JanneyDave Janney
Safety & Quality
Ed SkompskiEd Skompski
Medical Issues
Ken ReedKen Reed
Linda UngerLinda Unger
Vice President
Mark ParadiesMark Paradies
Creator of TapRooT®
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Success Stories

TapRooT® is a key part of our safety improvement program that has helped us stop injuries and save lives.

Canyon Fuel Company

Our challenge was to further improve the medication administration process at our facility by proactively…

Jackson County Memorial Hospital
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