Driving Corporate Culture
Have you ever heard these statements before; “nobody moves – nobody gets hurt” or “you might as well wrap me in bubble wrap, throw me in a padded room. I’ll never do anything again”? These statements occur under a workers breath or they are said openly once the supervisor is no longer around. No matter the cause of these statements, it’s safe to say the workers are saying “safety stops me from performing my task”!
No wonder why some workers see safe so poorly if they perceive that safety stops the task. They were hired to complete tasks after all. By not completing tasks it puts their job in jeopardy. This creates conflict within the worker that has a negative impact on the corporate culture. This occurred as the worker perceived safety to be in conflict with their employment. Creating a positive safety perspective requires addressing this conflict. The first step is to identify where the conflict came from.
Understanding the Conflict
COVID-19 restrictions are allowing us to see how behaviors react when safety does stop us from working and living. The restrictions and lock-downs have caused citizens to become disgruntled showing their frustrations in ways like; utter denial of a pandemic, anger towards the governments, resistance of COVID-19 safety protocols, protests around the world and more. These frustrations lead to actions that increase spread of the virus. More government restrictions are implemented to control viral spread. In turn, more citizens become disgruntled and ignore COVID-19 safety protocols leading to more viral spread. Government policies have now created a vicious cycle where it is the policies, and not the behaviors, that are the source of the conflict!
Even if a policy is perceived to be interfering with the task, these frustrations will be created. We see this as the government has implemented billion dollar programs supporting citizens who are unable to work due to COVID-19 restrictions. Yet the citizens still have these frustrations as they perceive the government restrictions will cause long-term unemployment.
What we learn is that by forcing people to stop working or living creates conflict. This conflict is created whether if it is a perceived safety policy stopping the task or through policy’s that actually stop us from working and living.
When this conflict exists our job is to not defend the safety policy’s. Instead we should seek to understand where this perception comes from. This perception occurred as safety was forced on them as a requirement of employment. By making safety compliance tied to employment we sent a message that said ‘you will comply with safety or you will not be employed’. By forcing the workers to comply it will either 1) comply or 2) seek new opportunities. Most people will comply as we subconsciously choose the easiest path and complying is easier than uprooting their career. The worker will naturally demonstrate frustrations to this forced compliance. This behavior is called reactance.
Mitigating reactance starts with understanding where it comes from so it can be corrected.
When We Own It We Use it!
Reactance is the behavior presented when workers perceived forced compliance was communicated. Forced compliance is the deficiency! To have a healthy safety culture we need to stop forcing workers cultures with compliance and instead speak to workers cultures. This requires buy-in.
Creating buy-in comes from involving and engaging the worker (or portion of work force) with finding the solutions to the concern. Workers are just as capable as coming to the same conclusions as the safety team; provided there is direction to these conclusions. If the worker is a part of finding the solution it will create ownership. When we own it we use it! This will also save you time as the need for forcing compliance will be reduced, if not eliminated.
Examples of how to include workers are:
- Seek input from all stakeholders with a Joint health & Safety Committee
- Have the workers be a part of writing the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and guide the outcome to acceptable means of controlling hazards
- Include the worker in regular inspections and have them implement corrective actions they suggested
- During a toolbox meeting or monthly safety meeting go over a hazard or SOP together and come to a group consensus
- Include select leaders in the process of planning and development a new policy’s
- Teach new workers the behaviors expected and desired through a mentorship program
- Speak to the workers culture (work to making money). We are already experts at this by saying ‘do this or else’. Instead learn to communicate ‘do this because…’
- Remove the word ‘change’ from your communications. Workers hate the word change and safety was sold as a ‘change’. Instead use the word ‘improve’ as controlling hazards while completing tasks can only be seen as an improvement.
- Identify the workers who get the outcomes you want and empower them to help the other workers who struggle with these outcomes. This is as simple as directing them to go help an individual or group with a task.
- Have rewards tied to the workers home life and send home letters to their spouses of the upcoming rewards. If the spouse or partner gets excited about the reward they will advocate safety in the home life as you advocate safety in the work life.
By empowering workers you’ll find just how much workers drive the corporate culture. Directing the workers culture is how we drive corporate culture!
Get It Done….. Safely!
We can truly make differences by understanding reactance. The difference is not in forcing compliance but in communicate to workers. These new communication techniques can be verbal, through empowering respected leaders, include the worker in the decision making processes and in strategically crafted reward programs to encourage safety at home. Let them own the safety programs. By doing this you can create a whole new perception of safety with your workforce.