Typologies of Safe Behaviors and Safety Programs – Part 5

This is a continuation of the thought experiment in the consideration of what does an organization look like based on two criteria, behaviors and programs. To make the process simpler, the goal was to view the process that an organization has either high or low behaviors and programs. This gives four options for how the organization can be classified. As the exercise continued, I began to see that that four types of organizations were very similar to the parenting typologies that are theorized by Baumrind and later Maccoby and Martin.

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In this post, I will remain in the low program zone and move into high behaviors. This would be categorized as an authoritarian organization for safety.

According to the parenting typology, “authoritarian parenting is a restrictive, punishment heavy parenting style in which parents make their children follow their directions with little response. Children resulting from this type of parenting may have less social competence because the parent generally tells the child what to do instead of allowing the child to choose by him or herself. Children raised by authoritarian parents tend to conform, be highly obedient, quiet and not very happy.”

These traits can be transferred to the workplace. The biggest way to categorize this type of safety organization is fear. The company creates a strong sense of fear for failing to follow a safety rule. Rather than empowering the employees with programs, training, and interaction; it is all dictated with minimal clarity and heavy discipline for those that do not conform. Some other considerations of this type of environment would be how much turnover the organization sees. Fear is a strong way to govern (see Machiavelli’s “The Prince”). It is effective in keeping the organization structured, but people exit frequently (both forced and voluntary). This type of organization might pride themselves on how many people they have terminated for safety issues and claim that this stance shows great support for the safety endeavor.

In recent years, OSHA has been critical of safety incentive plans that focus alone on recordability and lost time rates. An authoritarian safety program would rely heavily on these types of programs. The goal is not to create good programs and learning environments, but to stop the reporting of injuries and hold individuals absolutely accountable for their own safety. Safety committees might exist, but they exist only as a check-in-the-box approach. They would have no budget or empowerment for change.

Overcoming an authoritarian culture begins with empathy and empowerment. The organization has to accept that there has be consistency in the programs. The programs also have to empower the employees to help improve and create those programs. When there is a sense of ownership, there also comes a sense of pride. The organization has to directly seek out input on how to improve the way the organization performs. It cannot simply be an act of collecting data and not creating action. The trends will be apparent. There will be a certain amount of pride that will have to be put aside along with an admission that the company may need input on how to improve the programs and that all the answers cannot be simply dictated to the employees. One of the largest hurdles that would have to be overcome is defeating the sense of fear and replacing that with a sense of accountability and ownership. Investment back into the employees is a great starting point,. Specialized training and employee input to programs will go a long way in moving the process forward.

Overall, an authoritarian environment must accept that program have to be in place to help gain consistency and fairness along with eliminating an overwhelming sense of fear.

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