When it comes to behaviors, the idea of nature and nurture always becomes a debatable position. In some ways, managers and companies like the idea of blaming nature for work place injuries. I hate the saying “can’t fix stupid.” Too many times in my career, I have heard that from supervisors and managers who feel this is the end all, be all for explaining their poor departmental safety performance.
The reality is that safety behavior is much more complex an issues than the simplicity of blaming the individual for any and all items.
To better illustrate the point that the culture of the organization is a significant factor, the evaluation of someone who has a good safety nature can be affect by a climate of negative nurture is a prime example.
Imagine a new employee to a company. This employee has generally a strong safety knowledge and comes from a company that had true value of safety behaviors. The employee has not just joined a company that has not safety culture, the culture is actually negative. This is the culture that case studies are made of.“Get it done and get it done yesterday.” “No matter what never shut the equipment down.” “You don’t need tools, your hands are tools enough.”
This individual may first think that they can influence the culture of the site. What happens, though, once that does not work? In a large scale, there are three possible outcomes: The employee becomes a whistle blower, the employee leaves the organization, or the employee watches out for self and becomes defensive. The first outcome is really not a behavior that can be evaluated, but a reasonable option.
In the next two options, the employee will feel out of place. Their is little more that can demoralize a workforce than a blatant disregard for employee safety. Maslow’s theory of needs states that the idea of safety is one of those necessary needs people must have to grow. If the company denies this fundamental right, the employee will seek other opportunities that will meet that need. Ultimately, the company looses a valuable resource.
The next option is where the company will get the bare minimum. There is no desire to contribute. There is no desire to make the it the best it can be. There is no desire to find better methodology. This culture erodes into not just safety but productivity and quality. This is a situation where the company has made a choice to say the employees are not really part of the team. Imagine a sports coach believing that he can win a championship without his players. That is unbelievable, right? Well, this is in principle saying the same thing, “we don’t need our employees to be successful.”
The culture of a company is just as much a factor for behaviors as that of the individual. They have a relationship that works with or against one another. The complexity of blame should not be the go-to choice for safety behaviors and culture. There has to be a total evaluation of how the culture and the inherent behaviors are working systemically.