Have you ever been in a work position where only absolute perfection was accepted? Yeah, I have been too in both a safety role and in other positions.
This is both the requirement for success, the punishment for failure, and the fast track to burnout. As people, we can only handle this type of strain/stress for so long. In short bursts where it is needed, we can perform at that high level. When it becomes the all time standard with no deviation, we lose the motivation or we lose ourselves. It was once described to me as “if everything is that important, then nothing is important.”
This is a tough place to be for anyone. You need a job, but your job is also causing undue amounts of personal strain.In cases such as these, there are a few things that you can do.
- Start the job hunt. The market is rich for safety professionals now. We are in a fortunate position that our work is needed, and there is work available.
- Baseline the expectations. I remember a time where there was a weekly performance call. It never mattered how well you performed, you were going to be told how bad of an employee you really were. Someone new joined the meeting one day and asked me what the expectations of the call was. My answer . . pain! I had baselined the entire process to know that the point was to be told all the things wrong. Once I understood the true intent of the call, I could create an internal baseline to overcome the pressure
- Find a peer group. Talking to co-workers who you trust about the situation. Sometimes, it helps to commiserate with people who are in the same situation as yourself.
- Don’t give up. Our work affects so much more than ourselves. The situation may be bad. Keep going and know you are helping to protect our teams. Keep good records and take lots of notes. Focus on what is most important, protecting our people, environment, and communities.
This applies to many in the workplace, but I like to think as safety as a unique position. We need the ability to be problem solvers and not have fear of failure. The desire for improvement and flexibility to adapt to the culture and behaviors of the workplace is what makes our roles so vital to the overall health of an organization. If the constant expectation is perfection with a dose of punishment, the limitation placed on the position becomes unmanageable and unproductive.
Overall, know that your work is important and that change is the only constant in business.