Building Meaningful Work Relationships: Part 5

This is the 5th and final part of the series of building meaningful relationships based on Bartholomew’s Adult Attachment Typology Model. This is the section that would focus on secure relationships which is a positive model of self and others.

First though a bit of housekeeping, I am sorry for the delay in getting this post ready. I was in two classes at the same time, which is not normal for me. The one class was the first part of creating my dissertation. It took quite a bit of focus. While I was attending that class, I was also promoted from my current role effective taking on twice the responsibility as before. There was certainly an adjustment period. At the end of the day, something has to give. It was my blogging that had to wait on the rest of my life to calm back down..

OK . . . enough excuses . . . on with the post.

Ultimately, this is a safety blog so this is the post where I will really tie this process back in to the how safety needs good working relationships to work. The whole idea of having a positive model of self and positive model of others is classified as “secure.” A very fitting title.

Many behavior based safety systems focus on the peer observational process. This process has had many praise it and it also has many people who criticize it. My thought has always been that there is a time and place for BBS and the culture of the team and organization has to be ready to embrace that level of openness and change. At the very forefront of BBS is the idea of a “secure” organization.

What this means is that as an employee of a company I am open to give feedback and I am open to receive feedback on safety behaviors. If I am not secure in myself, I may choose to not give the tough feedback or become defensive when having to face a potential mistake. If I have a negative model of others, I would feel that my work or feedback would be wasted on someone who would not use it or not care to hear it.

Without the security of knowing that it is okay to build a relationship in which I can openly give and receive feedback, the process of creating a fully integrated safety system cannot come to fruition. As an organization, we have to admit that there is still opportunity for improvement and as individuals we have to be willing to admit that the change starts with one person making a choice. The goal is accountability throughout the organization in which there can be a full exchange of what is working and what is not.

Security also comes from knowing that the team has my interests in mind when it comes to safety. If I am about to do something that might get me hurt, I want someone to speak up and tell me. I want to be cautioned. I also want to see that same interaction continue with each individual for each task. The only way that this can be effective is if the the team has build truly meaningful relationships in which we are each secure and ready to accept responsibility for the individuals and the team.

The background information comes from the Third Edition of Broderick and Blewitt’s textbook “The Life Span.” The photo of the chart is taken from the same text.

Building Meaningful Work Relationships: Part 4

Building meaningful work relationships is vitally important for not only being successful but also creating contentment at work. One cannot succeed by being alone in the workplace. There has to be some relationships for either creating opportunities to share experiences and to relate to the struggles that come with the position. Being part of a group at work helps in distributing a workload, getting advice, and creating an understanding of the workplace.

Personally, I have found that having a core group of “go-to” people is critical to not only my success but also my sanity. There are unique challenges with every organization whether it be with understanding the practices or navigating the culture. By having a people that you can share those experiences with, it can help ease that uncomfortable feeling. Those go-to people can also share their experiences to help gain understanding of how to proceed. Sometimes, there might be ways to better navigate the cultural waters. Other times, there has to be an acceptance of how things are. It is through these relationships that these ideas and be vetted. Sometimes just knowing that other people are having the same struggles or going through the same experience is enough to help regain confidence and purpose.

When someone is struggling with an issue or waiting to gain control over a situation, they may choose to join a support group. To a certain level, there should be key relationships at work that act as an internal support group. They can be there to lift you back up, give you guidance for success, or be a sympathetic ear when it is needed most. These relationships can also be a good dose of reality when it is needed most. Again, I will speak from experience. There are times I need to be told to suck it up, move along, and stop whining. Your go-to people should also know when that type of motivation is needed.

IMG_1275 copyIn this series of posts, we have looked at attachment theory and how it can apply to building work relationships. In this post, the fearful typology will be explored. This is a situation where a person would have a negative model of self along with a negative model of others. This is a difficult typology to overcome. This is a person who is not engaging others and they are not allowing others to engage them. The fearful status can be rooted in a variety of issues. It can be the work and the inadequacy of the work, it can be fear of engaging other people, it could be a fear of failure, it could be a fear of rejection, it could be a fear of maintaining the relationship, etc. etc. etc. This typology in a workplace has to take time for deep and meaningful introspection. There has to be an individuals understanding of self and what drives the fear and negative model of self and others. Maybe there was an event that led to the behavior.

In this case, it is important that the individual gain the understanding that having work relationships can be a very positive aspect of the job. The fear can be replaced with an understanding that they may not be alone in the situation. If the fear and negative model is strictly a work practice, then building a relationship can be about becoming a more productive and emotionally healthy employee.

There is always some level of stress that comes with a job. Stress on its own is not altogether a bad thing, but it can be a very negative aspect when it is not managed. Here is a link to an article/interview about stress. The key finding was having that support system. Fear can create even more stress in a workplace. Not only does a support system help build positive models of self and others, it also acts as a stress manager. Finding individuals at the workplace that can relate, speak the same language, and have some understanding is a strong beginning to building meaningful work relationships.

The background information comes from the Third Edition of Broderick and Blewitt’s textbook “The Life Span.” The photo of the chart is taken from the same text. The theory is Bartholomew’s Adult Attachment Typology Model.

Building Meaningful Work Relationships: Part 3

In this series of posts, I have been looking at how you can build meaningful work relationships. A theory of adult attachment can give some strong insights to how that process works. In the last post, I made a good description of my most common roadblock of building those relationships as someone who fits a dismissing typology. In this post, I will look at opposite side of the spectrum of someone who had a positive model of others and a negative model of self. This is commonly called “preoccupied.”

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The phrase preoccupied is a good description of this typology and is a concise description of the condition that leads to not building meaningful work relationships. The negative model of self creates an environment where someone is constantly second-guessing or focusing too much on inadequacy to interact in a meaningful way. They person is so focused on the negative model of self that they fail to engage the other groups in any meaningful dialog or activity.

There are three keys ways that someone behaves when encountering information that may not fully understand. The positive behavior of this situation would be for the person to ask intelligent questions, read the relevant policies, try to learn the information, etc. Another behavior would be to ignore the information and substitute one’s own opinion or information. This would fall more into the category of dismissing (positive self/negative others). A preoccupied person would shut down because they would feel that could not comprehend the information or even engage in the conversation in a relevant way.

Someone in the preoccupied typology would have difficulty building meaningful work relationships because there would be a lack of people willing to engage in the activity. If someone who needs information knows that when they ask the question, the person may or may not answer based on the comfort of the situation, slowly they will find other methods to gain their information. People will seek a path of least resistance. If they think they may or may not get a response, they will find a better path that will give them a higher chance of getting an answer the first time. This can create avoidance and thus more preoccupation with the negative model of self. Ultimately, this is a spiral of constantly losing confidence.

A preoccupied typology could also be considered someone who lacks confidence in their work. They can seem defensive or aloof based on how they normally react to an uncomfortable circumstance. There are more aspects to this typology than just what happens at work. In a very broad sense, self-confidence is not something that is bred and nurtured in a work environment. Self-confidence is a behavioral trait that needs growth and presence outside of the workplace. Self-confidence, or the lack of, has larger implications of both nature and nurture. If this were a root cause analysis, I would categorize this as “other causal paths would be more beneficial”. Solving self-confidence is not something I can or am willing to tackle. There are ways that someone can become more confident in their work environment, though. Forbes posted a really nice article that gives some nice examples of how to build self-confidence in the workplace (click here).

The information revolves around slowing growing into a method of making decisions and being okay when making those decisions. Self-confidence at work comes from accomplishing tasks that makes the person slightly uncomfortable and building confidence with those tasks. For example, someone has trouble fitting in with the quality team because the measurements are overwhelming. It becomes important that they have more time to ask questions and work with the tools of department until they gain more confidence with the process. They are doing something familiar but forced to be slightly outside their comfort zone in a safe way they helps them learn. The key is that they have to feel safe even thought they are uncomfortable and most importantly there has to be knowledge sharing.

In a similar context, I have also found that becoming a teacher of a topic is a great tool to increase confidence. For someone to teach a subject, they have to know that subject along with answering questions and having to convey the subject in a meaningful and relevant way. I am not saying that someone in this circumstance should be required to teach an auditorium full of people on a topic they do not know. I will speak from experience that when I started in the safety profession, I had to gain certainty in conducting training. I started with small classes and topics that I have a relative comfort with. The engagement with the classes helped me to become a better mentor and better acquainted with the topic. There are still times that while conducting a training, someone will ask a question that I do not know the explicit answer to. I have to research the topic and respond back later with an answer. This is a system of continual growth for learning and engagement. Through becoming a teacher/mentor/training someone can gain self-confidence in a topic. Most of all they are building strong working relationships with those people who are being taught/mentored/trained. This is one of those times where a solution can help in two ways. It helps in creating a better sense of confidence in a topic along with helping to build meaningful relationships with various members of a team.

Even though self-confidence is not just a single aspect behavior, there are some methods that can be taken in the workplace to help someone with a negative model of self to build really strong work relationships. It is important to start small and to start in an area of relative comfort. The goal is to not shock someone in to a positive model but to help guide them into feeling more comfortable and secure in their abilities.

The background information comes from the Third Edition of Broderick and Blewitt’s textbook “The Life Span.” The photo of the chart is taken from the same text. The theory is Bartholomew’s Adult Attachment Typology Model.

Building Meaningful Work Relationships: Part 2

This is one post where much of the science and research goes out the window, and I will face the facts that I know this typology way too well as it describes me. The focus will be on the struggles and the process of over coming the negative feelings that dictate unhealthy relationships. This typology is one of “Dismissing”

Again, the background information comes from the Third Edition of Broderick and Blewitt’s textbook “The Life Span.” The photo of the chart is taken from the same text. The theory is Bartholomew’s Adult Attachment Typology Model.

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One item to note is that there is no way to build a meaningful relationship with everyone you work around. The goal is to allow you to build those relationships as they become available and in different degrees. There will be those that have a strong connection and create a strong sense of trust. Others will be of a lesser degree. This is a fact of any organization. The goal to makes any relationship as healthy as it can be.

A positive model of self, but a negative model of others is considered a dismissive typology. On the surface, it sounds a bit arrogant. It really has more to do with not having a high level of trust of others, so the focus is always what I can do or what I can accomplish. The deep-dark thoughts that come along with those thought patterns is “I might as well do it myself as someone else will just let me down.” It is not about having a perfectionist attitude, but simply havingthoughts that someone else cannot be trusted. I do believe that this stems from my INTJ tendencies. To see my point, go to Pinterest and type in INTJ. Hilarity ensues. INTJs are well known loners. I fit the mold a little too well.

This is not about me making excuses for what I am but more about the journey of self-discovery and working toward having a positive model of others. For me, creating that model was all about creating trust and building relationships in which trust can grow.

Early in my career, I made a name for myself as a safety cop. I took detailed notes of every encounter, every event that was out of compliance, times, locations, and even sometimes photos of items and behaviors. Why did I do this? I felt that simply approaching people and talking about safety would not yield any results. Sure photos and good notes can help create a strong case for change, but it cannot be the only tool of a safety professional. As you can imagine, this not help me build any relationships that were meaningful and did not help in bringing about sweeping positive safety changes in that workplace. I recognized that the employees feared me, supervisors loathed my reports, and management felt I was finger pointing. That was not the type of healthy work relationship that needed to be built.

In the safety world I have found two types of dismissive models. The first is just what was described above. Everyone is dismissed and not engaged because there is no trust. The other is the dismissive model in which someone does not listen to an idea because they already have the answer. It is common in the workplace where someone will get dictated an answer rather than having ideas free flowing and discovering the answers through a process. Others are dismissed because they are perceived as not as knowledgeable, experienced, intelligent, etc. In the medical world, this would be considered poor bedside manner. The doctor does not have to listen to your symptoms because he already knows what to do. Here is an article detailing some of those finding about physicians. It says that if doctors would spend 10-15 minutes with patients rather than 5 or less minutes, they could see reductions in malpractice claims. The physicians are seen as dismissive because they are not investing that time.

Both of these are unhealthy relationships.

In the first case of having trust issues that create that negative model of others, there are ways that can help. Since that is so near and dear to me, allow me to speak from personal experience. I had to first give trust to build trust. There has to come a point where little pieces of trust are given to others to see how they will treat it. I am not saying that I invite anyone to babysit my kids as a trust exercise. The point is that I had to learn to talk to people and make real connections to understand the how’s and why’s of the behaviors. In a safety cop mentality, someone without safety glasses is in trouble, period. With an integrated safety scope, it is important to learn why. Do they not fit? Was it an honest mistake of forgetting? Did they fog up? Are they scratched? Did the person simply choose to not wear them? Each answer is important but takes a level of trust and understanding. For safety cop, the answers do not matter only the fact there was non-compliance. The situation needed a remedy, but it had to be the right one. Without a meaningful relationship being built those questions do not have a method of fruition.

This change did not happen overnight. There was much introspection before I finally realized what I was doing and why it was not working. I had completely isolated myself and that was not a healthy relationship. I had a few supervisors and superintendents that I apologized to for putting them in an unfavorable spotlight. The next step that I had to do was to ask, “How can I help you make safety a success in your department?” I had to bestow a level of trust in those I worked with. I had to let them help me find the direction I needed to go. I spent more time gaining understanding of the methods and working with people to find the answer.

In the second case where physicians were used as the example, there is a simple trick that can drastically help in this area: Listening. Such a simple word and yet it is so hard to do. We are a culture of actions. Have you heard phrases such as “We’re not moving fast enough” “We need to see results” “We need to get this done now” and many other similar sayings? It is tough in those environments to take the time and effort to really listen to what is happening.

I had the pleasure of being able to participate in a leadership team building exercise years ago. The Industrial Psychologist told us a story of when he was in residency. His instructor asked him if he smoked a pipe. The gentleman indicated that he did not and asked why. His instructedor explained that each time he felt the need to speak, he should puff the pipe a couple times to refrain from speaking. He was not giving enough time for people to fully finish their thoughts. By giving himself a physical queue, he would develop a better sense of giving the moment a few more seconds to assure that all that needed to be said was spoken. I watched the way he worked after that story and noticed that he would put the tip of his pen on his chin. If no one continued to talk, he would interject some of his observations. He had a physical method of reminding himself to take time to really listen to the needs of his clients. The same should be said for building any type of meaningful work relationship. We should want to learn and listen more than we want to talk and explain.

The dismissing typology is a tough one to overcome as it does take serious introspection to see where the faults lie. By giving little bits of trust in key places, slowly there are relationships that start to form. Listening is also a key method of gaining trust. By listening to someone completely, there is an empathy that can be found in the situation or circumstance. That can lead to not interjecting solutions too soon or dismissing the other person’s opinion. Creating a positive model of others comes in two forms: listening to understand and giving little opportunities to let trust grow.

Occupational Relationship Typology: Part 1

To start off, the background information comes from the Third Edition of Broderick and Blewitt’s textbook “The Life Span.” The photo of the chart is taken from the same text.

It is easy to guess that the next sets of posts will be based on a theory from my study in life span psychology. This particular theory in the context of the textbook is in relation to how spouses relate to each other and build attachment to each other. This theory, though, has to some interesting application to the the working environment. Whether we admit it or not, by simply spending 8+ hours each weekday with any group of people there is created certain attachments. These vary in complexity and can create different impacts on the workplace. Many of the recent behavior based safety programs rely on people building relationships with each other in a way where they feel confident and empowered. This confidence and empowerment allows a team based effort in risk avoidance. In practical terms, if a co-worker sees another co-worker performing an unsafe task, they should feel the urge to intervene and prevent an injury. This ability to intervene on the well-being of another co-worker can only come through building meaningful work relationships ( i.e. attachment). There has to be a sense of investment in each other and also a keen empathy toward each other.

The basis of these discussions come from Bartholomew’s Typology: A Four-Category Model of Adult Attachment Categories.

IMG_1275 copyThe theory is simple in that it compares a positive vs negative model of self compared with a positive vs negative model of others. In other words, I have a good or bad feeling toward myself. I also have a good or bad feeling towards other people. Based on how those line up, it affects the type of relationship that be be built.

By having a better understanding of the obstacles that could be in the way of creating positive and meaningful relationships, it creates an opportunity to find better ways of engaging each other.

The ultimate goal of having functional workplace safety programs is to assure that the proper safeguards are in place. The risk has to be managed in such a way as to best protect the people that work around the hazard. There are times where these is risk. It is critical that as individuals and organizations we are able to help each other engage in the safest work practices as possible. If there is an action that could create an adverse reaction, then there should be an inherent social duty to say something to prevent harm to self or others. There are many barriers to overcome in feeling comfortable in having those discussions. Some of those barriers come from “attachment” difficulties based on aspects of the typology. The goal of the next series of posts is to better understand each typology as it applies to the workplace and how to better engage those types in creating a dynamic and positive behavioral safety system.