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.
Sometimes an Evader is born. Sometimes an Evader is made.
In the spectrum of success and failure, The Evader one who is doing all they can to avoid failure and not one bit concerned with seeking success.
Before you judge the Evader’s motives, I have three semi-rhetorical questions:
- How many times does your success not be recognized before you don’t care about it anymore?
- How many times does an organization attempt to prove your success was not one before you quit trying?
- How frequently do you simply wish to be “off the radar?”
The life of the Evader is a slippery slope and can be enabled through organizational climate.
There are so many stories of organizations trying to do the right thing, but end up creating a whole systemic group of Evaders.
The company that has the top five worst performers and the top five best performers work together to find solutions and both groups have to develop and overly complex presentation and documentation. Why does the top performer have to do all the work of the worst performer?
The company that forces all annual reviews to be in a bell curve. The lowest get fired, the highest get to participate in an inquisition on why they deserve the honor.
The company that has meetings to discuss low performers only to change the metrics at random to make sure everyone “has an opportunity to improve.”
The company that claims to be a “learning organization” only to call every non-success a complete failure publically. Where learnings have to be defended with the utmost passion and authority.
The company that requires that your good idea has to be the good idea of your boss and boss’s boss or it means nothing.
In safety, the company that wants compliance but nothing more.
Each of these scenarios creates a culture that seeks refuge in the middle. The best are punished right alongside the worst. It’s a different punishment, but it is still an organization method to not have to reward those that are actually seeking success.
Ultimately, the Evader is a direct result of their motivation. There are extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Extrinsic motivators are those things that are outside of our control yet have a relatively minor impact. While intrinsic motivation is very personal, hard to change and make a big impact on us.
I find myself, at times, falling into the mold of The Evader. It is easy to do when intrinsic motivation is low and the perceived extrinsic motivation is high. It is through self-reflection and calibration that changes can be made. Here are my tips to make that mental shift back into success seeking rather than failure avoiding.
- Focus on your intrinsic values/motivation
- Do you believe in a higher power? If so, is our work not to serve that rather than a company? We should do our utmost with what we are given.
- How would your family, friends, those that you respect feel about your current performance?
- You have something/ are someone to be proud of! Make your personal brand mean something. Don’t let someone, some organization, or something take that away from you. You are the only you there is. You bring something wonderful to the company. Don’t let them dim the light you shine.
- Calibrate the extrinsic motivations
- Talk to someone you trust in the organization and see if they see the same issues you do. Maybe it is just a perspective issue and not an organizational one.
- When encountering negative stimulus to learnings or positive items, professionally point out how they are good. Emphasize what works and how to sustain it.
- Never miss a chance to talk about what you do well. Keep that 30-second elevator speech ready and keep it current to the great things you are doing.
Each day we have the choice to make on how we engage the day . . . hour . . . situation . . . moment. As safety professionals, there are real and personal consequences to what we do. We must keep trying to keep our motivation up. Even though our work may not be recognized, we must remind ourselves constantly that our work is for a greater good.
It sounds sappy, but it is true. Take pride in what you do each day to make our workplaces and homes safer.
Here is a copy of the live feed for the presentation “Creating Meaning in Safety Training” from May 8, 2019 in Louisville KY.
Jump to 16 minutes for the presentation to actually start.
Thanks again to all those who supported me through this process.
I will be live from the TN Safety Congress in July for those who are interested.
My warmest appreciation and thanks to everyone who was able to be present and watch the live stream of the presentation. It was such a great honor for me to share my work with you today. As promised here is a link to the presentation: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/gnw3uzdpt9vkzq9/AADsTc_IDJ0-DM1rSLwBN8coa?dl=0
Hopefully in the next few weeks my dissertation will also be publish officially and I can share that also 🙂