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.

Compassion, Consistentcy, and Continuous Improvement: Part 4

Much of my career has been focused on two primary types businesses: Startups and Turnarounds. A company has just opened and needs someone to write the programs, perform the training, and create sustainability has many of the same challenges as a company that admits to not having robust safety systems and has a deep desire to create a safe culture. They both have very similar opportunities as far as the way a safety program has to be implemented and nurtured. It is through working in these situations that I realized that creating a real safety system takes Compassion, Consistency, and Continuous Improvement (the 3Cs).

My wife is an avid gardener. As for me, I find it interesting but not as satisfying. That, though, does not stop me from partaking in the fruits (or vegetables) of her labor. I find many similarities between what shes does and what I do. There some very core concepts that have to be applied over and over to make a successful garden or safety program. To begin, it takes the right soil. The ground has to be ready for the seeds to be planted. In this same way an organization has to be ready to begin the journey of not only a safety transformation but a people transformation. This is where compassion comes into the equation. Compassion is the soil in which a safety program should be planted. If the soil is wrong, the seeds will not grow. If an organization does not have the right attitude toward a safety program, it will not produce the results they are driving for.

Next, a garden takes seeds, planting, watering, and tending. It is a lot of work watching over little plants until they can grow to be big plants and produce fruit. In the early stages they take so much more work, but even when they are big the work is not done. The plants can produce on their own, but with the right type of care and tending they have the ability to be so much more productive. For a safety program, this is summed up with consistency. The program has to be nurtured and energy invested continuously. Lots of energy in the beginning but never no energy. There always has to be a level of focus on those programs and behaviors. It is a consistent message to the people in the organization that safety matters and is worth that continual investment in the programs and people. Just if a garden is abandoned, a safety system may fall completely apart. The best case would be that the system is still there and producing minimal results. Consistency to the process has to be a critical component.

Each year when the garden is complete and all the fruits and vegetables are brought in, my wife immediately starts planning how she will plant next year. She goes through a process of evaluating what went well and what could be improved. Maybe she has way too many green beans and not enough cucumbers. One year, the zucchini and squash cross pollinated causing some odd coloration of those two items. Her goal is find a better way of doing the same process next year. What can be improved to make the garden more fitting to her needs. Again, this is how continuous improvement should work with any safety system. A program should be evaluated on how effective it is, the ease or useability of the processes, and how it can still be better tailored to the needs of an organization. Without continuous improvement the system cannot keep getting better. It becomes old and stagnant. If my wife did not find better ways to tend the garden each year, she would continue to waste valuable time and effort to never truly maximize her return. That sounds a lot like a safety system! By not improving the system, it creates waste in various forms that should be eliminated to created better gains and stronger participation.

There are many great books and articles that represent continuous improvement. The whole lean culture is an amazing process driven approach to creating sustainable results. By far my favorite book is “The Toyota Way.” It is a practical look at how lean should support where the product is made. A safety program should provide a great service to its customer. There should never be a time in a safety program where the declaration is made “We are done. We have create a safe place.” This is ripe for errors to start to creep in. It is through a systemic process of evaluation and improvement that a safety program stays fresh, practical, and most importantly functional.

Compassion, Consistentcy, and Continuous Improvement: Part 3

In the first two posts of this topic, I discussed the fact that a good safety system comes at the expense of hard work. Just like any habit or cultural change, it takes time, effort, and desire. I have never found the silver bullet approach to create a sustainable safety program. Simply stated, a robust safety program takes compassion, consistency, and continuous improvement.

This post focuses on the consistency aspect of the “3Cs of Safety.” Previously, I have touched on consistency as part of the Hierarchy of Safety Needs series. Consistency sounds so easy and yet is one of the toughest aspects of the program. I used the example of someone who is trying to loose weight. The first few days are full of energy and ability. Then comes the day where the person is tired and tempted. The choice comes to drop the diet and return to old habits. When the energy of a new program has diminished and the old habits seem easier and comforting, many return to those old ways. It is critical that with any safety system, that the progress is consistent and sustained.

An organization can be the same way with safety (especially with behavior based observation programs). The new program is rolled out, there is energy and excitement for the program. Then there is trouble keeping the system. There could be cost troubles, manufacturing troubles, quality troubles, or delivery troubles. The organizations make a decision to simply put the program on hold while they overcome the obstacles. Then there is another crisis of some form. The program is put on hold again, just until the issues are fixed. This pattern continues until the whole program is just a memory. It is easy to resist and avoid what is new and time consuming. Once the program is lost, it can easily appear that safety is just one more “flavor of the month” style program.

It takes consistency to keep a safety program functional. It keeping the programs going even when faced with other organizational priorities. Creating behaviors and positive cultures takes consistency in its practice. Again taking the example of healthy living, if the process is not kept consistent the gains will slowly or never be realized.

How can an organization keep consistency in the safety program? My first argument to this point is that the organization needs to hire a true safety professional. For example, a company hires an operations manager to keep a focus on operations. A company hires a shipping manager to keep a focus on shipping. A company hires an HR manager to keep a focus on the people resources. Why would an organization think that without a safety manager that they would be able to keep a sustained focus on safety. For a safety manager to be effective, they have to create a sense of consistency, technical knowledge, business acumen, and bring a true position of leadership. If a program has to the potential to slip or be less consistent, it is the duty of the safety manager to remind the organization of the its importance. There is also a duty to find ways to make the program more sustainable, consistent, and easier to implement. One of my big complaints of the safety profession in general are there are too many “safety cops” and not enough organizational leaders.

Consistency is vitally important to keeping a compassionate safety system on the right path and moving forward. A good program is only as good as the length of time that it can be sustained. If today and organization is going to put into place a program to protect employees, the employees should be able to with some certainty guarantee that the program will still be functional a week, month, year, ten years, etc. The same applies in reverse. An employee should know with great certainty that when a legitimate safety concern is raised, that the organization will address that concern with urgency, adequacy, and most important consistency.

Compassion, Consistentcy, and Continuous Improvement: Part 2

During my time as a safety professional, I have come to the conclusion that there are no easy routes to create a safety culture. There are so many gimmicks, sales pitches, online programs, and consultants that try to sell the easy safety approach.

“Decrease recordability by 35% each year” or “The method of behavior based safety” or “Incentivize safety to reduce injuries”

The real truth is that there is not a “silver bullet” approach to creating a real safety system. Just like any other habit or any other behavior, the process has to be learned and practiced. For instance, imagine someone who is overweight and eats unhealthy food. *Can I share a secret with you? This example is me. 🙂 * It is no easy task for this unnamed person to get up one say and suddenly each healthy and workout. The first few days may have some gusto and energy, but the process has to be sustained. After a few days of going through the motions this person might think they have created a new culture. Then suddenly, someone brings doughnuts to work. Oh this person can have just a bite of one and stop. Nope! Four doughnuts later the day is lost and since the day is lost, might as well have fast food for lunch. With that complete, might as well eat out for dinner too. The next day is back to old habits. A safety system is much like this same cultural change. The early efforts are noteworthy and full of energy, but over time the old ways can have a tendency to creep back in. That is why real safety change is so difficult for many organizations. They get a few wins with a new program, and they move on to the next. All the while, the system is eroding and the culture is slipping.

I have simplified my approach to creating that safety system with the “3Cs” Compassion, Consistency, and Continuous Improvement. This post is focused on the first of the Cs, Compassion.

Honestly, without compassion the other two Cs are inconsequential. The safety process will have a large single flaw without having a sense of empathy for the endeavor. Without compassion, an organization would have to ask themselves “what are we consistent with?” Compassion is the foundation on which safety is built. Some might argue that the fear of OSHA or fines would be enough motivation for a safety system. To that I retort that OSHA’s penalty system is antiquated and most time do not affect the overall profitability of most companies. Many of the companies that do create “safety” programs just for those purposes,  the programs do not benefit those they should be protecting. It is only through compassion for employees that a real safety system can be created.

How did I come across compassion as my first key element of a strong safety program? There is a great article that was written by E. Scott Geller that was published in the March 2008 edition of Professional Safety. It was called “People Based Leadership: Enriching a Work Culture for World Class Safety” In this article, he compares traditional safety approaches with new methods of people approaches.

Traditional Safety:

People Based Safety:

In the people based safety methodology there are two terms (emotion and empathy) that both relate to compassion. It is through compassion that the foundation of a safety system can be built.

Why do we have safety programs? Because we care!
Why do we have to use the PPE? Because we care!
Why do we have to fill out these permits? Because we care!
Why do we have to lock this equipment out? Because we care!

I am not sure that there are any other good answers to the above questions. If an organization does not have compassion, the answer those questions above are a shoulder shrug and a “meh.” Without compassion a company may have instituted programs but they are followed or even encouraged to be followed. It is vitally important that compassion is a core principle of any safety system. Without compassion the safety system is paper in a notebook, not a functional program that benefits all those in the organization.

Compassion, Consistentcy, and Continuous Improvement: Part 1

Coming up in the fall, I attend my first weekend long seminar to begin the process of writing my PhD thesis. I am a little behind in taking this first class, but that’s what life will do to you. I am both excited and nervous about this first deep dive into the process of researching and writing the paper. My goal had duality when I began my PhD journey. I will first start with the more selfish reason why I began the process. I had just completed my MBA, and I was in a job where an internal promotion was available. I was never interviewed and at that point I thought, “What’s it take to get an interview around here? A Ph.D!” Two events stemmed from that experience: 1) I started a PhD program. 2) I found a new job.

Beyond my pettiness, the real reason that I began a PhD in I/O psychology is that it really interests me. There are not many researchers that are taking that deep look at the behaviors that drive safety compliance and safer behaviors. I wanted to start my journey of learning focusing on how to influence people so that they are safer at work and home. Now that I am at the part of the program and beginning the process of drafting my thesis, I am honestly a bit overwhelmed. When I start to craft the question that I want to explore further, it continues to get bigger and bigger. I suffer from a case of scope creep. I think of a good idea, then think of a dozens ways to expand it. I do this because I am concerned that my small scope research will not be good enough, and I feel that I need to solve a bigger problem. I keep seeking that silver bullet approach to creating safer behaviors. I want to find that amazing simple answer that everyone is looking for in how to transform an organization to one of safety excellence. The problem with that thought process is that it is faulty. There is one thing my years of safety experience has taught me is that there is no one simple answer to making an organization safer.

All the prior information finally leads me to the point of this post. The answer for a safer organization is really three big topics that are neither easy nor simple. What does it take to have a safer organization (the title gives it away): Compassion, Consistency, and Continuous Improvement. It is the combination of those three items that create not only create a safer organization but creates a better organization. Safety is so people oriented, that relatively small waves in the rest of the business can create big impacts. They are also not felt immediately. Good work in the organization pays off later in safety. It takes time for those changes to impact the influence of safety. Again, it reinforces why I am studying industrial and organizational psychology. It is the interactions between people and the organization that has the largest impact on the safety of the workforce.

In Part 2 of this series, there will be a deeper dive of what does compassion, consistency, and continuous improvement mean for safety. Unfortunately, they are not easy topics to define, implement, or quantify. These items take organizational excellence to accomplish, which would also explain why so many companies struggle with safety excellence. This, though, makes sense. If it was easy everyone would have mastered it.