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.

Typologies of Safe Behaviors and Safety Programs – Part 7

This is the final post in regards to the the safety typology based on Baumrind, Maccoby, and Martin’s parenting styes. This posting will be shorter than the rest because it focuses on the high programs and high behaviors typology of Authoritative. This the goal of any parent/organization. There are high expectations along with high support to assure success.

SafetyPgmsBeh“Even with high expectations of maturity, authoritative parents are usually forgiving of any possible shortcomings. They often help their children to find appropriate outlets to solve problems. Authoritative parents encourage children to be independent but still place limits on their actions. Extensive verbal give-and-take is not refused, and parents try to be warm and nurturing toward the child. Authoritative parents are not usually as controlling as authoritarian parents, allowing the child to explore more freely, thus having them make their own decisions based upon their own reasoning. Authoritative parents will set clear standards for their children, monitor the limits that they set, and also allow children to develop autonomy. They also expect mature, independent, and age-appropriate behavior of children. Punishments for misbehavior are measured and consistent. Authoritative parents set limits and demand maturity. They also tend to give more positive encouragement at the right places. ”

Exchange the word parents for the work organization and remove the references to children, Voilà! You have a well functioning organization. Here is a quick recap in terms of safety and functional excellence

1) High expectations
2) Empathetic
3) Find ways to help employees solve on-the-job problems (see The Toyota Way).
4) Has limits, buts wants exploration of better ways
5) Encourages give and take communication
6) Wants the organization to make good decisions based on experience
7) High accountability
8) Discipline is measured and consistent
9) Gives positive encouragement and feedback
10) Clear expectations

Is any organization perfect? No! An organization that reaches a point and feels they have done enough lives in folly. One of the key principles of keeping an organization vibrant is continuous improvement. The key of an Authoritative environment is that everyone is engaged in the improvement process. Each day the team as a whole is looking for ways to make small improvements that keep the momentum heading the right direction. An authoritarian typology is not only a great benefit to a safety system, but a great management system. When I read book like Built to Last, Good to Great, and the Toyota Way, they each detail different versions of an authoritative system. It is an organization that relies on each member of the team to make a contribution to improve the company.

Overall, the authoritative typology is where an organization should strive to be, but with the understanding that improvement never stops.

Typologies of Safe Behaviors and Safety Programs – Part 6

In these post, I am exploring how an organization would look based on high and low criteria of behaviors and programs. I find the outcomes to be very similar to the parenting typologies of Baumrind, Maccoby, and Martin.


This time I review the opposite approach of the authoritarian typology, indulgent. This is a safety environment where there are good programs but there is no accountability for overall safe behaviors.

For the parenting typology, “permissive parents try to be “friends” with their child, and do not play a parental role.The expectations of the child are very low, and there is little discipline. Permissive parents also allow children to make their own decisions, giving them advice as a friend would. This type of parenting is very lax, with few punishments or rules. Permissive parents also tend to give their children whatever they want and hope that they are appreciated for their accommodating style.”

This relates well to how the safety environment would function with an indulgent typology. It seems that the organization is attempting to avoid conflict by simply allowing to happen what will happen. There are few expectations set of how the organization should look and perform. It is interesting to see that the goal of indulgent parenting/organizational structure is to hope that by being given everything there will be an sense of appreciation and respect. Usually, the result is entitlement.

This typology is easy to spot during a reviewed. During the records and programs review, everything looks great. Written programs are in place, training well documented, and it is well kept and organized. Once the auditor steps into the work environment, none of those programs appear to exist. In the office a lockout tagout program is well written, complies with regulations, and has training attached. Then there is someone who is waist deep in a piece of equipment with no lock, no tag, and maybe not even turned off (the interlock works, right?). The auditor might ask what is happening and the response would be something like, “we got to this equipment back up and running.” or “we do this repair like this all the time.” or might ignore the auditor all together because no one has time for a safety audit while there is production to run.

This is one of those typologies where I look toward the safety person to see how their interaction with the organization creates this result. It could be that the safety department has no real or political power within the organization. The programs and training are all in place, but when a view of the operational environment there is no evidence that the programs are followed or considered. There are a few reasons that this phenomenon could occur. The first is that the safety department never leaves the office. They write programs. The perform training. They never go see how the programs could or could not be utilized where the work happens. Another consideration is if the safety department has a good relationship with the operational department especially the front line supervisors. The front line supervisors should be a safety professionals best friend. They are able to make sure the programs are actually working. They can provide feedback on what works and what can be improved. They can help with ideas of where improvements can be made. The front line supervisor, when truly carrying a safety banner, can make a significant difference in a safety culture of an organization.

In the case of an indulgent organization, there are reasons why the well written programs are not followed. Some quick check items to review:

1) Is safety a critical ideal of the senior leadership?
2) Do supervisors and employees have all the tools they need to comply with the safety programs?
3) Is the training relevant and adequate?
4) What types of audits are being conducted to report deficiencies to the organization?
5) Are the expectations clear enough?
6) Is there an understanding of the programs and how to use them?
7) Are there work rules that require the following of safety procedures?
8) Are those work rules enforced? How?
9) Are safety performance items part of everyone’s annual performance review? (Not safety metrics but deliverables such as audits, improvements, and observations).
10) Are safety committees functional?

These examples are some quick start ways to engage the team in creating those safety behaviors based on the programs.

During job interviews that I have been part of over the years, one of the common questions I receive is, “How much time do you like to spend on the shop floor?” Why is this questions asked? It is because those who are asking it have met safety people that simply want to write programs and never leave the office. As a safety person, I do rely heavily on the front line supervision to really make safety work. But I also have to be present to see how I can help make the programs better, easier to use, and to coach others on assuring the programs are working as intended. There is a level of support that has to be given to front line supervisors to assure they are successful in making safety a functional part of the organization.

An indulgent organization can be transformed relatively quickly compared to neglectful and authoritarian. The goal is to create purpose and accountability in the workplace through the programs and by the whole team.

Typologies of Safe Behaviors and Safety Programs – Part 5

This is a continuation of the thought experiment in the consideration of what does an organization look like based on two criteria, behaviors and programs. To make the process simpler, the goal was to view the process that an organization has either high or low behaviors and programs. This gives four options for how the organization can be classified. As the exercise continued, I began to see that that four types of organizations were very similar to the parenting typologies that are theorized by Baumrind and later Maccoby and Martin.


In this post, I will remain in the low program zone and move into high behaviors. This would be categorized as an authoritarian organization for safety.

According to the parenting typology, “authoritarian parenting is a restrictive, punishment heavy parenting style in which parents make their children follow their directions with little response. Children resulting from this type of parenting may have less social competence because the parent generally tells the child what to do instead of allowing the child to choose by him or herself. Children raised by authoritarian parents tend to conform, be highly obedient, quiet and not very happy.”

These traits can be transferred to the workplace. The biggest way to categorize this type of safety organization is fear. The company creates a strong sense of fear for failing to follow a safety rule. Rather than empowering the employees with programs, training, and interaction; it is all dictated with minimal clarity and heavy discipline for those that do not conform. Some other considerations of this type of environment would be how much turnover the organization sees. Fear is a strong way to govern (see Machiavelli’s “The Prince”). It is effective in keeping the organization structured, but people exit frequently (both forced and voluntary). This type of organization might pride themselves on how many people they have terminated for safety issues and claim that this stance shows great support for the safety endeavor.

In recent years, OSHA has been critical of safety incentive plans that focus alone on recordability and lost time rates. An authoritarian safety program would rely heavily on these types of programs. The goal is not to create good programs and learning environments, but to stop the reporting of injuries and hold individuals absolutely accountable for their own safety. Safety committees might exist, but they exist only as a check-in-the-box approach. They would have no budget or empowerment for change.

Overcoming an authoritarian culture begins with empathy and empowerment. The organization has to accept that there has be consistency in the programs. The programs also have to empower the employees to help improve and create those programs. When there is a sense of ownership, there also comes a sense of pride. The organization has to directly seek out input on how to improve the way the organization performs. It cannot simply be an act of collecting data and not creating action. The trends will be apparent. There will be a certain amount of pride that will have to be put aside along with an admission that the company may need input on how to improve the programs and that all the answers cannot be simply dictated to the employees. One of the largest hurdles that would have to be overcome is defeating the sense of fear and replacing that with a sense of accountability and ownership. Investment back into the employees is a great starting point,. Specialized training and employee input to programs will go a long way in moving the process forward.

Overall, an authoritarian environment must accept that program have to be in place to help gain consistency and fairness along with eliminating an overwhelming sense of fear.

Typologies of Safe Behaviors and Safety Programs – Part 4

These sets of posts started with the idea that a safety system has both behaviors and programs. The idea is to categorize what a system would look like if either were high or low. At the same time, I was in a developmental psychology course and started to see how there were similarities in the Maccoby and Martin’s Four Parenting Styles and the Baumrind’s Three Parenting Styles. As discussed in the three previous posts, the process for me to get from point A to point B may have been coincidence, luck, or something in between. I still found the theory interesting. I have conducted no research to formally support these thoughts. It is more of a thought game to be played based on behaviors and psychological theory.


In this post, I am exploring an environment that has both virtually no programs and no behaviors a.k.a Neglectful.

From the parenting aspect, the neglectful category scores the worst of the four in studies. It is also called “hands-off” parenting. “Neglectful parenting can also mean dismissing the children’s emotions and opinions. Parents are emotionally unsupportive of their children, but will still provide their basic needs. Children whose parents are neglectful develop the sense that other aspects of the parents’ lives are more important than they are. Parents, and thus their children, often display contradictory behavior. The parent and the child will never come to an agreement because the child will be resentful and the parent will show a demanding, with great authority side.”

In the safety example of programs vs behaviors, there are many similarities that can be theorized. Certainly, a work place in which there are no safety programs in place and the company and employees show no interest in creating safe behaviors, there is a recipe for disaster. These are companies that have catastrophic losses and extremely high injury rates. Because of the lack of safety systems, there may be many issues that go unreported until they do become catastrophic. In this safety environment when concerns are brought up, there is no concern or follow up. The company may provide basic PPE such as gloves, ear plugs, safety glasses, and locks for lockout tagout. But, there will be a lack of training and the PPE provided will be the most cost effective regardless of effect. Another indicator of a neglectful environment would be where earplugs are on a box fastened to a wall, but there has never been any effort to conduct sound monitoring or create a hearing conservation program. Another indicator of the neglectful environment would be that the PPE is provided, but no one is using it. The programs do not enforce the policy, and the people don’t care enough to try. There is no effort from either side. When there is effort it is short lived and has no follow through or sustainability.

In a similar fashion to the parenting style, the neglectful style is contradictory in many terms. There is never consistency. One day the safety glass policy is the most important event in the company. The next week, they can’t afford safety glasses but everyone needs to be wear ear plugs. The programs come in starts and stops with no sustainability considered for the process.

The greatest issue with this style is very similar to the parenting style: The employees become resentful and the company becomes increasingly authoritative with a heavy handedness for perceived behavioral issues. A good worker (high productivity) may never lockout a piece of equipment, but a perceived poor employee could be fired for an ear plug policy that has never been enforced. In the safety realm, this might also be considered the “flavor-of-the-month” safety program.

Neglectful safety environments are dangerous. There are little to no protections for employees. On the flip side, as a safety professional, I would not have to worry much about working for a neglectful company as they would never hire a safety person. They do not have a desire to change nor do they want to face the harsh reality that the lack of safety systems perpetuate the lack of safety behaviors. I could also theorize that in a neglectful environment quality of product, cost controls, and other basic systems are non-existent. They manage for the short term and hope for long term results. Sometimes in market rich environments, these systems can be sustained simply because the product or service is in high demand.

Overcoming a neglectful environment is difficult. For every year the systems did not exist, it will take 6 months to a year to build them and the culture that comes with it. For example if a safety system has been neglected for 10 years, it will take 5 to 10 years to build it. The key word is “culture.” The programs can be written. The training can be conducted. The critical step is that the company and employees have to keep investing in the programs until it becomes the way of doing business. There will be tests, trials, and revisions. The goal is to maintain the overall course of the change.

The first step is program creation, detailed training, and feedback systems. The focus should be on quick wins and those that gain big wins. A plan, do, check, act process works best with each program. Those programs that help eliminate the biggest risk should be at the top of the list.

Slide1The view is for the long term. The goal is to create trust in the work force, sustainability in the programs, and long term continuous improvement. It is a long road, but in the end it makes the company better and protects its people. Overcoming a neglectful safety environment can be done, but is has to be done systemically with a view for the long term.

Typologies of Safe Behaviors and Safety Programs – Part 3

So far, I spent two postings just leading up to the actual chart that creates this entire series of posts.

The purpose of these sets of posts is to look at the characteristics of parenting versus safety and how those two are interrelated.

SafetyPgmsBehI will openly admit that I was conducting a one man think tank and proposing the simple of question of “What would an organization look like if they no programs and no safe behaviors and the variances therein?”  As continued thinking through this philosophy off and on, I started to see some real similarities between Maccoby and Martin’s Four Parenting Styles based on Baumrind’s Three Parenting Styles and my four-quadrant system. In the sake of full-disclosure, my mind may have been influenced by just studying that theory and helped in bridging that gap. Either way, I felt there was enough correlation to dig a little deeper.

As a introduction to these ideas, here is a brief overview of the four typologies.

Neglectful = A system where there are no safety programs and no expectations for safe behaviors. The organization is no engaging any aspect of safety or safety management.

Indulgent = A system where there are good programs but no expectations to follow those programs. The system is there, but no one really cares it is there.

Authoritarian = A system where the employees are held extremely accountable but there are no programs or training to empower them in the process.

Authoritative = An organization that has robust training and programs along with holding everyone consistently accountable for their actions.

In part 4, I will take a deeper dive into the Neglectful typology.

Typologies of Safe Behaviors and Safety Programs – Part 2

As discussed in Part 1 of this theme of posts, I started thinking/daydreaming about how to quantify behaviors and programs as they relate to safety. I had previously been interested in the typology of parenting just for personal interest. One morning while making the morning commute, the two began to merge and take some shape. So, I felt the best place to discuss the similarities would be through my blog.

The big question is, “How did I merge these two seemingly unrelated topics?”

One of my biggest pet peeves is the manager that says “safety is just common sense.” It is this thinking that gives the safety profession such a poor name. There are companies that believe that safety is something that is nothing but lip service and common sense. I have a previous post where I really get on that soapbox, so I will spare that rhetoric on this one. The truth is that safety is learned. There is no other way. Even from a early man kind of thought process. There are those that made mistakes that cost them life and limb and then there are those that saw it go bad, made a logical choice to do the same thing, then told others about the problem. I love the history of the chemical elements. It is amazing how the elements were discovered, tested, and utilized. The history of chemistry is rich in safety stories such as these. Early chemists/alchemists used mercury for many experiments and processes. It was through their liberal use, the the rest of the chemical community learned that safety precautions need to be taken in order to prevent going crazy due to the heavy metal building up in the brain. It was the early work, illness, and death of the scientists with the discovery of radionuclides that helped shape safety policy today.

Safety is learned. It is not common sense. It has to be trained and utilized for it to have value for the user.

Another example of how safety is not just common sense relates to hunter safety. Many believe that hunting and fishing are an innate human function that is in correlation to have good real life common sense. The truth is that before someone goes on their first hunting or fishing trip, they are instructed on the safety and methods of the process. Gun safety is of course a number one priority of the education. It also includes, how to protect while in a tree (fall protection), how to field dress the animal (knife use), and moving the animal back to camp. No one is born with this knowledge. It is taught and learned.

The same should be said with any industrial process. Safety is taught and learned. It may seem like common sense for someone who has done it for years, but for others the knowledge is new and unpracticed. A seasoned fortruck operator should know that seat belts are required, how to safely move a load, and how to perform a pre-use inspection. For someone who the process is new to, they need that instruction to help gain that first time information. How would someone know to lockout a machine before maintenance if they had never been instructed? How would someone know how to safely enter a trench if they had never been instructed? It is these same reasons why the statement, “that’s just the way we’ve always done it.” can be so troublesome. Just because that method has seemed to be the right way to do it, does not mean it is. By working toward knowledge and improvement, the safety systems are learned and evolved.

As a parent, I see that it is my job to not instruct my children like a teacher or instructor. It is my job to give them good guidance and information so that they can make good decisions, apply that knowledge, and be safe and successful. If I give my kids lists and lists of dos and don’ts for road safety, they will never take in the essence of the goal of safety. They will use the lists and the one and only method for being safe. If I instruct them to look for the hazards, how to spot the hazards, and the basics of how traffic works; they have a better opportunity to engage that activity with a safety consciousness. Don’t misunderstand, there needs to be hard and fast rules for the road. There also has to be an innate ability to take good information and apply it to a situation to make a good decision. As a parent, there are four typologies that I can fall into based on my style of raising my kids.

When the comparison is made between being a parent and being a safety manager, there are many similarities. Each role is about instructing, improving, and empowering others for safety and success. To me, safety is a life skill that is as important and critical as any other topic. So, the distance to bridge the idea that the four parenting typologies could be used to describe safety is not that large of a gap. They have many similarities especially considering the way that each should be presented. Once we really start diving in to the typologies, the similarities will continue to present themselves, the process will become more apparent, and the overall theme will crystallize. In the next post, I will give an overview and better define of the four parenting typologies.

Typologies of Safe Behaviors and Safety Programs – Part 1

As I was going through a class on child development, a theory really stuck with me in regards to classifying styles of parenting. The theory was Baumrind’s Parenting Typology. I enjoyed and studied the four quadrant version that was expanded by Maccoby and Martin. In this typology, there are four basic parenting types based on: Responsive vs Unresponsive and Demanding vs. Undemanding. So in these cases a parenting style could be Responsive and Demanding or Responsive and Undemanding. The same options are then available for Unresponsive in the same way. This creates four typologies that represent the parenting styles: Indulgent, Neglectful, Authoritative, and Authoritarian. This theory was interesting to me simply because I am a dad, and I wanted to see how I could become a better parent (or maybe just see what my parenting style may ultimately do to my kids).

So . . . how does any of this relate to a safety blog and theory? How did I tie parenting and safety together?

It began with the creation of a training program for leadership behaviors in safety. There appeared that there are two key initiatives in safety: programs and behaviors. There are good behaviors vs poor behaviors and good programs vs poor programs. The in world of safety there can be a combination of each. My thoughts were what would a site look like that had combinations of the variables above. How could those be categorized? How would they function? What were some of the tell-tale signs of the groupings? These thoughts would come and go during my commute. One day it struck me that the four typologies that I was seeking were very similar to those that were listed in the parenting theory. This revelation helped fuel this series of blogs.

The best introduction to the process is to give some definition of behaviors and programs. These are the two items that made me really start thinking about what does a site look like as they have combinations of the two.

Behaviors: Think of this term as how all the employees behave with safety. Are they aware of the work they are doing and how it can be done safely? Do they work in a way that prevents injury? Are they self-correcting items? Do they focus on preventing incidents to themselves and the team?

Programs: This includes the written programs, policies, safety analysis, sampling, auditing, and training. Are the programs written, functional, and understood? Does the team know the policies and how to comply with them? Is the training adequate and regular? Is there investment to revise and improve the programs?

Certainly, there is always room for the gray areas. With good programs, there should be some push for good behaviors.The overall theory is not to look inside each category, but to give an overall macro view of the system. If there was a location that had very strong programs but very poor behaviors, this would create an interesting case study of why this phenomenon would occur. There has to be an underlying meaning to why something at the very top of one category would allow the other to be at the very bottom. It is an interesting thought theory but in practical cases when one improves with deliberate attention, the other should follow with some measure. As you can imagine, behaviors are the hardest to influence positively, takes time to improve, and can erode the quickest. Programs help drive behaviors in both positive and negative ways. There is a causal effect between the two. I am not going to focus on as much about the causes as much as focus on what each category looks like and how those appear in the over arching safety management system.

The focus of the next series of blogs is to better define the four quadrants of this process, and how I correlate those to the parenting typologies. It should be a fun journey.