Winning Them Over
In Part 3 of this series, safety officer Ken Malcolm talked about the importance of building trust between hardnosers and those who try to change them. To this, Malcolm adds respect.
“Give them [hardnosers] respect,” he says, “and problems go away. They might not like you, but when you handle people accordingly, someone is always watching, and that tough but fair method gets you respect.”
Trust and respect form the pivot point that directs difficult employees away from dysfunction, toward responsibility. Hardnosed workers will never trust or respect you more than when you demonstrate to them that you have their best interest at heart.
You do this when you create intentionally interpersonal safety training to meet the intensely interpersonal weaknesses of workers.
Intentionally Interpersonal Safety Training
Not all worker resistance is of the severe magnitude experienced by the desperate general manager described in Part 1. But to any manager who suddenly realizes that “good employees” in his organization are on the verge of spinning into the Cycle of Rejection (see Part 2), the situation can seem as serious.
Such was the panicky attitude of a global manufacturing company's operations excellence director when he realized that his plants' safety representatives, were, for no apparent reason, beginning to resist his carefully crafted 5-year safety excellence plan. Midway through the plan, he found that the ability of his safety representatives to engage employees — younger employees in particular — was less than he initially believed.
The harder he pushed them to engage employees, the more they resisted. Sound familiar? The interpersonal skills of his representatives required improving in a manner that did not risk further alienating them, so he called the author for help.
Since hazard recognition was the next focus of the 5-year plan, it was decided to integrate relational skill development into the safety representative's hazard recognition training program. An emphasis on reaching younger workers was included. One of the company's values, integrity, served as the drumbeat.
The human development goal was to help the representatives understand the difference between the preferred behavioral tendencies of older workers, such as themselves, and the preference of the plants' predominately younger workers. An easy four-part behavior profile was incorporated to help the participants understand the difference. From earlier articles in this series, you may recognize this goal as helping the hardnoser understand why people do what they do.
The safety management goal was to teach the representatives a simple 1-2-3 hazard recognition process that could be persuasively communicated to employees.
The resulting outline for the 8-hour training course delivered by this author is as follows.
Achieving Safety Integrity through Hazard Recognition
Live presentation; interactive workshop
Hazard Recognition: A Matter Of Integrity
Participants are asked to think of hazard recognition as a matter of integrity, as a way of “doing the right thing.”
Clearing the Value Path to Hazard Recognition
Participants learn about a “perfect storm” of negative social influences that hinder employee “buy-in” to hazard recognition. How to turn these negatives into positives is taught.
Capitalizing On Communication Desires to Jump-Start Haz Rec
Participants learn a behavioral approach to hazard communication — capitalizing on the communication craving of Generations X and Y — in order to achieve employee engagement in hazard recognition.
Making Haz Rec Work Simply
Participants learn a simple 3-step process for Haz Rec — observe, interpret, apply — that engages everyone in the routine practice of hazard recognition. A 3-question mechanism for gaining accountability is taught.
Using Behavior Recognition Skills to Build Haz Rec Effectiveness
Participants learn the strengths and weaknesses of each behavior type so that they may better recognize how employees allow hazards development and loss to occur. Correcting unacceptable behaviors before an incident happens is taught.
A review of the company value of integrity in relation to hazard recognition
A simple effective 3-step method of hazard recognition
A knowledge of the participant's own core behavior tendencies
A method to accurately recognize (read) the behavior tendencies of others
An understanding of how to 'sell' hazard recognition to others via persuasive communication skills targeted to the behavior tendencies of others
A strategy for maximizing hazard recognition through the networking behavior of Gen X and Y
The effectiveness of the intentionally interpersonal approach to safety training was immediately evident in the participants' feedback. Hardnosed safety representatives are not easily fooled. Most have seen a dozen lackluster varieties of the “safety flavor” of the month.
“He left no stone unturned,” said one. Grasping the dual nature of the training, another said, “Not only did I learn about safety recognition but I also learned more about my own personality and the personality of coworkers.” [The course emphasized behavior, but the common use of “personality” is close enough.]
Still another of the 75 participants said, “It wasn't what I expected.” No, it isn't, which is the point. It met felt needs, unlike other safety training. Added the participant, “I liked the straight talk.”
Most telling is the participant who stated that she will “use these ideas at work and at home.” It is a reminder that the greatest needs are life skills. Another participant said that he would use the course material to “make personal changes.”
Success is never guaranteed. But the intentionally interpersonal safety training advocated in this article has proved successful in every work environment from which the T-JTA data that defines a hardnosed worker was extracted.
In addition to improving the measures of traditional safety management — recordables, lost times, observations — several measures of human resource management effectiveness were improved, including personnel turnover rate, workers' compensation claim rate and various measures of employee engagement or attachment.
One large maritime company saved over $20 million during a 2-year period as the author and his colleagues worked with them to conduct a company-wide interpersonal safety training program.
An organization committed to breaking down the barrier presented by hardnosers may reap the unimaginable “better results” spoken about by John Bennett in Part 3. But to do so requires a shift in management perspective — from a reactive posture in which the hardnoser is viewed as an object to be conquered to a proactive policy of ministering to the hardnoser's needs.
Below is the story of one company that made this commitment. It's the company whose desperate general manager initially called the author in Part 1. Remember him? He is the one who thought that his supervisors were acting like troubled kids. And he was right. So was his inclination to react in the right way.
Enabling A Safe And Profitable Transition
One beneficiary of the blended safety training approach was Chotin Carriers, Inc., now a part of the Kirby Corporation. Kirby's impending buy-out of Chotin, a small company of 120 employees, only added to the human resource and safety management challenges faced by Chotin's general operations manager, Arnie Rothstein.
Chotin's overall personnel turnover rates for the years previous to the buy-out were respectively 47%, 40%, 44%, 35% and 41%. Rothstein conservatively estimated that each employee turnover cost Chotin a minimum of $4,300, or an average annual turnover cost of $349,760.
Starting in Chotin's buy-out year, the author administered a series of training programs that addressed both the safety need of Chotin and its human resource development challenges. The result was that Chotin's turnover rates dropped to 20.3% and 2% respectively over a two-year period, saving Chotin thousands of dollars in personnel turnover costs.
During the same period of time, Chotin's safety performance was also improved. The company's total injury index rate (per 200,000 man-hours) dropped from 8.0 to 4.32, a 46% reduction. With an estimated cost of over $30,000 per lost time back injury, special emphasis was placed on reducing lost time injuries. The result was a 64% reduction in Chotin's lost time injury frequency rate.
Better than these results to Rothstein was the sweet aroma of employee cooperation, evidenced by one of the company's reformed hardnosers, who said, “I've learned more from this training than I've learned in all the other training put together.”
It is convenient to be like the skeptical Cleveland-area businessman in Part 3 who views everything in this presentation as silly “social work.” But the evidence presented here suggests that you can not pretend that a sub-culture of hardnosed workers does not exist.
Take it from an expert in destructive behaviors. If there is one thing that delights a hardnoser — that encourages his resistance — it is knowing that management will ignore him, allowing him to run amok. Such tolerance provides him with a complete sense of control. It justifies his retreat into emotional isolationism, disengagement, and dysfunction.
Ignorance by management is not bliss. There is a price to pay for such folly.
Massive amounts of money are spent on strategies that, at best, merely limit the ongoing damage done by change-resistant employees.
No amount of pre-employment screening can solve the problem. No human resource policy, employee management strategy, or performance evaluation criteria can deter it.
Nothing short of a purposeful, committed effort to provide hardnosers a path to healthy personal development will decrease their resistant nature. Safety is the open door to that end.
“Focus On Teamwork, Attitude Improves Quality And Safety.” The Waterways Journal. April 25, 1994: 41-44
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Taylor, Robert. Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis Manual. Thousand Oaks: Psychological Publications, Inc., 1992.