Tag Archives: safety management program

Step Aside, Compliance – There Is More To Gain from Safety

Tell the truth. What are your real expectations for your safety management program? “Let’s be honest,” said one exasperated business owner. “I’d be happy if it only got my workers to do what they’re supposed to do in the first place.”

If compliance is your answer, go to the back of the line.

Why settle for so little when the potential exists for much more? Safety management programs can be designed to solve a myriad of problems facing businesses, not just compliance. High personnel turnover, generational and cultural conflicts, and non-productive employee behaviors can all be reduced through safety management, but only if more attention is paid to the “human elements” that cause a loss to happen.

Perhaps the darker truth is that we haven’t capitalized on the full potential of safety management efforts because we haven’t known how to properly “gear them up” — to organize and “sell” them to oft-resistant workers in a way that achieves maximum benefit.

Failure to Launch
Tim Reis, Global Director Data Governance at The Manitowoc Company, thinks he knows why many programs struggle. Midway through the implementation of Manitowoc’s five-year safety management system plan, Reis found that engaging employees in the roll-out effort was more critical to its success than initially believed.

“We spent two years putting good processes in place and establishing accountability,” said Reis, adding that the success of additional stages of his safety management plan “will be dependent on our ability to make good processes excellent and our ability to engage employees.”

Unfortunately, many companies discover Reis’ lesson too late, having launched safety management programs without taking the necessary first steps to engage employees.

Predictable Resistance
Resistance to ill-conceived safety implementation plans is predictable. But until recently, the source of worker resistance has been a subject of intelligent guesswork. Anthony Lauchner, a senior project manager with McCarthy Building Companies, blames the independent nature of workers.

“I figure that guys whose independent attitude isn’t accepted in other industries naturally gravitate to my industry,” said Lauchner. “Historically, we’ve accepted them, allowing them to get away with an attitude that works against safety improvement.”

The search for solutions to change-resistant workers has been prolific, if not futile. One operations manager even consulted a program for troubled youth to find guidance in handling workers he considered to be little more than grown-up juvenile delinquents.

Fortunately, we now know how specific temperamental, generational and cultural factors contribute to resistance in workers. This knowledge provides us with three strategies for starting successful safety management programs. Use of these strategies results in a deeper acceptance of safety efforts and reaps benefits far beyond simple worker compliance.

1. Overcome a Temperament of Resistance
Safety management programs should be geared to overcome the historical root cause of worker resistance: emotional apathy that breeds disloyalty.

Due in part to my extensive research of the personality traits and behavioral tendencies of change-resistant workers, we now know that the independent nature of workers is symptomatic of emotional withdrawal, not outward belligerence (as it might appear).

Nervousness, pessimism, indifference, inhibition and an argumentative nature are all traits for which resistant workers consistently rate themselves as needing improvement. These traits are indicative of an emotional hole into which workers retreat, escaping from emotional investment in the job or with coworkers.

Anthony Lauchner labels it a temporary work mentality. Others call it a penchant for disloyal behavior, the type that ruins safety management programs and is reflected in high personnel turnover rates.

While serving as project manager and safety liaison for Jacobs Facilities, Gary Douthitt witnessed the detrimental effects that the emotional hole had on his safety management system for project managers. When tasked with collaborating with contractors to identify safety hazards, Douthitt’s managers didnt seem to care.

“It was easier for them to note conditions on their report and walk on rather than stop and deal with unsafe behaviors on the spot,” said Douthitt.

As old fashioned as it sounds, building safety systems on care and compassion rather than command is the solution for bridging the emotional gap between workers and safety.

One way that owners and managers can demonstrate the compassion of safety management is obvious. “Don’t fire workers when they take the time to do the job safely,” says Lauchner. By exercising safety patience, he says, the company will convince the employee that safety management is a noteworthy emotional investment, equal to production.

Owners may also want to provide training that develops interpersonal communication skills to those responsible for the program’s implementation. Gruff, authoritative communication only pushes workers further into emotional regression, away from safety management objectives.

2. Appeal to Generation Me
Consider the radical difference in values separating young workers from older ones when initiating a safety management program.

The egocentric nature of Generations X and Y, known collectively as Gen Me (approximately ages eighteen to thirty-five), represent serious obstacles to a safety program. According to reliable measures, narcissism, the unhealthy over-focus on self, is seven times higher in Gen Me as in previous generations.

Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. of San Diego State University states in her book Generation Me, “Young people have been consistently taught to put their own needs first and to focus on feeling good about themselves,” adding, “I see no evidence that today’s young people feel much attachment to duty or group cohesion.”

In short, Gen Me does not naturally possess a mindset that lends itself to a collaborative safety management program.

To secure “buy in” from a generation not keen on placing the group’s needs over the individuals, a safety program needs to harness the power of Gen Me’s self-focus. Oddly, this can be achieved by appealing to the inflated sense of self-esteem they feel when networking socially.

Such networking abilities are crucial to the success of safety management. Toolbox talks, Job Safety Analyses (JSAs), and team incident investigations are a few of the safety management tools that are dependent upon good socialization skills. Due to the emotional withdrawal syndrome discussed earlier, older workers have been historically weak in this skill set.

Companies should target its present and future Gen Me leaders for special inclusion in the planning and implementation of safety management programs. This includes taking seriously their opinions on how to sell the program to other Gen Me workers as well as taking advantage of their technologically advanced interpersonal communication skills.

3. Capitalize on Present Cultural Change
In order for safety management to achieve maximum impact, safety managers should better accommodate the cultural sea change brought by an increasing number of Hispanic workers. The construction industry is one example of this influx.

According to a 2011 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, Hispanic workers account for 24.4 percent of all construction workers (roughly 2.2 million workers). Two of every three construction new hires are Hispanic, and the percentage is expected to increase.

While most construction supervisors identify the language barrier as their primary cultural safety concern, my research indicates that the difference between Hispanic and non-Hispanic on-the-job behavioral tendencies poses the greatest threat to the success of safety management programs.

Behavioral data I have collected from 750 non-Hispanic construction supervisors demonstrates that over 76 percent of those workers classify themselves as more task-oriented than people-oriented. On the other hand, Hispanic supervisors are equally more people-oriented than task-focused.

Project manager Lauchner agrees. “My non-Hispanic workers are more hard-driven, less forgiving than my Hispanic ones,” he says. “By nature, Hispanics on my crews are equally hard workers but more willing to listen and be team players.”

While the “steady Eddy” nature of Hispanic workers is well-suited to the goal of safety compliance, some feel their lack of aggressiveness is a liability. One owner of a drywall installation company told me that he wishes more Hispanics would naturally step into leadership roles because they are better at enforcing his company’s safety message with other Hispanics.

Building proactive safety leadership qualities in Hispanics while educating non-Hispanics to the significant upside of their people skills, is a key to gearing up an all-inclusive safety management program. As with Gen Me, safety managers should target in advance key Hispanic line workers who can advise the company on how to best engage others in implementing the program. Training these workers with better leadership skills yields a safety return on investment that improves a significantly growing sector of America’s industrial workforce.

A Perspective Long Overdue
Moving beyond the days of the wishful hopes of worker compliance demands a radical change to traditional safety management thinking. Generational, cultural and temperamental factors once given afterthought now stand as earmarks of whether a safety management system is fully engaging workers, thus reaching its peak potential.

Frank E. Bird, Jr., and George L. Germain, authors of Practical Loss Control Leadership, must have envisioned this day when they developed their famous loss causation model. They suggest that we examine two main categories to determine the basic causes of loss: job factors (systems and standards) and personal factors (humans).

After years of gearing up safety management programs that are focused primarily on systems and standards compliance, it is the personal factors of culture, age and personality that now show us a better way to achieve total safety.

Breaking Through The Barrier Of Hardnosed Workers, Part 1

Our ‘Troubled Kids’
The tone of the general manager’s phone call to the author of this series of articles revealed the deep defiance to authority that he sensed in his workers.”Are you the camp program that helps troubled kids?” he asked gruffly.

“Yes,” came the reply.

“Good. I have some for you — they’re my employees.”

The manager was desperate enough to ask help from the author’s wilderness camp program that rehabilitated troubled youth. But he was also sincere in the belief that the hardnosed behavior of his employees closely resembled that of juvenile delinquents.

He proceeded to state that most of the drivers in his transportation company were acting irresponsibly, dragging morale down to a level that affected safety performance and caused high rates of personnel turnover. Nothing he had tried seemed to stop their dangerous immature behavior. He needed help, and he needed it soon, before one of his truckers precipitated more than a crisis of immaturity.

The complaint sounded familiar to the author. Hundreds of juvenile authorities, unable to control their charges, sought to place troubled youth in his “tough love” camp program. Each sounded as desperate as the manager.

But was the manager simply a grump who was reaping the just “rewards” of his poor employee management skills? Or when he placed the call to the author in 1992, was he in the vanguard of recognizing a disturbing trend sweeping through the labor force?

To find out, the author agreed to help the manager. What he uncovered, and what we should do about it, forms the body of this series of articles.

A Hardnosed Sub-Culture
“Hardnosed” may be too kind of a term for those workers whose uncompromising obstructionism often place people, property and the environment at unacceptable risk.

Safety and risk control managers use a more crude expression — jerks. Even cruder? Unprintable here.

Politely, they are labeled stubborn or change-resistant. Universally, they are acknowledged as the single greatest threat to the success of risk and safety management programs. Their leverage is powerful according to Gregory Pena, Sr. Vice President at Risk Strategies Company.

“If an employer can’t effectively engage the sub-culture (of resistance) that exists in most companies,” he says, “then their best safety efforts are doomed from the start.”

Despite widespread recognition of the problem, until now its cause has largely remained debated.

Veteran HSE manager Jim Hall views it as a decades-old struggle. “There are many older workers who are hardnosed and probably have been that way for decades,” he says. To Hall, the real problem is “how do we convert those that have had the hardnosed attitude for years?” He mentions the reluctance of such workers to give up the enjoyment they seem to get out of confrontation and “trying to push around supervisors, management, and the HSE persons.”

Others agree with Jack T. Moorman, CSP, Director of Health and Safety at Lee & Ryan, who states that “the most frustrating problem we have is the new employee with experience gained from another firm.” Moorman believes that new workers bring a prior attitude of non-compliance with them — what he calls “safety baggage” — making it difficult to address their behavior.

Some even blame the gains made in modern safety management for a resistance to further improvement. One safety manager says that she “frequently struggles with improving safety, not because our workers are outwardly resistant, but more because they feel they have already evolved so far from the days when safety was not a common part of the culture.”

Each explanation carries weight in describing the genesis of the hardnosed mindset. But until we define the hardnosed temperament accurately and scientifically, its correct cure cannot be prescribed.

Such clarity and correct prescription, formulated since the transportation manager’s call to the author two decades ago, is the goal of this series of articles, presented in four parts. Included will be the answers to practical questions asked by every level of supervisor and manager — insight that should be incorporated into the fabric of any employee and safety management program that involves change-resistant workers.

The four parts of this article series will be:

  • Part 1: What is a hardnosed worker?
  • Part 2: What should I not do when I want to change a hardnosed worker?
  • Part 3: What should I do in order to change hardnosed workers?
  • Part 4: What results can be expected from a training program tailored to a hardnosed work force?

Without accurate answers to these questions, all remedies are speculative. The behavioral barrier presented by hardnosed workers remains intact.

What Is A Hardnosed Worker?
A search for the definition of a hardnosed worker reveals that there has been little research into the personality traits and behavioral tendencies of change-resistant workers. The result is that the declaration of who is (and who is not) a hardnosed worker has been left to individual stereotype. A worker may be a jerk in the opinion of one manager, an earnest laborer in another’s.

Fortunately, the author has been afforded the opportunity to conduct personality assessments on 676 supervisors and managers representing several industry sectors that arguably contain a high percentage of traditionally change-resistant workers — maritime, oil and gas, passenger airline, ship building and repair, construction and manufacturing. The collective findings of the author are reported below, providing an identifiable profile — a recognizable “snapshot” — of a change-resistant worker.

And, fortunately, the temperament of supervisors and managers in these industries is generally representative of that of the line-level workers from which they frequently ascend. As Joseph K. Johnson, ARM, V-P at Brown & Brown of Louisiana describes, “Nearly all managers and supervisory personnel come up through the ranks of most organizations.” To know the supervisor or manager is to know the characteristics of his general labor force. By defining the change-resistant supervisor and manager, we define the hardnosed workforce.

The Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis™
The inventory utilized by the author to measure the personality traits (temperament) is the widely-used Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis (T-JTA) published by Psychological Publications Inc.

The T-JTA is intended to serve as a quick and convenient method of measuring a number of important and comparatively independent personality variables. It serves as an aid to those who must ascertain and evaluate the significance of certain personality traits which influence personal, social and vocational adjustment.

The core of the T-JTA is 180 questions which measure nine different personality traits in terms of their opposites — nervous versus composed, objective versus subjective, etc.

An individual’s T-JTA results are measured against national standards, or norms, that are revised periodically, then translated onto a shaded profile graph which indicates whether the results for a particular trait are, best to worst, “excellent,” “acceptable,” “improvement desirable,” or “improvement needed.”

Perhaps the strongest feature of the T-JTA is the ability to utilize it as a measure of how the person taking the analysis views himself, providing a “snapshot” of the respondent’s personality and projected behavior.

Sample Population

The collective findings for the 676 managers and supervisors inventoried is reflective of the following breakout.

Participants: 126 managers (example: project managers, superintendents, port officers) and 550 supervisors (example: foreman, lead man, vessel officers)

Description: Managers are those whose job function includes determination of the overall process of job completion. Managers typically oversee a number of supervisors. Supervisors are those who directly oversee the completion of job tasks as undertaken by various line-level laborers. The supervisor may participate with laborers in completion of the task.

Findings

The results of the administration of the T-JTA indicate that on average the 550 supervisors scored themselves in the “improvement desirable” area of the profile graph in 5 of the 9 personality traits measured by the T-JTA. Four of the 9 traits were scored as “acceptable”.

The five traits in which the supervisors rated themselves as “improvement desirable” indicate that they feel their personality is more closely identified with the first description (italicized below) of that trait than the second description.

trait A – more Nervous than Composed

trait B – more Depressed than Light-hearted

trait D – more Inhibited than Expressive-Responsive

trait E – more Indifferent than Sympathetic

trait H – more Hostile than Tolerant

As detailed on the T-JTA profile (Figure 1), these “improvement desirable” traits are found in the lightest of the gray shaded areas of the profile.

Similarly, the four traits in which the participants rated themselves as “acceptable” indicate that they feel their personality is more closely identified with the first description (italicized below) of that trait than the second description.

trait C – more Active-Social than Quiet

trait F – more Objective than Subjective

trait G – more Dominant than Submissive

trait I – more Self-disciplined than Impulsive

T-JTA Profile For Managers & Supervisors
Figure 1

unnamed-1

The findings for the 126 managers are nearly identical to those of supervisors, including scores of “improvement desirable” in the same 5 traits listed above and “acceptable” in the other 4 traits. Three of the five trait scores for managers are numerically identical to those of supervisors. The variance between manager and supervisor scores is only 3 percentage points (out of a possible 100) in 4 out of the 9 traits. The variance never exceeds 10 points on any trait, indicating that the conclusions for managers can be considered the same as those for supervisors.

Interpretation
What the findings from the T-JTA tell us about the personality profile of a hardnosed manager or supervisor, and, collectively, a change-resistant workforce, is the following:

1. A stereotype may be accurately assumed.
A change-resistant workforce is marked by nearly identical personality profiles of its managers and supervisors — in other words, it is inbred in its personality patterns.

2. The ability to command is a strength.
The “acceptable” personality trait scores are those that support behavioral tendencies which indicate the practice of strong command skills. In particular traits F (objective), G (dominant) and I (self-disciplined) would be expected to be strong in those who displayed good command capabilities.

3. The ability to communicate on a positive basis is a weakness.
The “improvement desirable” personality trait scores are those that support behavioral tendencies which foster inward feelings and communication which is either consistently critical, argumentative, or absent. In particular traits D (inhibited), E (indifferent) and H (hostile) would be expected to be weak in those who suffered the inability to communicate on an open, friendly or non-hostile basis.

4. A tendency to emotionally withdraw creates masking (emotional honesty) concerns.
The change-resistant worker may have a tendency to mask his feelings and thus give verbal feedback which is either intentionally or unintentionally not indicative of his true feelings. Psychological Publications, Inc., publishers of the T-JTA, include several of the “improvement desirable” scores common to change-resistant workers in a behavioral category termed the Emotionally Repressed Pattern. According to Psychological Publications, this pattern “indicates actual suppression of feelings or emotional repression. This score combination describes a deeper and more complete form of emotional withdrawal (than inhibition). In this instance, possibly for fear of being hurt or rejected, or out of defensiveness, the individual does not allow inner feelings either to exist or to find expression.”

5. A strong-willed nature may work against teamwork.
Change-resistant workers may frequently exhibit a self-centered, strongly prejudiced behavior which could hamper their ability to function cohesively in a team. When the presence of their high trait H (hostile) score is added to their low E (indifferent) score another behavioral consideration of change-resistant workers appears. Again, according to Psychological Publications, “Self-centered and prejudiced persons often score low on trait E (indifferent), whether or not they score low on trait D (inhibited). In such cases, a high score on trait H (hostile) is usually present.”

6. A tendency to “fight back” against authority exists.
The non-communicative tendencies of the change-resistant worker, when combined with a strong command presence, make his work environment a breeding ground for passive-aggressive behavior. Since both managers and supervisors operate within the same organizational structure and have the same temperament pattern, the presence of passive-aggressive behavior is widespread. This type of behavior is as likely seen in the manager’s office as it is in the production workplace and is evident in interaction between supervisors and managers.

The AWOL Factor
A final ingredient of the definition of the hardnosed worker must be added, thanks to the United States Army. During the Vietnam War, the Army experienced a higher than acceptable rate of AWOL (absent without leave) cases. Soldiers chose to run away rather than serve.

To better identify potential AWOL candidates, the Army’s chaplain corps conducted a study of the personality traits of recruits and draftees, eventually narrowing the definition of a potential AWOL candidate to an easily recognizable personality profile. The personality analysis used by the Army is the T-JTA.

The U.S. Army concluded that solders who registered a combination of “improvement desirable” or “improvement needed” scores in at least 4 out of the following 6 personality traits warrant attention as “likely AWOL” candidates. The 6 traits on the T-JTA profile are A, B, C ,D, H, and I. As described above, hardnosed workers score “improvement desirable” in five traits. Four of these traits — A, B, D, and H — fall within the “likely AWOL” profile determined by the Army.

According to Uncle Sam, a hardnosed worker is a high risk runaway threat — he is more likely than others to quit the job unexpectedly. In human resource parlance, he demonstrates little employee attachment or engagement. Old-timers might call him disloyal.

The “Snapshot” Of A Hardnosed Worker

In summary, the author’s research indicates that the profile of a hardnosed worker includes four key identifiers.

  1. They give strong commands but cannot communicate their orders in an acceptable manner;
  2. They repress their emotions to the point of masking the truth about how they really feel;
  3. They possess a destructively high ego that stifles teamwork; and,
  4. They exhibit “fight back” passive-aggressive behavioral tendencies against authority.

The U.S. Army adds another element, the propensity to impulsively shirk duty, to run away from commitment.

Hardnosed workers are not skilled in people interaction — they do not possess trustworthy interrelation capabilities. Fighting back against authority is a basic part of their emotional DNA. Running away from responsibility is an equal component of their character.

Reality is harsh. So is the definition of a hardnosed worker.

A hardnosed worker is a self-destructive, emotionally self-centered, uncontrollable person who would rather cut-and-run than commit.

“That’s Not My Guys”
There is a good-hearted tendency of executive level managers to excuse their workers, en masse, from such a stark definition. Or at the most, to limit the description to a few employees. This was the case when the executive vice-president of a large offshore marine support company said, “That’s not my guys,” then apologized a year later when it was concluded that his employees, on average, did fit the profile.

The same is true of the senior consultant for a large utility company who, having witnessed the rancor of the above-referenced marine company employees, said that his utility employees were “better than that.” He, too, later admitted that he was wrong.

“It’s Your Guys”
But what if, as the data suggests, it is your employees, or a past employer’s workers, or the employees of someone you know and care about. What if it describes a company that you insure? What do you do? What advice do you give? How does an organization navigate out of such a mess?

The answers are in Parts 2-4 of this series.

Bibliography

“Focus On Teamwork, Attitude Improves Quality And Safety.” The Waterways Journal. April 25, 1994: 41-44

Newton, Ron. No Jerks On The Job. Irving, TX. PenlandScott Publishers, 2010.

Riddle, Glenden P. An Evaluation Of The Effectiveness Of Stress Camping Through The Use Of The Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis Exam. Research Project. Dallas Theological Seminary, December 1978.

Taylor, Robert. Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis Manual. Thousand Oaks: Psychological Publications, Inc., 1992.