Tag Archives: safety manager

Curve Ahead: Managing Autos

My first job out of college was very hands-on. I worked in a laboratory testing the bituminous materials used in road construction. Every month or so, I’d move to a different, temporary laboratory/trailer in a strange city near another highway being resurfaced, and I’d get to work ensuring the road materials were in compliance with the requisite specifications. I quit that job when I noticed that the chemical solution used to separate bitumen from rocks was dissolving my fingerprints. Hands on. Fingerprints off. Unless I wanted to be a burglar full-time, I needed to find a different occupation.

I got a job designing traffic signals and road junctions. While there is a lot of math involved, there is also a lot of studying human behavior. The role was more of a black art than a science. Quite often, people – both pedestrians and drivers – do something other than what you expect them to do. Someone goes straight in a right-turn-only lane. It happens. Run a red light because the two cars in front of you did? That, too.

My specialty was designing traffic light junctions. Humans are hugely inefficient at negotiating junctions, even those that have colored lights telling you what to do. Sit third or fourth in a line of cars at a set of traffic lights and see for yourself. It was a problem I worked on for years as a traffic engineer. It is worse now, of course, with many more distractions available via smartphone. Next time you’re in traffic, look at how many other people on your gridlocked commute are messing with something they shouldn’t be rather than paying attention. A conservative estimate would suggest that a third of drivers are distracted by their smartphone when they should be driving. That has to have an effect.

To this day, I cannot help but critique road junctions and their layouts. I will be sitting in unnecessary traffic studying the layout of a junction, then perhaps remarking to my wife – or, worse, my kids – about some deficiency, then, of course, hate myself for doing so. I save the majority of my angst for new installations. I can’t criticize a traffic engineer from the 1960s who never envisioned a four-fold increase in vehicles passing through his carefully designed intersection.

I am sure you have been driving somewhere on the highway when, for no apparent reason, you suddenly find yourself braking and eventually grind to a complete halt. You sit there for a while, pondering what choices led you to this point in your life (whipping out your smartphone to check the length of backed-up traffic), then, just like that, you and everyone else around you start to move and, within a relatively short time, you are back to your regular speed. The thing is, the wreck you assumed was holding you up is not there. It is gone by the time you get to it, or, more likely, it never existed. Instead, you got caught up on a section of highway that was over capacity. Oh, and congratulations, you just survived a shock wave.

As a nascent traffic engineer back in the 1990s, I learned about road capacity. That is the measure of how many vehicles a certain stretch or road can handle before things become inefficient and congestion occurs. Say it is Friday circa 4 p.m. Cars in all lanes, in front and behind you. When someone enters from the on ramp, those in the far right lane have to start braking because there is too much traffic around them to allow them to change lanes. That braking makes its way down the line of traffic, growing as it moves backward. If the first guy has to tap his brakes to allow a car in his lane, the car 50 cars behind him is coming to a complete stop. Now imagine that at every on ramp or every time someone rashly changes lane without signaling.

The more traffic you direct onto a road, the higher the frequency of traffic jams. Absent a few years directly after the 2008 financial crisis, the number of miles driven in the U.S. has increased year over year, with lower gas prices aiding this. In short: Our roads are filling up with cars faster than we can build new roads. At some point, things stop working. Gridlock ensues.

So what, right? Nothing new here. There have always been traffic jams, and autonomous vehicles will solve all of our woes, after all. Move along, nothing to see here.

Maybe AVs will make all the problems go away, but that claim has yet to be tested. It is a hypothesis, and we do not yet know whether cars that drive themselves will do anything to solve traffic issues. They will certainly help with traffic flows, particularly in congested cities, but, even then, the benefits will likely be temporary and finite. More vehicles should get through busy road junctions, but maybe we’re just pushing the issue down the same road a little.

If you free up space on the roads, what will happen? Absent another fuel crisis, the empty spaces on roads will be filled by more vehicles wishing to drive on them. Automated vehicles or not, once you reach capacity, passengers and drivers will suffer.

Road capacity is finite. There are only so many vehicles and people you can get on them at any one time. Since the turn of the century, we have seen a huge reduction in accident frequency, but a lot of that is down to significant technological increases in vehicles braking, improved tire design and a plethora of safety features that no one had thought about in the 1990s. The increase in lift from each technological advance will tend to be smaller.

You now have to share the road with many other commuters, big-box delivery trucks, last-mile Amazon deliveries, ridesharing independent contractors, utility service workers and the sidewalks with 20 mph scooters, pedestrians preoccupied with cell phones and, soon, robotic pizza delivery drones.

Despite the technological advances in safety, it is becoming increasingly hard to prevent auto losses from occurring. How do you combat this? As a safety manager, what’s the best practice for managing the ever-decreasing road capacity along with these new exposures? I recommend the following:

  • Keep your vehicle use guidelines updated and communicate to your drivers as often as possible, at least every time there’s a modification to them.
  • Read. Every day a new challenge arrives and there is a new safety feature to deal with it. Perhaps in-cab cameras would benefit your fleet? Perhaps it is additional training for your drivers on the risks that scooters pose.
  • Understand the inherent exposures that your fleet possesses. Is there a vehicle in your fleet that can drive autonomously already? Do your large truck drivers have difficulty viewing vehicles approaching from adjacent lanes?
  • Minimize distractions in the vehicle. Address the use of cellphones when driving and limit consumption of food in the vehicle to when it is parked.
  • Factor in a likely increase in journey times for your drivers. There should be nothing gained by speeding.
  • Talk. Provide training to your drivers, particularly on the new hazards. Discuss techniques for handling these hazards as a group.

Breaking Through The Barrier Of Hardnosed Workers, Part 4

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.

Course Achieving Safety Integrity through Hazard Recognition
Length 8 hours
Format Live presentation; interactive workshop
Section 1 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.”
Section 2 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.
Section 3 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.
Section 4 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.
Section 5 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.

Learning Objectives

  1. A review of the company value of integrity in relation to hazard recognition
  2. A simple effective 3-step method of hazard recognition
  3. A knowledge of the participant's own core behavior tendencies
  4. A method to accurately recognize (read) the behavior tendencies of others
  5. An understanding of how to 'sell' hazard recognition to others via persuasive communication skills targeted to the behavior tendencies of others
  6. 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.”

Intentional Results
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.”

Why Bother?
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.

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.

Breaking Through The Barrier Of Hardnosed Workers, Part 3

Turning The Corner
Admittedly, Part 1 and Part 2 of this series may be a bit discouraging to the solution-seeking reader. But as a wise professor states, “There is no implementation without, first, evaluation.”

So what has our evaluation revealed?

First, the dysfunctional nature of the average hardnosed worker employed in traditionally change-resistant work sectors is representative of his greater employment family, both labor and management. It is not the portrait of an isolated employee or two. The nature is systemic, as are its crippling effects.

Second, the extent of potential behavioral dysfunction in hardnosers is staggering. The research data points past the occasional whimsical, inane antics of the passive-aggressive worker who simply annoys others. It directs us to the darkly devious behavior of someone, or a bevy of someones, who is self-destructive, emotionally unengaged, and constantly looking to jump off the ship after lighting the fuse that may blow it up.

Third, management has largely failed in its attempts to wrestle control of the workforce away from hardnosers. Traditional quick-action employee management strategies lack the foundational understanding of both the cause of defiant behavior and the dysfunctional team dynamics that it creates.

Last, management has often chosen the wrong method to seize control of hardnosers. The preferred tactic has been to tighten control through the repeated issuance of compliance standards. Such “what to do” and “how to do it” standards stiffen the hardnosed worker’s resolve to reject management’s ploys.

Engineering consultant Kevin Sorbello fittingly compares the change-resistant workforce to a dysfunctional family in which “those making the rules unconsciously see themselves as adults in charge of children.” Conversely, he notes that workers of lower rank see themselves as being “treated like children by unfit elitists. The fact that this scenario is so ubiquitous,” he says, “is disheartening.”

In light of this stark portrayal, what can be done to heal a defiant and dysfunctional employment family?

Capitalize On Dysfunction
One word points us down the right path. It keeps cropping up [five times above]. The word is dysfunctional. There’s a reason it is our key word.

Dysfunction brings with it opportunity. The same weaknesses that define dysfunctional workers are the ones that open the door for us to help them personally and to improve the cooperative nature of the entire workforce.

But this can’t happen until we acknowledge several hard-to-believe truths about the nature of hardnosed workers. These are beliefs gleaned by the author after four decades of listening to, observing, profiling, and helping dysfunctional people.

1. Hardnosers really want to improve.
They are really not into self-flagellation, though they expect it to happen (defeatism) — they’d rather have the opposite: success.

2. Hardnosers are stuck and need a push.
They really don’t know how to solve their own problems, nor why they are stuck in a defeatist rut.

3. Hardnosers want simple honesty.
They will not trust you until you first demonstrate to them your complete honesty.

4. Hardnosers desire compassion, not charity.
They innately sense the difference — one is considered condescending and offensive to them; the other is acceptable.

5. Hardnosers respond best to old-fashioned “tough love.”
They desire hard boundaries, particularly those that help them achieve hard-to-reach goals.

6. Hardnosers want you to earnestly listen to them.
They want to tell you vital information about themselves — their real and felt needs — that enables you to help them mature.

It is difficult for some skeptics to embrace these beliefs. It is easier to adopt the attitude of one Cleveland-area business owner who believes that “most employees with bad attitudes come that way and it is not up to you to be a social worker.” To him, any alternative to improving the quality of workers other than perfecting the hiring and firing process is “silly,” even if personnel turnover costs are astronomical.

Safety officer Ken Malcolm at Safety & More P/L begs to differ. He says, “Hardnosed negatives can become hardnosed positives.” The key, he says, is trust.

Malcolm states that trust does not exist because “the past experiences [of workers] have not been good.” He suggests that workers have rarely been exposed to managers “who put value on worker input.” Perhaps they once worked for a grumpy guy in Cleveland. More likely, they’ve been jaded by repeated exposure to the Cycle of Rejection described in Part 2 of this series.

Agree with it or not, the path to profitability involves helping hardnosers cure their dysfunctional behavior, a task that starts with listening to what they say about themselves and about control-minded authorities.

Listening For Needs
Within the well-worn contentious discourse proffered by hardnosers is an easily recognizable admission of their foibles.

  • I have trouble accepting authority of any kind.
  • I am emotionally cold and uncaring.
  • I often say the wrong thing in the wrong way.
  • I don’t trust anyone enough to give them my loyalty (everyone is out to get me).
  • I am not a good team player.

You can also hear their pleas for help.

  • Help us accept authority, not persistently fight back.
  • Help us live emotionally healthy lives, not crawl into an emotional shell.
  • Help us develop better interpersonal skills, not alienate others.
  • Help us bond with each other and the company, not be disloyal.
  • Help us be better team players, not self-interested individuals.

These needs should sound familiar — they directly correspond to the “snapshot” of a hardnosed worker described in Part 1 of this series.

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

From this snapshot, the human needs that it reveals, and the failure of traditional means to change hardnosed behavior, you know that there is only one action plan — one line of attack — that will result in positively changing a resistant workforce into a cooperative one. But, like the hardnosed Cleveland businessman, you might have trouble admitting it.

You have to help them develop the relational skills that they lack.

But don’t let this series tell you the obvious, though it bears repeating. Let the desperate general manager from Part 1 of this series say it. He’s the one who in 1992 initially linked the characteristics of a juvenile delinquent to the antics of his hardnosed employees. The assistance he sought from a troubled youth expert is as difficult as it is simple.

“I simply want you to help my people treat each other as people,” he asked.

He knew the problem pointed to a lack of interpersonal skills. So do you. And so do the perpetrators, who secretly want your help.

But how do you provide assistance without risking further rejection?

Using Safety To Change People
Job safety is the only joint partnership with management to which the hardnoser has ceded a modicum of control and cooperation. It is the only “face saving” venue in which he consents to [non-craft skill] personal development. To him, change for safety’s sake is grudgingly agreeable.

With safety training comes the opportunity to change the hardnoser, if the correct approach is utilized. Felt needs should be front-and-center — the odor of command, control, and compliance should be reduced.

John Bennett, VP of M.C. Dean, urges us to remember that “it is not about the system, regulations, nor policy or procedure. It is all about the people.”

Ill-conceived training strategies in which personal development is added-on to standard compliance training rarely work. Hardnosers are stubborn, not stupid. They can sense a convenient manipulative end run by management. Ever hear them call leadership training “charm school?”

To achieve human change requires a more carefully crafted safety training strategy than most organizations currently employ. Such a strategy demands a more need-sensitive safety management system.

What is recommended here extends beyond simple supplements to standardized compliance training programs. What is needed is a radical redesign of safety thinking in dealing with a sub-culture of resistance.

Above all, one hard-learned lesson about securing cooperation from defiant people must be remembered. You must meet their felt needs before they will fully give you what you want — compliance and control. If safety doesn’t do this, you remain stuck in the sink hole of opposition, forever containing resistance rather than correcting it.

Life Skills Are Felt Needs
A felt need is simply anything people consciously lack and desire. As noted, the hardnoser consciously but quietly desires self-improvement, particularly in life skills.

One example is the need of supervisors to learn practical leadership skills. As new supervisors quickly rise from the lower ranks of organizations, many supervisors suffer from the lack of leadership development inherent in on-the-job training.

Joe Johnson says that new supervisors are likely to be “given a ‘white hat,’ put in charge, and sent out in the organization with instructions to make things happen safely.” But of the leadership creation process, Johnson asks, “What ‘tools’ have these individuals been provided to insure he or she will be a good safety manager?”

In addition to leadership skills, other life skill needs that are likely felt by hardnosers of all ranks include:

  • Interpersonal communication skills (all aspects)
    • Accurate listening skills
    • Accurate shaping of the message to the listener
    • Accurate delivery of the message for acceptance
    • Accurate use of reflective listening, clarification
  • Relationship building
  • Behavioral awareness and pattern recognition
  • Anger management/tolerance/empathy
  • Team building
  • Critical thinking and decision-making
  • Coaching and mentoring

Under the confines of employee development and safety training, we have regrettably postponed meeting these needs until it is too late, after the worker feels under-appreciated. Properly, these are the needs you should start meeting at the beginning of new hire orientation.

What Do I Do?
The practical answer to the initial question — What should I do to change hardnosed workers? — is as basic as it sounds complex.

To change a hardnosed work force, you should implement a hybrid training program that simultaneously combines traditional safety-related training subjects with topics that develop the character of the hardnoser in their expressed area of needs.

The key is seamless simultaneous integration. Safety and human development should be taught at the same time, not as separate courses.

To avoid the Cycle of Rejection discussed in Part 2, the hardnoser must not feel that personal manipulation is the purpose of the training, nor should it be. Yet he should also walk away with a sense of obligation to practice (note: different than “comply with”) what is taught.

To make a life-changing combination of safety and personal development training workable requires two organizational commitments.

1. The organization must improve its quality of training.
A higher level of training is required, as is a better quality instructor skilled in safety, communications and human development. Revised curricula must be employed. Cattle-call training must be replaced with a caring personal attitude.

2. The organization must meld its safety and operation cultures.
A unified work culture is required, one which leaves hardnosers no wiggle room for discarding their training lessons under the excuse of “safety behavior” versus “operational behavior.” Operations cannot be allowed to deprive the hardnoser of training’s human development gains.

John Bennett underscores the mistake of trying to create a safety culture within an existing company culture in order to change people. He states that the tactic “is incongruent with the overall mission of the company.” Bennett suggests that “building upon the existing culture and simply inserting the safety aspect” is a more sensible way to build a unified work force. “Involving people in a sincere way,” he says, “will produce better results than were heretofore imaginable.” The hardnoser agrees wholeheartedly.

The Essentials
For the best results, a hybrid safety training program should immediately focus on the greatest needs of the hardnoser: interpersonal communication skills, emotional openness and honesty, and relational teamwork. All these needs share a common denominator. They point to the hardnoser’s fundamental lack of behavioral understanding.

Rarely are hardnosers properly educated about behavior — they do not bring such knowledge with them to the job. Most struggle with discerning why people do what they do — many ascribe the wrong motive to other’s behavior. It’s easy for hardnosers to fall into the Cycle of Rejection.

As explained in Part 2, answering the why question is vital to securing the hardnoser’s cooperation. If you desire to tear down the walls of resistance in your work force, here’s what you need to know.

  • If you help the hardnoser understand his unique behavior temperament and its affects on him — why he is prone to repeat certain behavior patterns — he will call you a friend.
  • If you show him why others act as they do because of their unique behavior temperaments, he will call you a good friend.
  • If you teach him how to build productive relationships with others despite their differences in temperament, he will call you his best buddy.
  • If you do none of the above yet try to change him, he will think you are simply attempting to control him. We’ve seen where that leads.

It is essential to integrate a simple behavior paradigm into every aspect of safety training. Uncomplicated behavior assessment profiles like the DISC or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® can serve this purpose. These are accurate, easily integrated “tools” that produce the type of behavioral understanding needed by hardnosers and non-hardnosers alike.

But this is no shill for the traditional haphazard use of behavior profile tools to soothe the ruffles of an agitated work force or as a guest speaker’s play toy. This is a call to deeply interweave two narratives — safety management and human development — on a consistent basis to meet the targeted needs of employees.

This author will attest to the instant magic brought by behavioral self-discovery through platforms like the DISC or MBTI. One unforgettable incident occurred when the cigar-chomping director of one company’s division first saw the results of his DISC self-analysis. The director’s cigar dropped from his mouth as he stood up, staggered about the training room with his analysis, and shouted, “This is me! This is me! This is freakin’ me.” Presto.

But that momentary magic is useless unless it is converted into tangible results while sustained within a framework of a safety training program that is designed to simultaneously control and change lives.

To do this requires a bold commitment from executive managers that are tired of butting their heads against behavioral barriers. Let the general manager mentioned in Part 1 remind us again that the alternative, letting hardnosers drag the company down, is “not an option.”

What this commitment looks like in practicality, and the results that it can accomplish, will be the subject of Part 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.

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

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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.