Tag Archives: safety training

Are You Aware Of The Independent Employee Act Defense?

Are you aware of the Independent Employee Act Defense? If you are, then you do not need to read on. However, I am willing to bet that most of you are not so that is why I am offering this for your reading enjoyment.

The question is “What do you do if you are fined by OSHA for a serious penalty?” Among the various defenses available, there is the Independent Employee Act Defense (IEAD). It is all based on the 1980 Mercury Service, Inc., case which by the way is still cited in Cal/OSHA legal circles.

In this defense, the employer must plead that the act of the employee that caused the injury was an independent act of the employee, and the employer should not be held liable. The argument by the employer is that “I did everything the law required me to do, but the employee violated company policies and procedures and that is what caused the injury.”

Now this seems simple but it is not. In order to prevail with the affirmative defense, it must first be pled on the appeal following the citation and for the employer to prevail, he/she must prove all five of the following elements:

  1. The employee was experienced and trained on the job. Using the case noted as our base, the employee was a diagnostic specialist on automobiles. The employer presented over 70 training certificates from the manufacturer out of which over 30 were on engine diagnostic and performance checks. Also, training certification from a nationally recognized body was provided by the employer. OSHA accepted the employer’s claim on this issue. However, OSHA reviewed all of the safety training that had been completed by the tech.
  2. The employer has a well-defined safety program in place. This one is so obvious. You must prove that you have a well-defined and active safety program in place. Here, the employer provided its Injury & Illness Prevention Program Manual along with copies of the various training sessions that had been given. These were taken directly from the manufacturer’s service manual that were relevant to the tasks being performed at the time of the injury. OSHA again accepted this part of the defense as well.
  3. You must have a policy of sanctions against employees who violate your safety program. Employers must have a policy of sanctions which is enforced equally against any employee who violates your safety rules or is involved in unsafe acts. Here the employer reported that he did not have such a policy as injuries were virtually non-existent and therefore not needed. The employer lost on this one at OSHA as no policy was in place and as any earlier violations that may have occurred had not been documented.
  4. You must also have an effective enforcement program in place. The written policy noted above must be enforced equally and be well documented. Here, OSHA held that the enforcement part of the employer’s overall safety program had “no teeth” and that the program which was well written was never followed nor enforced. Here, as you can see, the employer lost.
  5. The employee caused the safety infraction which he/she knew was contrary to the employer’s safety requirements. Here, the employer must prove that the employee had the requisite knowledge of the safety requirement which he knowingly violated, whether on purpose or by his/her own negligence. The employer provided a copy of the safety rules in place at the time of the injury which had been signed and acknowledged by the injured employee. They also provided a copy of the shop manual (specific directions on the servicing of vehicles) which all technicians refer to repeatedly. This document also outlined the safety procedures for each task as well as the relevant safety issues.

So what does this say to you? It says that if you have an effective Injury & Illness Prevention Program and training program in place which is well documented and enforced you may be able to effectively defend against an OSHA serious violation. However, the important thing to remember is that proper documentation wins the day. Without it, don’t even try to defend as you will most likely lose. The watch word by most agencies is that lack of documentation means that there was no documentation and you lose.

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 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.