The Weekly Reflektion 14/2022

Many companies promote values that they hope the employees, and the management, will aspire to. These values are sometimes open to interpretation.

Do your values encourage the right behaviours in the right circumstances?

Sometimes the management gets the idea for promoting ‘values’ within the company. This process often takes place when a major reorganisation or merger takes place, or a new manager or management team takes over the reins.  The intention is to help to create a new culture and encourage the people in the organisation to better and safer performance. Some examples of values that are promoted are: Brave, Innovative, Open, Diverse, Caring, Collaborative, Predictable, Respectful etc. The values of course have a ‘positive’ feel about them. After all the values of Scared, Uninventive, Closed, Identical, Selfish, Non-cooperative, Unpredictable and Disrespectful are hardly likely to inspire the people to exhibit the behaviours the management would like in the organisation. Can you imagine a poster with these values on the walls and displayed on the web site? Would you work for that company?

Values need however to be seen within a certain context. Brave may well be a positive value if it encourages people to speak up when things are not right. It may not be a good value if it encourages people to take unacceptable risks. Sometime a little bit of ‘Scared’ helps to sharpen the senses. Innovative could be a good value when trying to find improvements in the way things are done. It may however not be so good if it encourages people to deviate from established procedures and processes. Collaboration works fine if the system within which the collaboration takes place functions as it is supposed to do. Sometimes however it takes a bit of non-cooperation to highlight problems with established practices and proceduresand contribute to continuous improvement. One may need to be brave to be uncooperative if the refusal to cooperate is for the right reasons. There is a similar point with being Respectful. Respecting other people and their views may be OK up to a point but will this make people passive and reluctant to voice their concerns. Does being Respectful make people less Open? 

We have compiled several Reflektions on Diversity and the importance of encouraging different views and opinions especially during risk assessments and in particular for hazard identification. Identical people with the same way of looking at a problem or a potential solution doesn’t seem to be a good idea, so Diversity is good, isn’t it? What about people that are so diverse that they don’t follow the safety standards or display the right safety behaviours. Obviously, there is some limit here as well.

The late Trevor Kletz, formerly of ICI and, before he retired, a Safety Advisor for the Institution of Chemical Engineers, talked about the importance of encouraging good safety behaviours within an organization. His focus was to help people with the problems they experienced in their day to day work and encourage the management to resolve issues that prevented safe and effective operation of a facility. Instead of promoting some values tomorrow why not just ask your people what you can do to make the work they are involved ineasier and safer.

Reflekt AS