I once watched a senior executive publicly scream, shout and scold a driver who had made a mistake while attempting to assist an injured person. In the process of reversing, the driver’s door was taken off by a post when the driver opened the door before completely stopping. After the tirade was over, the senior executive then sent that driver out on the road to carry fare paying passengers.
The driver made a mistake. The executive made several in my opinion. That public display of anger was the first. Other drivers witnessed it, instantly altering their attitude toward him, “typecasting” him as a substandard employer. That kind of message spreads very quickly throughout an organization.
His prime focus was on the laying of blame and discipline. The employees immediately knew he didn’t care about his workforce. I lost a lot of respect for that man in that one move but, said nothing until later when we were alone.
Probably one of the most important words in the safety world or, in life itself, is “attitude”. A dictionary describes the word as a: noun – a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behaviour. (sic) It’s very hard to fabricate a positive attitude when you don’t live it. That executive’s negative attitude came through loud and clear.
Think of the blunders made here. That driver already knew his error. He would already be embarrassed about it. He doesn’t need a public scolding. In my opinion, the worst mistake was sending the now, upset, driver right out on the road to deal with customers. How do you think the rest of his day went and how much of that effect was transferred to the other drivers and on to the customers. Do you think this driver’s key focus was on safe driving or would you more likely find him stewing over that situation for that day, and maybe for several more?
The likelihood of exposing the company’s passengers to a higher level of danger increased with that driver, in my opinion. Everybody there would forget safety to focus on that situation for the rest of the day. I know, I did. Even today, maybe fifteen years later, I doubt that any of those drivers would look favourably upon that executive.
As a safety practitioner, you should have a positive attitude, especially, if you are responding to an emergency. You have the opportunity while responding to check yourself from your own adrenaline action so that when you arrive you can calmly deal with people and the situation exuding confidence. That, in itself, calms others and defines a level of control at the scene. Your calm, confident, methodical, practiced steps in dealing with what’s happening, demonstrates to others that the world will go on. The more comfortable you are, the more comfortable they are. It also can gain you a lot of respect from other emergency responders.
Chances are that at a scene, your driver will ask if he/she is in trouble. I’ve always responded by saying that this is not the time, and I’m not the person to decide discipline. They already know the answer, anyway. They don’t have to be scolded while he/she is at the scene. Plenty of time for that later, privately. If YOU lose “your cool”, you might as well go home. You’re useless and you’ve just added to the problem.
In an effort to teach safety to others, you are really trying to manipulate their attitude into informed acceptance of your logic. They must know why as well as what to do to keep them safe. Your object is to reach their mental triggers to sway them into protecting themselves. Healthy fear is a good thing.
Always being positive, always genuinely caring for the person and always persuading constant safety action is what you are trying to achieve. How you say it is often far more important than what you say. Your attitude can be one of your greatest sales tools and you ARE selling safety.
Keep your people safe. The beauty of life is in your hands.
THINK SAFETY …….. EVERYWHERE …….. ALL THE TIME
About the Author
Nick Nicholson, is a retired safety practitioner who spent many years researching the human behaviour factors of driver and pedestrian actions. Specifically, he spent 25 of those years devoted to highway crash investigations, regulatory compliance, the design, implementation and presentation of safety programs. Nick enjoyed many hours presenting professional driver enhancement training to adult participants.
As a long time Fleet Safety Council Member (1988) and the Founding Chair (1992-1995) of Council’s Hamilton-Niagara Chapter, he presents his opinions in hopes of improving the safety knowledge of readers. Nick is a firm believer in human advancement through positive attitudes, solution thinking and the understanding that the beauty of life is always in your hands.
Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Fleet Safety Council.