• Antony Kitchener
    I work for a DHB and I am reasonably new to the health and safety sphere. I am interested to know what peoples views are regarding institutionalised/entrenched behaviours and attitudes towards health and safety and what methods/techniques can be used for resolving issues where such barriers are in place. Does anyone have any thoughts?
  • Take 5 OHS Consultants
    Hi Anthony, Our company come across this frequently. We find that after speaking with the person that is resistant to change, that they often feel undervalued or ignored.

    When these people are involved in a change we find that it is best to gather the team and ask them for feedback on the task/ area that requires change before the procedure / plan is looked at. This process may take 30 minutes in a meeting or a five minute email but it often means the participants are more engaged and made to feel included in the decision. It is certainly worth the time than spending months or years with people not getting involved and resisting the change.
  • TracyR
    The attitudes are generally influenced by the type of culture within the business. If the leaders do not lead change and set the example the culture will not change. if the people leaders are disinterested in the welfare of their staff, don't give feedback on issues and are proactive this staff will not report incidents, engage or participate. I would recommend doing some research into behavioural based safety and implementing some initiateives around that
  • Peter Scanlan
    Hi Antony. The DHB will have H&S Committees and H&S Reps. This might be a good avenue for discussion of entrenched attitudes to H&S. If there are areas of concern these can be discussed,and minuted, so that they are recorded. There can then be recommendations made to senior management from the Committee. If management fail to act on these recommendations, and the Committee/Reps believe that this failure may lead to serious harm (which might be psycho-social harm) then the Committee/Rep could take the matter up with WorksafeNZ. However, a responsible PCBU will act on such matters before it comes to that...hopefully. It may be that the DHB managers are not aware of their responsibilities under the HSWA 2015. If that is the case, then they probably need to seek out an appropriate training course, or do some research, to get up to speed.
  • Tony Walton
    Keep ypur head down, process your stuff, report what management wants and try to keep things simple for effectiveness. Appreciate your vision but suggest taking Tracy R's advice and read everything by Todd Conklin. You will need a very clear and persuasive case for the management team bureaucrats to let you loose on strategy and accountability.
  • Mel Brown
    Hey Antony, I work In a industry that is by in large historic!! the average age of my organisation is 55yrs. I encounter these barriers/attitudes you speak of quite often. You cant wave a magic wand and expect to fix it over night. However what I found useful was at the heart of the matter for these loyal hard working experienced people was this. People who have been in the industry longer than 30yrs felt disrespected and found it insulting for others to tell them how to do a job & do it safely!!

    How would you feel if you have been doing the job for a long time and someone half your age, with all of 5mins of experience and a jumped attitude with no people skills expects you to follow the rules that he sets because he is in a position of authority!!

    My tack was this, find the most influential people (not management) on the shop floor, H&S rep or long serving personnel. Build a relationship of empathy with them, by that ask them questions that allow them to vent because its built up frustration that is the barrier for progress. Empathise and agree even if you don't !! Now, explain that you need help & assistance in a certain area, and ask if he/she could help you? what this does is now take away the focus of fixing a corporate target or organisation goal into helping you.
    Most old school people have strong values and entrenched principles which means they still like helping out when asked correctly. So don't tell them what to do (Ask them what to do) you'll find that they'll respect you a lot more as well. :-)
  • Kirsten Olsen
    Really good suggestions
    I agree that there are no magic wand. So it is a good idea to find out why people put up the defences. There might be different reasons. So, yes it is a good idea to work with them and listen to them. Create a community of practice. So that they find out that you are genuine. It might be that people are reluctant to change because somebody higher up the organisational or professional hierarchy don’t want changes. Then it is a different place you need to focus your attention.
    To give you more specific advice or to help you find your strategy you might need to be more specific. It might also be a good idea to talk to other that are in the same situation as you in another DHB. A person that does not give you a solution but helps you find your solution that fits you and the organisation you are in.
    Good luck :smile:
  • Ross Collinson
    ReplyOptions0Kirsten Olsen
    Hi Antony,

    This idea of changing culture may require a multifaceted approach from the PCBU & the "Officers" within the organisation. You could have a look at where you think your weaknesses are i.e. it's one thing to quote the H&S Act 2015 but from that the PCBU needs to introduce a Policy, make sure that "Officers" are aware of their responsibilities and the reasons why, introduce a change in machinery where needed i.e. safety brakes, appropriate signage, follow up on known hazards to see if these can be further minimised, Safe Working Instructions, keep on reminding responsible staff of their responsibilities as this does take time to drum-in to even key staff, and finally "walk-the-talk". All of this is tiresome and can be misconstrued at wasting your time but just keep beating the drum and eventually you will start to educate people. The education must start with key people though.
    Accountabilities for key staff is important as otherwise they will chose to turn a blind eye or leave it up to "someone else" to deal with the problem.

    Best of luck

    Ross Collinson
  • Antony Kitchener
    Hi all.
    Thanks for the suggestions and comments. Its very useful. I agree that its certainly not going to be a quick fix to change an organisations culture, and coming with a "big stick" approach just produces resistance. I will try the 'I need your help' approach and have a good read of Todd Conklin. Thanks for your help.
  • Helen S
    Hi Antony, coming from a healthcare background I understand what you are dealing with. Culture and behaviour particularly in hospital settings is so deeply entrenched any change has to be slow, well planned and water-tight. I would focus on using what works within the culture, what makes people sit up and take notice? In hospitals, evidence-based practice rules, so use this to your advantage, develop your change/improvement programme using research as your friend. And be patient like you never have before... I once wrote a Reportable Events policy and procedure for a DHB...it took 2 years and 19 revisions to get it signed off... persistence pays... eventually!!!
  • Rob Carroll
    Start looking at the organisation. Entrenched behaviours are not by choice for the majority of people - they are systematic of the organisation. Behaviours are driven by the demands (often conflicting) placed on an individual by the organisation and when the demands are competing , something will have to give. For example - non-reporting of incidents is often linked not to the unwillingness to report (who doesn't want to prevent someone else from getting hurt?) but to the organisations response to the reporting of incidents. Ask people "What will happen if you report an incident" rather than "Why don't you report incidents"/ - the truth will come out.
  • Tania Curtin
    Hi Anthony,

    That is a very complex question and the answer is not simple.

    It's difficult to give sound advice without more specific details about the institutionalised/entrenched behaviours and attitudes towards health and safety, and what your role is in relation to this (i.e. your responsibilities, level of autonomy and sphere of influence).

    Every organisation has it's own unique culture, and subcultures (which may vary significantly from the main culture). There are always reasons for why the particular cultures have evolved, and it is important to understand these when deciding how to approach any issue.

    Regardless of what the details may be - I highly recommend reading Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein - it has changed the way I work with people.

    I would definitely also be looking at Safety Differently (do a search on You Tube) - although it is not an 'approach' as such, it is a set of guiding principles that are quite a departure from traditional H&S management thinking... which is probably exactly what has cause the attitudes and behaviours you are now faced with!

    Good luck!
  • Tania Curtin
    Todd Conklin is amazing. Please please please also look at Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein (it's unusual but the book is better than the videos etc. on line in this instance)
  • Antony Kitchener
    Thanks everyone for your input. It's very informative.
    Tania: I will take a look Humble Inquiry as, as others have mentioned, part of the problem is, people that have been in the organisation for several decades, being told what to do by someone new. I will have to learn a new approach in this regard.

    I also think that part of the safety culture at the DHB has evolved out of necessity due to budget constraints and having to prioritise say, patient care over H&S, for example.

    Helen: I agree with the evidence-based approach and do try to gather research materials where possible (the Internet is a good source of H&S information including incident case studies). However the DHB is such a large organisation with a huge variety of technical disciplines each with its own hazards. Budget constraints do limit access to things like standards and codes of practice.

    Thanks for all your help.
  • Sheri Greenwell
    In addition to considering entrenched habits and mindsets of workers, it is vital to examine the entrenched habits and mindsets of managers.

    As people take on management roles, they typically adopt a 'management' perspective that includes an array of largely unconscious assumptions and biases about the people who report to them, as well as how the manager 'should' behave in relation to those workers and vice versa.

    I used to deliver workshops for Tai Poutini Polytechnic's Certificate in Applied Leadership programme, and in the Leadership module, we explored a number of fascinating topics that are useful and relevant across virtually all disciplines. One topic explored the distinctions between "Management" vs "Leadership" - two complementary and distinctly different sets of skills and traits, but because the English language does not have an all-encompassing term for both, people often talk about 'leadership' when in fact they are dealing with 'management'. Management is far more concrete and usually focused on tasks and outcomes; leadership is much more abstract and focuses on inspiration, direction, motivation and other people-centric qualities. I have a document that shows these complementary skills and traits and will be happy to share if others are interested.

    Another interesting segment of this workshop was demonstrating the unconscious bias of managers in their perception of workers' priorities. A famous study gave workers a list of 10 issues and asked workers to list them in order of importance. They gave the same list to managers and asked them to list them in the order they thought workers would prioritise them. The results were so different that they thought they might have made a mistake, so they repeated it. Again, very different results, so they repeated a third time. Then they decided to ask managers how they themselves would prioritise them, and it came out matching what workers wanted. It was an interesting discussion, because managers unconsciously adopted an expectation that workers would prioritise pay as the number one concern, when in fact pay came out as number 5 in the list for both groups. The top three priorities for BOTH groups included having a say in issues about their work that affected them, being supported with personal issues and concerns (e.g., flexibility around work arrangements when they had a sick child or needed to attend a medical appointment), and being given a sincere thank you for work well done.

    In the workshop discussion on employee performance, we explored various options for recognition and rewards. The simplest, least expensive and most effective option for recognition and rewards is personal recognition of the individual for work they have contributed from their manager or supervisor. That can be a simple as a sincere face-to-face THANK YOU or a personal card from the manager! The least effective and most costly approach is giving a prize or bonus for team performance - yet somehow this is more commonly what managers do!

    So back to the original topic. The most effective approach is to wake up to those hidden assumptions, re-visit the purpose and intent of safety policies, and ensure every policy and every procedure is designed to safely deliver work objectives, not simply bending others to the will of managers who feel they have a right to dictate how people will work in their workplace. Effective leaders have the good sense to remain receptive to workers' perspectives. Good leaders know there is power in asking questions (the one who asks the questions actually controls the discussion, NOT the person who is answering!) and nothing to fear from listening to the answers, because they are clear about their own authority to decide and recognise the wisdom of making informed and inclusive decisions.
Add a Comment

Welcome to the Safeguard forum!

If you are interested in workplace health & safety in New Zealand, then this is the discussion forum for you.