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Avoiding Blame and Inspiring Positive Communication in Safety

Elbow bump during social distancing in a warehouse!

Many leaders understand the need for positive communication but struggle with establishing and maintaining it throughout their organization. And simply deciding that positive communication in safety should now be employed in the workplace is hardly going to work, as there are too many people and too many established habits involved.

Luckily, Safety and Health Magazine published an article on this subject as a response to the question: “I understand the importance of positive communication in safety, but how do I educate frontline supervisors about avoiding the “blame game” when discussing safety issues with workers?”

Chris Ross, the author of the article, points out that before implementing communication changes, organizations and their leaders need to consider the existing climate, the established behaviors and potential barriers to their plans. For example:

They should avoid only talking about safety when things go wrong. It’s important to be proactive and talk about safety when things are going well. Look for workers who are following proper safety procedures and give them positive reinforcement.

Positive communication isn’t a blanket that can be wrapped around the organizational structure like a bandage or a band-aid. It should permeate from within. In his article, Ross provides a list of steps companies should take to achieve this (once they have established that this change will fall on fertile grounds). Among others, they should make sure that employees feel listened to and that their concerns are addressed:

When people submit near-miss reports or make suggestions that are ignored or not acted on, it makes it harder to get more suggestions and it stifles a climate of open communication. 

This point is very important but many organizations forget that communication has to go both ways and simply talking “at” employees is not equivalent to talking “with” them, no matter how positive the message might be. 

There are more steps to take and Ross discusses the most vital ones, together with the main barriers to meaningful change. If you’d like to learn more and download the article, click here

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