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How to Turn Frustrations Into Safety Preventive Measures

Frustrated in the server room

Frustration is an emotion that erupts when things don’t go as you intended. It’s often synonymous with anger or annoyance and is recognized as one of SafeStart’s four states that can lead to injury-causing errors.

SafeStart client Ed Stephens of ABB recently sat down with SafeStart’s Chief Client Officer Don Wilson for a Lunch & Learn session for the SafeStart staff to discuss ABB’s success with collecting employee frustrations, or as they call it, harvesting frustrations. It has become an integral part of the organization’s success in human factors management.

Ed began by defining frustration from the behavioral theorist perspective as an obstacle blocking satisfaction of a need or a goal—the associated emotion involves anxiety linked to the goal’s importance.

With SafeStart, ABB learned that employees can self-trigger on their state of mind to prevent critical errors from happening. Self-triggering on frustrations is the last line of defense to help overcome complacency and to recognize hazards and how conditions have changed due to your state of mind. 

Behavioral PPE

In the same way that PPE on a job site protects you from physical harm, self-triggering on your state of mind is the last opportunity to help you recognize that the conditions around you have changed.

Ed defined four reactions to frustrations by employees that can potentially affect your organization.

4 different types of frustrations

Personal Frustrations

An employee may have preconceived expectations within the company they work for that largely contribute to personal frustrations. These expectations can start from day one in orientation, they can come from the operations, internal communications and company culture. A personal frustration is when that employee has an over-expectation of others or equipment within the facility which causes them disappointment and ultimately frustration.

Conflicting Frustration

Conflicting frustrations are derived from social anxiety.  COVID-19 is a great example of conflicting frustrations because of the various reactions people had in terms of masking, vaccinations, and the resulting social anxiety and expectations it created between employees, contractors, managers and even clients. The uncertainty and nervousness are enough to cause frustration for any party in these types of situations.

Pressure Frustrations

Pressure frustrations are probably familiar to most in the workplace—they come from two sources. First, the frustration or the pressure is being created by the organization, management or supervisors, and the second is the pressure or frustration the individual is putting on themselves, through positive or negative motivation and especially when there are deadlines involved. This type of frustration can be intensified if the expectations are high or unrealistic and can greatly impact them while they’re doing work.

Environmental Frustrations

Environmental frustrations could include things like organizational morale, fear of treatment, and quality of work-life balance. It’s not uncommon for an organization or individual to want to extend working hours in order to get an important job done. These could be both self-inflicted and organizationally inflicted, but either way, they can skew the way people perceive their work-life balance.

The concept of harvesting frustrations has become very powerful within ABB. Since frustrations are seemingly present in every scenario (personal, conflicting, pressure, environmental), ABB felt it was important to document their employee’s frustrations and link them back to processes and procedures to determine any deterioration within their management systems. This helped them strengthen their framework for managing human factors. Harvesting frustrations is a different way to look at signals and get the employees involved. Employees start to rally behind that when they see management and supervisors resolving the issues that they’ve identified as one of their frustrations.

Watch the full Lunch & Learn to gain more insight into this process and the other factors contributing to their success. 

On-demand webinar

Using a Human Factors Framework for Safety and Operational Excellence

It can be hard to see the connection between safety, productivity, human factors and organizational systems. This webinar will demonstrate how a human factors framework can impact all areas of an organization, linking individual worker safety and organizational systems and provide an outline that allows leadership to manage safety-focused change.

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