A Wicked Question

wicked questions are safety questionsA wicked question is one where it is so complex that there is no final answer. We work to the best solution we can, which works for some period of time, then we have to revisit it again as conditions change. (The wicked question keeps repeating, sometimes reminding us of a bad penny – that keeps showing up at inopportune times!)

A wicked question requires that we articulate the paradoxical challenges that a group must confront to succeed. Here are some quick examples:

  • How can we dramatically improve safety and quality while drastically reducing costs?
  • How do we work together as a team when we all have competing agendas?
  • How can we commit ourselves to be accountable to measuring results while being open to the possibility that we may not be measuring the right outcomes?

Let me pose this wicked question – one that many of you, as Leaders, may be facing: The question of how to deal with marijuana in the work place, treat all stakeholders fairly, reduce injury rates, better protect the environment and our neighbors, honor the responsibility of our employers for providing a safe workplace, meet OSHA requirements and improve the competitive strength of our businesses? – This is a wicked question!

There is no doubt that marijuana has an impact on our brains. But how much, how long does it last, how much does it impact our ability to think clearly, react appropriately to situations as they change and work safely for ourselves and those around us?

All the stakeholders have ideas about what they see as fair. How do we resolve all the competing demands? We all need safe workplaces and strong, competitive businesses. We need to protect the environment and our neighbors. Those who drive and travel also need to be sharp and alert.


Some Ideas to Consider

investigationa and improvement are needed for wicked questionsWe need to approach this from the whole systems perspective since everything is connected to everything else. Experience shows that if we try to just fix one part of the system or another, we will wind up making other parts worse.

We need to work together in a way that will bring all our strengths and energy to developing the best solutions we can and not bring the sort of conflict we see in Washington into our workplaces. We need to search for the truth and the best solutions as we can.

Developing some agreed-upon basis for the work is critical. For me the mantra was, “I don’t have a right to make my living where it is okay for you to get hurt. We have to make money as well so let’s figure it out and do it.” The key word in this statement is “okay”. It does not mean that bad things may happen. It does mean that we have the courage and determination to relentlessly work together in the pursuit of excellence together – so that bad things will likely not happen.

Having developed our foundation, we next need to bring the people together in tough, focused, serious conversations to best address all the various issues, fairness and demands – developing the best solutions we can for our particular situation. This highly complex, wicked problem needs us all to work with a deep respect for each other, listening, learning and caring.

Simple training programs are insufficient. Edicts from OSHA or top management tend to address only a part of the problem. We all need to work together, engaging in deep conversations with respect and consideration.

A Complexity Tool

A highly effective tool to use to have the critical conversations is the Process Enneagram©, which enables everyone to see the whole, the parts and the interaction of the parts. Using this we can develop a living strategic plan which you can modify as you go forward and conditions change, around the wicked problem and all its tentacles. You can learn more about this tool at RNKnowlesAssociates.com. Please give us a call at 716-622-6467 if you want to learn more about the effectiveness of this way of addressing wicked problems.


Workplace Violence Prevention – (Another Wicked Problem)

workplace violence

All of us, at one time or another, have had to struggle with dysfunctional behaviors in our organizations. Sexual harassment and bullying are examples of this. These sorts of behaviors left unaddressed lead to poor safety performance and eventually to violence. In having worked in a wide variety of organizations we have come to realize that waste caused by these behaviors is very large. The human and financial costs of serious injuries and violence (across the spectrum) can be in the millions of dollars.

There are also large, but often hidden, costs that result from the shut-down of communications and decent social interaction that interfere with the work. In a few situations where we have had the ability to make before and after comparisons in the time to do specific work, like a change and re-setup between production campaigns or the time to do large powerhouse maintenance shutdowns, we have seen 2-3 fold reductions in the time required for the work as a result of the people putting aside the dysfunctional behaviors and working together much more effectively – willingly addressing the wicked problem.

Think about your own organization and the amount of wasted time in poorly run or unnecessary meetings. Think about the time wasted in trying to resolve grievances and other misunderstandings. Think about the waste of having to rework something because the communications were not clear and it was not safe to ask the proper questions.

All these wasted costs build up and can amount to as much as 25% of the cost of the payroll. The hidden costs are often larger than the ones everyone knows about.

In 2016, the payroll for the US workforce was about 16 trillion dollars. That would mean that all this waste could amount to about 4 trillion dollars. That represents a “gold mine” of opportunity for our businesses to become more profitable. Much of this could be saved by treating each other with real respect, listening and learning together and stopping the dysfunctional junk that is going on in so many places. You can learn more about effectively addressing all this at RNKnowlesAssociates.com.*

*Note that this is an older website of ours – yet the homepage information remains pointedly clear; it needs no revisions. Check out this more current website too: SafetyExcellenceForBusiness.com for more about Leadership and Safety – and dealing with workplace concerns.

What If Your Organization’s Safety in 2017 was NOT VERY GOOD?

What Can You Do to Turn it Around…So That Every Person Goes Home Safe at the End of the Day?

safety performanceRecognize Einstein’s Words of Wisdom: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

This means that a serious “retrospection” is needed. What happened right in 2017? What went wrong? Why? How do we make sure that injuries/incidents will not happen again? Where are we strong? Where are we missing the mark? Who’s supporting Safety? Who’s undermining Safety? How?

Look Deeper: Where are we at cross-purposes? What mixed signals are being given to the Organization? How is Leadership truly leading safety?

Look deeply at the processes you have in place that demonstrate authentic caring about your people and their safety. Here are some great examples…Are your first line supervisors asking these type of questions of their direct reports on a daily basis (individually, and team-wise) in order to manage risks, & engage people genuinely:

  • What are the top 2 or 3 risks you face today in your work?
  • How will you need to help (coworker) today (and vice-versa)?
  • What are the standards you are using today for this job?
  • What risks are you facing and how will you manage them today?
  • How will you know you’ve…done a safe, quality job?
  • What help do you think you might require today?
  • What extra precautions are you taking?
  • What did you learn today, in the course of your work, that you can share to help others on this team (gain competence and commitment to safety)?
  • How did you do on a scale of 1 to 10 today? What surprised you?
  • How can you share this new information to make tomorrow’s tasks be done more safely?

What is Essential to Know: The safety performance of any work team, work group, organization or company directly correlates to the Leadership of Safety…at all Levels of Leadership.

Call us at 716-622-6467 if you want to turn your organization around.

Workplace Safety: 2018 Can be an Excellent Year

Safety Leadership ProcessOSHA recently reported that there were about 5,190 workplace fatalities in 2017. This is almost a 7% increase over 2016. I expect that this partly reflects the higher levels of business activity and more people who are working. Still, every single number reflects a personal tragedy – the death of a worker.

The causes of many of these fatalities are not addressed in much of our safety work, which is largely focused on slips, trips and falls. A lot of the events causing fatalities seem to come from very unexpected directions. These surprising events catch us quite unprepared. A key finding: All of our safety efforts over the last 5-6 years have not had much impact in reducing the number of fatalities which have been at about 4,800 per year until the jump in 2017.

Here is a three-step approach that will make a difference:

  1. First, open up the conversations about potential, really unusual events that could happen as we do our work. As you talk together, have toolbox or weekly safety meetings and ask yourselves to think way outside of the box and imagine what unusual events could happen that could seriously injure or kill you. (Actually these unusual events will happen at some point in the future, so we need to take them seriously.) Ideas will come from all directions as you talk together. The people actually doing the work will have good ideas about what can kill them if things go wrong. Ideas will also come up from reading safety magazines like Professional Safety. Articles in the newspapers about recent tragedies may have some important ideas. A process of brainstorming could be useful. Keep track of your conversations as ideas emerge over time and post them where everyone can see them.
  2. Second, talk about the things that are in place that will protect you in the event one of these fatal events does happen. What are these protections and will they really work? If the protections are not sufficient, then talk together about what needs to be put into place so that the unexpected event will not kill you. Create a synthesis of all you know and have learned so that new perspectives and preventions can be put into place. For example, as I watched the testing of my home generator, the maintenance man opened the electrical switch box in the basement to test the relays. I asked him how he protected himself from an unexpected electrical flash. He said he turned away from the panel so a flash would not hurt him. We talked about the potential for a flash and that people have been seriously burned and blinded by a flash. Just turning away was not going to help him much and I suggested that he talk with his supervisor about this and use additional protection. I also suggested some websites he could find useful. I hope he followed through.
  3. Third, be open to the emergence of new, unusual ideas and suggestions that come out of freely flowing conversations and the synthesis of new insights and knowledge. Some ideas may mean that you talk over each job to be sure you have thought about the unexpected. Maybe a new or different piece of protective equipment is needed. Maybe a reminder about not cutting corners on the procedures is needed. Is extra help needed? Ask yourselves questions about how to do things differently, about new ways to protect yourselves and avoid serious injuries and fatalities. There is a huge amount of information available that can be very useful so steps to better protect you can be developed and used.

These three steps are simple yet are very powerful ways to reducing the chances of a serious injury or fatality:

  • Open up the conversations about the very unusual and unexpected events that could seriously injure or kill you, and keep track of your thinking.
  • Think about the things that are in place that will protect you and decide if they are really sufficient. Synthesize and blend together all the ideas and other information you have into developing better ways about how you will protect yourselves in the event of a serious or unexpected event.
  • As you open up the conversations, synthesizing and blending information and ideas about how to better protect yourselves, new ideas and ways to do things will emerge that will make a big difference in how you work, look out for each other and reduce the chances of a serious injury or fatality.

Your families and loved ones should expect no less from you.

From Good to Great!

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don'tIn 2001, Jim C. Collins wrote the best-selling management book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. It described how companies transition from being good companies to great companies and how most companies fail to make that transition. The author found that focused leadership, clear expectations and alignment, and staying true to their field of major competence was key. There were other factors about greatness that showed up too – like Leaders being humble, and high employee engagement – employees being in tune with the company’s purpose, mission, endeavors, goals – not just the business side of things, but on the people side of the enterprise. Line organizations integrated information; people were involved, included and respected – because getting the right people in the right places was deemed as essential too. Entire organizations were communicating, collaborative, and cooperating.

How are things inside your organization? Inside your work team? What needs to happen as you move forward into the New Year so that your workplace can move into greatness? So that a year from now, you’re not scratching your head wondering why you didn’t make much progress toward greatness?

Richard N. Knowles & Associates can help you with continuous improvement. Whether it be increasing your effectiveness, leadership, safety, quality or all of the above. Give us a call and we’ll share how (716-622-6467). It’s worth adding here, that Workplace Violence, including bad behaviors, incivilities, bullying, harassment, and deeper dysfunctions like vengefulness, violence – even homicide, certainly does NOT fit with good or great companies. These are inside-cultural aspects that show up big time when supervisors, teams, leaders, organizations are not principle-based in their leading, and when communication, collaboration, cooperation are absent. We can help you here too.

Click here to read an article Claire wrote, It’s the Simple Things that Count…What Leadership needs to Know & Do NOW to Thwart Incivilities, Bullying, Harassment, & Workplace Violence.

“Workplace Fatalities” by Todd Conklin (2017)

Safety Leadership ProcessTodd Conklin works with companies to help them recover and begin to heal after they have experienced a fatality in their workforce. He has come up with a different, creative way to look why the number of fatalities at work has remained at about 4,700 people a year for a number of years. Our programs of focusing on accident prevention have significantly reduced the total number of recordable injuries, but they have not had much impact on reducing the number of fatalities.

In our work, we normally plan to do the job well and prevent an injury or incident. We do training on how to do the particular piece of work. But, for most of our work, we hardly do anything to look at what can kill a person, consider the things that will prevent the fatality, and discuss the ways a person can recover from the situation when it happens. In work, like a confined space entry, which we all know can be deadly, we do everything well most of the time. But in most other tasks, the training is less demanding and the things that can kill someone are often over-looked.

Here are three questions he suggests that we talk together about before doing a job:

  1. What hazards do you encounter that have the potential to seriously injure or kill you?
  2. When your work goes bad what keeps you from getting injured or killed?
  3. Are these enough?

It will take some time to discuss these fully, so please create the space and the trust in the workday so these discussions can take place.

The people actually doing the work are usually in the best position to have the intimate knowledge required to go deep enough.

Todd’s book, Workplace Fatalities: Failure to Predict: A New Safety Discussion on Fatality and Serious Event Reduction, is available from Amazon.

The Work Place Violence Spectrum…and What We Can Do About It!

Violence in the workplace is a costly, unnecessary, largely preventable problem. It shows up as incivilities, bullying, sexual harassment, vengeful actions, and sometimes as homicides. These dysfunctional behaviors are costing businesses and the people working for them a lot of money and suffering.

stop workplace violence

According to the Bureau of Labor Statics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, there were 403 workplace homicides in 2014 out of a total of about 4,700 workplace fatalities. Almost two million harassment incidents are reported to OSHA each year, and while there is guidance to thwart them, there are no OSHA Standards dealing directly with this problem. There is, however, the General Duty Clause requiring employers to provide a safe workplace, and it has been noted that this includes physical safety and psychological safety.

Each time I see the scroll come across the bottom of the TV screen, or read an online news report of the main points of the day, I cringe when it relates to another occurrence of a workplace violence incident and tragedy. We know it is preventable. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Call us at 716-622-6467 and let’s discuss your concerns in this arena!


Pertinent Questions

workplace violence

What does an engaged, satisfying workplace look like?

Many surveys indicate that almost 70% of the people in our workforce are unhappy with their work situation. Are these people putting in their best efforts to make the safety of their place any better or help to solve customer problems quickly or reaching out in a caring way to help one of their work mates who may be having a problem?

What should owners, managers and supervisors be doing?

Owners, managers and supervisors have many things they can do to make their organizations safer and more humane, and to increase positive engagement. It begins with these people in leadership positions recognizing and owning the problem. Thorough pre-hiring investigations and careful screening of supervisory candidates are necessary. Strong policies and training about workplace violence are needed. Terms like bullying need clear definitions. Clear, widely shared standards of behavioral expectations are required. Follow-up by all levels of management is necessary to be sure that everyone is doing their best to build a more humane and productive workplace.

What is particularly required of supervisors and managers?

Supervisors need training on how to be fully aware of what is happening with their direct reports…(Do they know their people?) and are they able to hold the important, sometimes difficult conversations with their reports to address and head-off problems before they get out-of-hand? As people talk together about these problems in an atmosphere of trust and caring, everything in the business will improve. We have seen all aspects of performance go up 30-40% when the people can work together like this…when they are able to lift up the elephants (including the psychological ones) that get in the way of the team or work group from being the best that it can be (together).

Some recent, heart-wrenching examples:

Here is a current example of a situation that was reported in the Washington Post where everything was missing. The recent killing by Radee Prince of three people in Edgewood, Maryland and another in Wilmington, Delaware on October 18th is a case where all the things described above were missing. He had a record of 42 arrests, including 15 felony convictions, but did anyone look? Why was he hired? He bullied his co-workers so much that a peace order (like a restraining order) was sought but denied by a judge because it did not meet the burden of proof. People had complained about him to management, but Prince was deemed to “be a good worker.” Where were the supervisors and others to support the claim of fearful concern by coworkers? He was eventually fired but returned to the workplace a number of times threatening other employees. Who let him in? This mess was costly, preventable and so sad!

In another example, on October 20th, in a Ford Stamping Plant in Detroit, police were called when a 21 year old, part-time employee was reported to have a gun in the plant. When he was found and confronted, he shot himself. Didn’t anyone notice that this person was not behaving well? Did anyone know and care about him? Was the EAP person invited in to consider coaching this person? His whole world had collapsed around him and no one noticed?

Helping to reduce workplace violence is work that all of us can do and have a part in. Let’s all pull together to help each other. Do we all care enough?

Are you cringing right now, because you think that having a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Program (policy, training, vulnerability assessment) means too much work?

Think again.

The more fully engaged your people, supervisors and managers are, the better your workplace will be on many levels. The more “aware” of what is happening around you and the more able you are to have open dialog about this changing world of work – including the psychological and physical aspects of your workplace – the better off everyone will be, including the bottom line. (Give us a call. We can help you through this!)

Workplace Violence Prevention

(Richard N. Knowles & Associates is in alliance with The Workplace Violence Prevention Institute. Accordingly, it is appropriate to lift up how Workplace Violence and Safety are related.)

stop workplace violenceViolence at work is a growing problem. Shootings are becoming one of the leading causes of workplace deaths. Many organizations are having the local law enforcement people come in and do active shooter programs. This is a start. Preventing workplace violence has several aspects and becoming aware of how vulnerable your workplace may be, requires a physical-safety and psychological-safety assessment. These problems just don’t happen overnight in most cases. When someone is struggling with a serious problem at home or at work and have to just keep it to themselves, they get more and more lonely and resentful. If they are subjected to bullying and harassment things get bad, quickly. Stuff can build up to a tragedy. (How well do your supervisors know their people?)

Most of the time when these incidents are investigated, co-workers say that they knew the person was not right, having a problem and being isolated. They often report that they were concerned enough about the person that they tried to avoid them and stay away.

In many organizations where the information should be flowing up and down, the organizations are restricted or blocked, and top management knows only about 10% of what is happening on the shop floor. Information flows need to open up so that critical information is shared and acted upon. A powerful way to open up the flow of information is for the top people to get out of their offices, walk around their facilities and talk with the people. The managers can encourage people to look out for each other and help each other. Talking together, listening to each other, learning together is an effective way for the organization to build the psychological safety where it is okay for people to talk together, learn together and help each other better.

Looking out for each other, helping each other, talking together, listening and learning are keys to improving both the physical and psychological safety in our organizations.

Richard Knowles and Associates has a workable dialog process to help leaders and their teams, organizations, hold the difficult conversations that need to be held around preventing workplace violence. There is a process available that is easily integrated into the day-to-day workplace. It is not enough to prevent hiring the bad “hire,” nor is it enough to prevent promoting into supervision the bad “supervisor” where incivilities beget harassment which can beget taunting which can beget all sorts of dysfunctional, hurtful behaviors, and which can create hostile workplaces and breeding grounds for more severe violent behaviors. With a strong, comprehensive, positive workplace violence prevention program, tragedies can be prevented – hostile workplaces can become civil workplaces. Understanding workplace violence prevention means leaders need to look at both the physical safety/security side and the psychological safety side of one’s business, organization and teams. Call us 716-622-6467 to learn more or send me an email.

workplace violence

Hurry, Hurry, Hurry…

slow down at work to stay safeAs I travel around and watch things happening, I see so many people in a big hurry. We are coming to the end of the good weather so people are hurrying to get outside jobs finished up. Roofers are really busy and not taking the time to properly use and secure their fall protection. I read of a recent 29-story fall in New York City when a guy on a big construction site fell through an unsecured hole in the floor.

Most of the people doing these jobs have a good idea about the hazards they face, yet they seem to ignore the possibility of getting hurt. Many of these people have families and loved ones who will suffer if they are hurt or killed. Why do you suppose they ignore this? Do they think “it” won’t happen to me?

What will it take to get these people to pay attention and be more mindful in their work?

  • Do we need more rules? OSHA already has plenty of them.
  • Do we need more fines? There already are provisions for fines, yet they do not seem to be having much impact.
  • Do we need more supervisors overseeing the work and making the people work more safely? Good supervisors are in short supply and those who are out there have lots to do and are also rushing.
  • Do we need more dramatic pictures and videos of people working unsafely as a reminder? There are lots of these floating around YouTube and other internet sites. Maybe those out on the jobs are not seeing these reminders…maybe (to their detriment) they have blinders on regarding the hazards of the work.
  • Trying to make people work more safely is okay, but we seem to be stuck with this approach. There have been about 4,600 fatalities a year for the last 4-5 years so things that we are doing are not having much impact.

Doing things to the people to get them to work more safely is not working well enough.

One way to do this is to open up the discussions about safety (and talk with each other) to make the workplace psychologically safe enough for people to stand up and ask the important questions and have the important debates about how to work more safely. Lots of organizations say that people have the right to stop a job if it is not safe; do they really?

There is so much pressure in many workplaces to get the job done as quickly as they can that people are reluctant to speak up. (Mixed signals). Some people are afraid of losing their jobs if they speak up. This is not okay!

Most of the pressure to hurry up and get the jobs done is based on the belief that this is the way to maximize their profits. How much does it cost to stop a job for 10-15 minutes to get the safety right? Injuries cost a lot of money in terms of the medical bills, lost time being away from the job, getting someone else in to do the work, OSHA inspections, reports, fines, bad publicity, investigations, and audits. The average cost for an OSHA Recordable Injury is over $50,000.

Stopping the job to get the safety right saves a lot of money, pain and suffering.


Slow Down and Work More Effectively

haste makes waste and you need to be safe at workA good, proven approach is to have brief start up meetings to review the hazards of the day’s work, making sure we have the right PPE and other equipment in place and used, asking each other about what might go wrong and working to avoid this. We need to look over the schedules and be sure we have the equipment we need and the right people for the work.

Each person can make a good contribution to this start-up meeting by talking together, listening, and asking questions. Each person can take responsibility for themselves and their workmates so that everyone has a safe, productive day and can go home in good physical and mental shape.

The fastest way to get the job done is to do it right the first time!!

NOTE: A Good Leader knows this! Savvy supervisors care about the job getting done, while at the same time, that the people doing the job remain safe while doing the work. Holding start meetings to ask people…What are the things you really need to consider for this job? What unexpected things could happen? And how will you prepare for those? Do you have everything you need? Tools, PPE, etc.? What can you teach another (today) about the importance of this work being done safely? How will you look out for coworker/s (today)…during the completion of these jobs? A Good, Respected Leader/Supervisor knows and cares about the people reporting to him/her, shows commitment to safety in all ways, and continually develops expectations of excellence within a learning environment–which the supervisor is keen to establish.

Pressure Cooker: We Need to Partner with Each Other

Changes in our workplaces keep coming fast and furiously. A recent report released by Price-Waterhouse-Coopers indicates that by 2030 the pressure on workers to perform will be huge. Organizations will be using all sorts of ways to track performance…even putting chips under their workers skin to look at location, performance, health and wellness! They may be tracking safety performance as well. Managers will need to be having “mature conversations” with the people about all this change and the feeling of threat this creates for their people and their jobs. The pressure to keep improving skills and performance continues to increase.

There is a “workable pressure relief valve” already available to us to release these stress levels! It’s called Partnering for Safety and Business Excellence. The need for open, honest, disciplined, constructive dialog is critical. It is through these sorts of continuous conversations that people and organizations change. The positive energy for continuous improvement builds one conversation at a time over and over. Showing respect and caring for both the people’s mental and physical health, as well as for the success of the business, is critical. The business can’t succeed without the creativity and energy of the people and the people’s jobs can’t survive without excellent business performance.

Who Really Cares Enough to Step In and Hold those Critical Conversations?

A recent report by the Rand Corporation, Harvard Medical School and the University of California-Los Angeles, finds that 20% of the people in our workplaces feel that the work environment is “grueling, stressful and hostile.” Other reports I have read indicate that as many as 80% of the people in our workplaces are very dissatisfied with their managers and their lack of consideration, listening and caring. It is noted that about half of the workforce would leave their current job, if they could find another, expressly because of their “boss.”

Thus the Forbes quote, “People leave managers, not companies.” Let’s face it. There are many managers and bosses that shouldn’t be managers and bosses. Many…cannot lead, are indecisive, don’t tell the truth, cannot hold the difficult conversations, aren’t clear in their expectations, have favorites, don’t follow-through, lack caring and concern.

There’s Fault…Everywhere:

It is not just the managers who are a problem. A story in the August 15th H.R. News indicates that people between 18 and 34 are putting themselves at risk by not following the companies’ safety procedures, even though over 50% say that they have read the procedures and understand why they exist. This leads, for example, to the tragic story of the death of a 29-year-old Athens, Georgia man on August 9th, who thoughtlessly jumped out of his forklift truck to catch a toppling, heavy, hydraulic car lift he was moving; it fell onto him.

On top of all this change, frustration and anger in our workplaces, many people are suffering from bullying from both managers and co-workers. Shouting and swearing are clearly inappropriate and so are actions like inappropriately withholding information, the unfair allocation of work, deliberate over-monitoring, spreading malicious rumors, and making unreasonable demands.

Stress, indifference and bullying are behaviors that block the ability to have the focused, disciplined, purposeful conversations required for both the people and their organizations to successfully negotiate all the changes we are and will be facing. The costs for the people and their organizations are huge resulting in the loss of as much as 30-40% of their effectiveness.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Let’s all of us pull together and partner to build a successful and prosperous future. I challenge you to change your workplace for the better. Give me a call at 716-622-6467 and I’ll explain how you can do that quickly and effectively.

What Linkages Do You See for Engaging More with Your Employees…and Reducing the Risk for Workplace Violence?

workplace violenceEmployee engagement has long been a concern to the U.S. workforce…it is a vital component of employee attraction and retention. Yet, with all the leadership programs targeted to “engage better with employees,” there hasn’t been a significant shift in relationships.

Add to this the alarm being sounded of various degrees of workplace violence happening…from unchecked incivilities and unprofessionalism leading to bullying to harassment to taunting (cyber or otherwise), leading to behavioral dysfunctions and, ultimately, violence from fist-fights to vengefulness to physical/mental abuse, to homicide. And the connection is…not knowing your people and lack of authentic engagement!

Culture is an outcome – an outcome of all the interactions of people – with each other, with supervision, with management, with the systems and processes they work with and in the carrying out of everyday “norms.” How interactions happen, how engagement takes place, and how deep it evolves are all key cogs in the workplace culture wheel – whether it is spinning for Safety, Quality, Morale, Involvement, Sustainability – the very same critical engagement processes need to happen. (Note: The Process Enneagram© is an example of a constructive dialog process used successfully for cultural-based improvement outcomes).

So creating a culture of engagement requires more than completing an annual employee survey and then leaving managers on their own, hoping they will learn something from the survey results that will change the way they manage.

Highly engaged organizations share common practices like these:

  • They know creating a culture of engagement starts at the top.
  • All levels of the organization are held accountable.
  • They communicate openly and consistently.
  • They hold their managers accountable – not just for their team’s measured engagement level, but also for how it relates to their team’s overall performance.
  • They ensure that managers are engaging employees from the first minute of their first day at work. (Members of supervision possess emotional intelligence and are expected to be able to lead, interact with authenticity and caring with individuals and teams.)
  • They have well-defined, integrated, and comprehensive development programs for leaders and managers (including how to hold the most difficult conversations. And how to lead constructive dialog processes).
  • They focus on the development of individuals and teams with emphasis on constructive dialog around safety, quality, and the interactions of people to fulfill the business purpose. (This includes organizational assessments and vulnerability assessments for safety and security).
  • Engagement is a fundamental consideration in their people strategy – and not an annual “check-the-box” activity.
  • They hold regular, integrated, constructive dialog sessions to lift up the concerns that getting in the way of the team being the best that it can be and to support cooperation and collaboration.
  • They care about positive co-worker relationships as well as the business outcomes. (Workplace rules, policies, procedures are clear – and well established/communicated/enforced for working within the work environment – for supporting the sustainability of the business as well as the welfare needs of the people. Preventing workplace violence fits here).
  • They regularly hold team improvement sessions where knotty problems are lifted up and addressed, including process problems, safety problems, quality problems and interactive problems.

Some of these insights are gleaned from Gallup 4/17: The Right Culture; Others come from the experience of R.N.Knowles & Associates in helping Organizations and Teams become the best they can be together.