Dobbing, Culture and Risk
It’s such a laugh, watching people launch a ‘dob in line’ in Australia. We saw this recently with the Government’s ‘dobseeker’ hotline . And we see this approach with regulators and others in Safety , with some weird idea that ‘blowing the whistle’ to un-safety ‘works’. This is kindergarten culture stuff? Unfortunately, this kindergarten approach to culture is common in risk and safety (https://www.nscafoundation.org.au/eventdetails/8759/webinar-making-sense-of-safety-culture; https://www.ohsbok.org.au/chapter-10-2-organisational-culture/). Any exploration of culture that omits semiotics is certainly not a holistic approach.
I fall on the floor laughing when I see these naïve approaches to culture displayed in this ‘dobbing discourse’. We also see this evident in the discussion on whistleblowing in the deontological AIHS BoK on Ethics. The notion of dobbing in Australia is anathema to the mythology and symbolism of mateship. One of the first things kids learn in school is the ethic of not dobbing. If you want to be isolated from the class, marginalized with no friends and become a ‘loser’, just dob in someone in Year 2 Primary School and you will learn a hard lesson.
This is why the confusion of ethics, morality and Ethics in the AIHS BoK on Ethics is so dangerous. Unless we understand the nature of an ethic, compared to a code of ethics, and morality, we will never get to the heart of the mythology/symbolism and social code of, ‘don’t dob’.
Now, I don’t care if you come out with a ‘you beaut’ dobbing app, it doesn’t matter about anonymity either. Asking workers to dob on each other as if safety is paramount demonstrates little idea about the nature of culture, morality or ethics. This is why the deontological ethic of: duty, compliance, ‘do the right thing’ and ‘check your gut’ is so pathetic and misleading. It is naïve in the extreme to expect a person who has been brought up for 25 years of ‘don’t dob’ to then be told, ‘dob in your mate’. Perhaps do some reading on the nature of social contract ethics (https://ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu/glossary/social-contract-theory).
‘Dob in lines’ and whistleblower lines leave a trail of injured people whenever they are used. If you want to psychologically harm people, that’s the way to go about it. This is also why ‘zero vision’ ideology is dangerous. Zero ideology promotes such simplistic ideas of how people organize and how culture is embedded. In the end, zero ideology harms people, ha! Zero harm.
One thing for sure, you won’t find anyone in safety discussing ‘the collective unconscious’ as a critical characteristic of culture. When culture is ‘what we do around here’ you dumb it down to kindergarten level, when culture is a wicked problem (https://cognexus.org/wpf/wickedproblems.pdf ).
Every time we do the MIProfile survey in organisations (https://www.humandymensions.com/services-and-programs/miprofile/) we find under-reporting as one of the major concerns. This is exponentially worse in zero vision organisations. When you set up a culture of: brutalism, duty, ‘do the right thing’ and ‘check you gut’ you: fragment culture, set people against each other and create a culture of hiding. Well done Zero, you’ve done it again.
The by-product of anything zero makes fallible organizations: more fragile, persons more fallible and, psychological harm spirals out of control. This explodes when zero is combined with ‘dob in a mate’. Of course, the elephant in the room with anything in safety is: blame , shame and inflame.
Here is a bit of reading on dobbing and Australian mythology:
Unfortunately, none of this is a laughing matter, but it is laughable when I see safety crusaders come out with simplistic black and white notions of actions and culture, that actually make safety worse. One thing is for sure, if you are concerned about under-reporting and risk, you will find no help in zero or a ‘dob in line’.