Speak Up, Reporting and Trust in Safety
One of the most vital characteristics of any organization focused on safety is trust. Without trust, there can be no reliable communication, review of events, learning or reporting. The recent article put out by IOSH on Investigations (https://www.ioshmagazine.com/2021/06/15/how-conduct-effective-accident-investigation-interview ) demonstrates that it has no idea about the psychology of trust. Any approach to interviewing like this demonstrates that trust has already broken down in an organization and that the only resort left is policing. Similarly, when the Regulator comes out with a ‘safety blitz’ or a ‘speak up’ campaign this is already an admission that trust is gone.
A good place to start in understanding trust is by Bachmann and Zaheer, Handbook of Trust Research (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234021311_The_Handbook_of_Trust_Research ). Some of my favourite chapters include:
- Chapter 1. Three fundamental questions regarding trust in leaders.
- Chapter 9. The dark side of trust.
- Chapter 14. Forms, sources and processes of trust.
- Chapter 22. Trust and/or power: towards a sociological theory of organizational relationships.
In the zero world of safety trust is usually the first causality of counting. When numbers govern thinking, trust goes out the window. When zero is promoted as the ideology and language of an organization, trust disappears. No wonder people won’t speak up or tell the truth (https://safetyrisk.net/investigations-and-truth-telling/ ) in zero organisations. Zero is the architect of narrow minutia. When Zero ideology rules every minor injury or event becomes a Spanish Inquisition.
There can be no congruence between an ideology of zero and the necessity of trust. And, when trust leaves an organization whatever follows will be unethical. Zero is the best way to promote deception and dishonesty in an organization.
Zero is the most unethical choice anyone can make in safety. But don’t worry, Safety doesn’t study ethics or facilitate transparency anyway.
One of the reasons why trust is diminished in zero organisations is because it can’t be measured or counted. Indeed, all of the most important characteristics of a healthy organizational culture cannot be measured. There goes that idiotic aphorism ‘if it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed’. Only Safety could believe such a stupid mantra. Whereas in SPoR we know that ‘the things that count most, can’t be counted’.
Trust can be lost much more quickly than it can be gained. It takes a long cultural process (assuming one know what culture is) of development to engender trust in an organization but this can be lost swiftly in one act of treachery.
One of the best ways to lose trust is through tokenism and hypocrisy, this is when silly mantras like ‘safety first’ come undone. Safety always comes second when the concrete is on the road and a pour is imminent. Safety always comes second when it challenges the budget. Safety always comes second when politics and ethics get in the way of productivity. Safety would be much better served if these mantras were not spoken including the nonsense sayings ‘safety is a choice you make’ and ‘all accidents are preventable’. These two mantras also send trust packing.
‘Nootenboom affirms that: ‘Trust entails acceptance of relational risk’. If trust is NOT reciprocated then one of the parties involved in the relationship leaves the relationship psychologically. Not long after the relationship breaks down physically. Another critical finding in the research is that excessive paperwork diminishes trust (Chapter 14 – Bachmann and Zaheer, Handbook of Trust Research). The heavier the paperwork and policing by bureaucracy = the less trust in an organization. One of the best ways to kill trust in a marriage is to bring out a pre-nuptial agreement. If you need to download one (https://www.netlawman.com.au/d/prenuptial-agreement?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIyI6ev97t8QIVSqmWCh3cxgFkEAAYASAAEgInHfD_BwE ) then trust is already gone.
It doesn’t matter what technique you use to fill out a form (eg. usability mapping) if trust is low, then whatever is in that form is of no value.
So, if you want to enhance trust in your organization then the following are helpful:
When one reads the many sources and research on the nature of trust it becomes clear that it is also intertwined with ethics. How interesting that the IOSH approach to investigations through policing makes no comment about ethics nor does the Competency Framework. No wonder its tone and drive understands the purpose of safety people as lie-detectors (https://safetyrisk.net/are-safety-people-lie-detectors/ ). Similarly, a deontological ethic as demonstrated in the AIHS BoK also diminishes trust in organisations. See a pattern?