What type of influence does the Safety Professional want?
(This is a short piece, inspired by an Influencer-training I followed.)
The safety professional fulfils a role in the way organizations understand and manage safety. Safety professionals alternately find themselves in touch with and out of touch with line management and the frontline workforce. While they align themselves with management objectives, and develop safety-specific processes and practices, they choose to have a directing and persuasive influence on the organization, while neglecting the role of a bridge to the frontline.
Considering the importance of effective communication and influence in safety practice, safety professionals must carefully choose the type of influence they employ based on the context. They can aim to persuade, to direct, to bridge and to inspire, depending on the situation. Employing the wrong influence style at the wrong time can have adverse consequences of course.
Firstly, safety professionals can choose to be persuasive to present safety initiatives, propose changes, or encourage compliance with safety protocols. Solely relying on persuasion is not effective though, especially in situations requiring immediate action or dealing with individuals resistant to change. Often we think they’re resistant, while not considering structural and cultural reasons.
Secondly, safety professionals can choose to be directive, when establishing and enforcing clear safety expectations, rules, or non-negotiable safety guidelines. They might like to hold employees accountable. An excessively authoritarian approach can easily hinder collaboration and participation in collaborative safety initiatives though.
Thirdly, safety professionals sometimes aim to inspire organizational members by communicating a so-called vision for safety excellence, by which they hope to promote a shared sense of purpose, and to motivate employees to proactively embrace safety practices. Examples are sharing success stories, emphasizing individual contributions, and aligning safety goals with organizational values. But, delivering overly emotional speeches without clear actionable steps may lead to disengagement.
Finally, safety professionals may focus on actively listening to employee concerns and work together to improve work methods and constraints. Importantly, when employee perspectives are dismissed or when we fail to acknowledge their emotional experiences their trust in our collaborative intentions might fly out the window.
So, by context-dependently employing influence styles, safety professionals choose to play their role in the organizational network regarding dealing with uncertainties in production. Understanding the context and choosing a fitting perspective is helpful, as using the wrong style at the wrong time can hinder initiative and compromise the overall safety of work.