When We Talk About an Unsafe Attitude What Do We Mean?

Correcting or improving performance requires precise targeting. The problem is caused when we use the wrong words. What do we mean when we use “attitude”? I would suggest that we use the words “attitude” and “behaviour” to mean the same thing. The problem arises when we use the word attitude to describe someone’s behavior. This creates deep resentment.
If you were to ask anyone, “Where do you keep your attitude?” They normally point to their heart or their head. This means that this is an internal condition. It is not tangible, it is not observable. When we need to change performance, as soon as we start talking about attitude there is the likelihood that people will switch off.
The scientific community has not decided that there is a clear link between behavior and attitude. Behavior is observable, however, attitudes we can only guess welding tools and equipment at. Personally, I’d prefer to stay in the tangible, observable behaviors rather than the beliefs, attitudes, internal feelings or abstract theories.
The words that you use can create prejudice and build obstacles to progress. Whilst terms such as motivation, personality, communication, and rapport are useful when we are communicating informally, but when we need to change performance these words can create resentment and block progress.
Labels such as “lazy,” “lacks drive,” and “bad safety attitude” imply that the problem, and therefore the solution to the problem, is within the person. Using labels to describe performance means manufacturing process specification can’ t help change the performance, it also produces blame. We blame the performer for being unmotivated, having a bad attitude, needing too much attention, not having enough drive and so on.
What do we mean when we say a person has a positive safety attitude? We could be referring to the fact that the individual is always wears safety equipment, or keeps his or her work area exceptionally clean and tidy, or volunteers to help others, or maintains high levels of personal safety.
In other words, we could characterize a person as having a positive attitude if he or she did any one of those things, or all of them.
The same is also true for performers with a “bad safety attitude.” They, too, demonstrate a pattern of behaviors that result in a negative label. Once you realize that a “bad attitude” is composed of many behaviors, it’s easy to understand why that “attitude” is so difficult to change or remedy. Flushing out and targeting the specific and individual behaviors that make up the “bad safety attitude” or cause you to label the person as negative or uncooperative is essential if you are to effectively change the performer’s “attitude.”
Using vague phrases or labels to describe problem performance does nothing to change or improve performance. Calling someone unsafe fails to provide the necessary information needed to change behavior. The productive question to ask is, “Which specific behaviors cause me to label this person unsafe?” Being untidy? Not wearing safety glasses? Failing to operate machinery with care These are specific questions that can lead to specific answers.
For some managers, targeting behavior is the most difficult part of managing safety performance.

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