Category Archives: Organization

How can I improve a Safety Conscious Work Environment (SCWE)? By building trust in your organization

Let’s talk about trust in your organization. I’ll bet you and everyone around you values it, but what is anyone doing to build it, improve it, or break it down? Out of those things, what is being done intentionally? I believe that many negative consequences of average or poor communication lead to a loss of trust. Sometimes, it’s only one person that is affected, and then they affect others, and eventually a group of people is upset (or chilled) about something a leader said. I had the interesting opportunity to work at a nuclear power station that ended up on the cover of Time magazine in the 90’s for firing whistle-blowers, which is the epitome of a negative SCWE. Many of us who experienced the changes since, hold that wisdom knowing what ground zero looked like compared to any situation we’ve been in since. We are each ambassadors to ensure this type of environment never has the opportunity to exist again. Are you an ambassador for SCWE at your station?

The hard elements to understand were recently explained to me in a new way, which I grasp a little better. I always thought a nuclear safety culture was made up of 3 things:

1. Problem Identification and Resolution (things you do after something has been identified)

2. Human Performance (things done to prevent issues in the first place)

3. Safety Conscious Work Environment (willingness to raise nuclear safety concerns)

I was hung up on the last part (SCWE) – I may have concerns about my work environment or leadership, but they are not related to “nuclear safety.” With this in mind I thought SCWE was only for nuclear-safety concerns. Come to find out, if there are other trust issues regarding things NOT nuclear-safety related, it has been known to affect reporting of nuclear-safety related issues. In short: If I won’t raise a small issue, why would I raise a large one?

The reason why this distinction is important:

Because of integrity and care for my fellow neighbor, I will always raise a nuclear safety concern no matter how “chilled” or how worried I was about maintaining my job. Whenever I take a survey that asks me if I would do that, my management’s ability to create an open reporting atmosphere really doesn’t apply how I would answer any question about nuclear, radiological, environmental or industrial safety concerns. That being said, if you do not trust your local leadership, I’ve been told (but I haven’t seen it) that data exists that extrapolates this situation into possibilities of you not saying something out of fear of HIRD (Harassment, Intimidation, Retaliation, or Discrimination) by your leadership team. Some people have legitimate feelings that someone is out to get them. That is a stressful way to go about a career.

Does trust permeate the organization?

Improving a SCWE really means we’re talking about culture aspects at a nuclear power plant. What do you actively do to ensure people you work with can trust you? Nuclear workers have been told for many years that trust needs to “permeate” the organization, but it’s not so easy to see the “permeation” even when you’re looking for it. So, periodically, surveys are sent to get a pulse on the permeation. The surveys say whatever they say about people’s opinion on the local safety culture and SCWE. What should be done with the results? What can be done? You can identify key outliers and find areas where leaders are weak or environments are hostile already or degrading. Then what? How do we get trust back into an outlier organization? I heard something about 3 years ago that stuck with me – “you either change the people, or you change the people.” It takes years of training and pedigree to make solid competent nuclear workers, so we wouldn’t want to lose people passionate about what they do, so I arrive back at this question: How do I get the workforce to trust each other and the management team? Keep reading…

What does it take to change the way you think? click here 

Recognizing the hostile work environment

So, what defines a Hostile Work Environment? This is where peers turn on each other, or co-workers do not trust each other and act out on this. This can reveal itself in workplace bullying and exclusion. It’s eye-opening when you understand the laws that are designed to prevent this type of behavior. I’ve actually been in this type of environment many many years ago, and didn’t recognize it as such until I learned the definition. I wasn’t being picked on, but I’ve seen what it can do.

For more on hostile work environments (exclusion and bullying), click here

Possible solution list for building trust

I am open to suggestions (how you do this is completely up to you, and note that this is not all-encompassing, but I think it’s a good start). These are the things I see as important and real. I would never say something vague like “communicate, communicate, communicate,”however, effective communication and reinforcement (good, intentional human performance) is the answer.

1. Eliminate fear in your group

2. Collect and dispel rumors fast

3. Apologize when you are wrong and make it personal

4. Be authentic and set an example

5. Tell workers you are committed to building trust and ask for ideas on how

6. Make promises and honor them

7. Tell the whole truth (Thanks for the edit Adrian)

8. Keep confidences

9. Display loyalty and integrity

10. Treat people equally without favoritism

11. Make time to give personal feedback

12. Show appreciation when someone is being genuine

13. Make the process for reporting something as simple and as easy as possible

14. Respect everyone, and find out how you can help them

15. Be predictable, consistent, transparent and reliable

16. Mean what you say

17. Make a contribution to the team by delivering the results you promised

18. Ease someone else’s burden or workload

19. Be clear whenever you communicate – ambiguity leads to distrust

20. Trust others

I’ve read that trust can be like a forest – taking a long time to grow and can easily be burned down if careless. In order to speed up the harmonious relationships I’ve formed with certain people I’ve worked with through the years I start with trust with each new relationship, until there is a reason to temper it.

I’m very interested in your feedback on this post. Please feel free to comment here.