A little thought can make all the difference

Do You Motivate With Fear or Reward?

fearI like a good safety incentive as much as the next person. Although I haven’t kept them all, I would guess I have received dozens of items ranging from imprinted pens, flashlights, and portfolios to jackets, gift cards and parking spaces. Each one of them was designed to be a reminder of the importance of working safely.

Many were given for actually working safely – for getting caught doing the right thing. Others were a reward for not having injury. Or at least not having an injury reported, but I’m not going to go there today.

Anyone who has spent any time in the field knows that the saying “Working safely is it’s own reward” is true, but it doesn’t generate the kind of behaviors we really want. What we seek is vigilance and action. We want people to see the potential or injury or incident, and take action to eliminate the potential, reduce the likelihood, or reduce the consequence.

I’ve never once worked more safely because if we finished the year with the right record we would all get jackets. But I have used that type of reinforcement to help get the message across. To help people consider that their change in behavior is being rewarded. The change had a consequence of keeping everyone whole and the added consequence of a “prize” for the team.

Even though many safety and HR professionals feel that the best incentive is the promise of personal well-being, many risks are just not visible until experience and training help people to see them. So if rewarding people for avoiding injury helps them develop more discipline about working safely, then great. Fear is a great motivator, but if you’re ignorant of risks, or even a bit fearless, it won’t help you.

So how do you characterize your personal motivation toward safety? How do you motivate others?

However you choose to motivate, be careful out there!

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