What are they, how do they work or not work, and when should they be used? This paper will attempt to define each concept and provide a framework for their application. It will also provide some context about the challenges faced by Safety Professionals as they work through using each one of these management practices to optimize performance of employees and to help them reduce risky behavior.
Any Safety Professional who has worked to improve safety and reduce risk within an organization has invariably been faced with the challenge of having to give feedback, provide accountability or discipline, coach, or even punish employees. However, the use of each of these different approaches to interacting with employees comes with possible perils and benefits. This paper will provide some perspective into each of these concepts and will outline the basics of 1) what are these different actions, 2) when is their use appropriate and when should it be avoided, and 3) what model is most effective at motivating employees to work safely.
One aspect of this discussion that this paper will not attempt to evaluate is whether or not Safety Professionals should be the agents of administering discipline, punishment, or any other outcomes. Based on a number of years of experience and observation of hundreds of organizations, it is true that there are many options when considering if Safety Professionals should have the ability or responsibility to hold people to account if they are at risk. In some instances having this ability reside with the Safety Group makes sense as they can immediately intervene in at risk actions and create immediate consequences when they are necessary. In other instances, the Safety Professional has a more collaborative role as a coach, mentor and facilitator rather than as a disciplinarian. In either case, this part of the discussion is beyond the scope of this article and will not be covered here.