Key Takeaways
  • For many workers, changing jobs and learning new safety cultures is the new normal. Employees will quickly adopt the safety culture of a new employer.

  • Social cognitive theory provides a framework for understanding how employees learn to behave at their new place of employment. It also suggests the mechanisms required to improve an existing safety culture.

  • Elements that impact learning and which should therefore be deliberately addressed in any safety culture improvement program include observational learning, modeling, agency and outcome expectations.

A quick internet search for "New Workplace" turns up articles with titles such as, "How to Fit Into a New Job and Adapt to Company Culture," "Dos and Don'ts for Adjusting to Your New Job" and "Workplace Culture Shock: Adjusting to a New Company Culture." There are no articles titled, "How to Change Your New Company's Culture to Fit Your Desires," or "Why Should You Change? Make Your New Workplace Change, Instead!" It is axiomatic that the new employee is expected to conform to the company, rather than the other way around. In fact, the typical job interview process revolves around explaining the company's mission and culture to the applicant, then determining whether the applicant is a good fit for that culture.

Starting a new job is often extremely stressful. Sapolsky (2005) writes that the manner in which strangers interact is influenced by hardwired physiological adaptations shaped by human evolution. For the first couple of hundred-thousand years of human existence, we all lived in small bands and we remain comfortable dealing only with those we have known our entire lives. Seeing a stranger invokes physiological changes that trigger alarm. Social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) suggests that a cohesive and stable group of individuals will view nonmembers as inferior in some dimensions. The group has a social identity while the individual does not. This motivates the nonmember to strive to become a member of the group.

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