Speak Up, but Don’t Tackle the Cause

Safety loves telling people to ‘speak up’ but has no interest in tackling the cause. Indeed, Safety is the industry of silences about what ought to matter (https://safetyrisk.net/category/safety-culture-silences/), and noisy about what doesn’t matter.

But if you can’t speak up, you can always ‘dob in’. We can even give you an app to do it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0MZl5DVDJg).

In my culture, there is nothing lower than a ‘dobber’. Just read the evidence (Workplace safety scandal: auditor-general launches six-month investigation into failings) about the history of dobbing and how it works. But to understand how suppression of honesty works, one would need a sophisticated understanding of culture, not something Safety is interested in. No, it’s just easier to tell people to ‘speak up’!

Of course, we know they don’t. (https://letsgrowleaders.com/psychological-safety-why-people-dont-speak-up-at-work/).

There are many cultural and social psychological pressures (https://safetyrisk.net/mapping-social-influence-strategies/ ) that ensure that people don’t speak up. But to understand these one would need to tackle a Transdisciplinary approach to understanding persons, ethics, culture and seeking an understanding of the complexities of living in a VUCA world (https://safetyrisk.net/kiss-safety-in-a-vuca-world/). Much easier to just ignore all of this and just tell people to ‘speak up’. Good olde Safety, ‘set and forget’.

The best at telling people to ‘speak up’ is Traditional Safety (https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/blogs/blogs-accordions/speak-up-to-report-unsafe-work) where the power of Zero is the reigning ideology (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/zero-the-great-safety-delusion/ ) and the greatest cause of NOT speaking up. The best way to ensure people don’t ‘speak up’ is to run a simplistic campaign of intolerance by telling people to ‘speak up’. I know let’s run a ‘zero event’. (https://safetyrisk.net/the-global-zero-event-this-is-safety/) and then tell people to ‘speak up’!

Who is going to speak up to Safework NSW about psychosocial ‘hazards’ when you know they sponsor ‘zero events’? Makes for a great culture of bullying (Workplace safety scandal: auditor-general launches six-month investigation into failings)

No, Worksafe NSW don’t have to be a safe place to work, they just have to tell you to make a safe place to work. Speak up! Here is a classic quote:

‘The Herald spoke to a number of current and former inspectors, bureaucrats and experts, who described SafeWork as an absent regulator suffering from cultural problems including bullying, as well as structural problems.’

But it’s not just Worksafe NSW, its everywhere in safety. Blind Freddy can smell hypocrisy from 50 paces. A culture of ‘double speak’ ensures people won’t speak up.

I know, lets run a zero campaign and tell people to ‘speak up’!

People in the workplace know about the damaging by-products about speaking up. They know that people in power and with power don’t take kindly to speaking up. For example: Whistle-blowers are invariably punished for ‘speaking up’. A classic example of how regulation doesn’t work in dealing with cultural issues.

What happens most in workplaces is that if things are toxic and unsafe, people know the safest thing to do (psychosocially) is to remain silent and leave. If you dob in a bully, bullying is most likely to increase and go underground.

Of course, you could read the AIHS BoK Chapter on Ethics as a guide but unfortunately, this document makes no mention of the nature of power or the misuse of power. How convenient, a wonderful way to ensure that people in safety don’t speak up.

I know, lets run a podcast on ‘speak up’ and that will do the trick and make sure that there is no discussion of any of the elephants in the room. I know let’s discuss speaking with some safety engineers in a podcast who know zip about culture or the complexities social psychological influence, but just tell people to ‘speak up’! This is what Safety does so well. It talks to itself, makes a lot of noise and nothing changes.

If you want to know about the complexities of culture and how to create a culture that fosters open communication and listening you can study here: https://cllr.com.au/elearning/

When you ditch the toxicity of zero and foster a culture that works (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/it-works-a-new-approach-to-risk-and-safety-book-for-free-download/), you don’t have to tell people to ‘speak up’.


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