Negative reinforcement doesn't work. Positive reinforcement builds buy-in.

No other department in your organization is focused on negative reinforcement to try to improve performance. How did this happen in safety and why has it lasted so long?

Who was the first person was that thought that negative reinforcement would make safety better? 

The requisite gory photos of dismemberment and disfigurement. The Darwin Award videos mocking and making fun of people getting injured. Or the gut-wrenching stories from injury survivors who relive and retell their story.

Why does safety insist on hitching its wagon to the unsuccessful events of the past? No other department does this.

You don’t see sales meetings that dwell on the big sale that got away.

Finance and accounting conferences don’t pay corporate embezzlers to be their keynote speakers.

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Instead, go outside of your company and take note of how high-performing organizations do it. Sports team coaches don’t replay old videos of teams that lost their championship games?

Seriously, you can’t guilt or scare or scold your people into safety. Not if you want buy-in.

Buy-in is never achieved by trying to avoid a negative.

We (including our employees) buy-in to the things that demonstrate a win for us, a clear benefit.

So, what’s the benefit of buying-in to safety? Don’t say, “well, you won’t get hurt.” Not getting hurt is not a benefit. That’s what is supposed to happen.

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You will never get buy-in to safety by manipulating your people with shock value. Safety isn’t supposed to make you afraid. It’s supposed to make you feel confident to make good decisions.

If you want them to buy-in, figure out the positive benefits of safety. (Here is an article that may help).

Remember, you don't need more rules and reminders in safety. You need more of your employees to buy-in. And that takes a very different approach.

Topics: safety leadership, safety culture, safety buy-in