R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Health and Safety basic law doesn’t change very much – which is why I prefer to blog about the barriers to progress in health and safety as being more about the way people interact with each other.

Get H&S Done Quickly

It has often struck me that everyday TV adverts bombard us with the idea that life today is lived ‘at speed’. Professionals are seen striding through corridors dispensing world-saving advice whilst responding to the latest communication on their phones. Decisions are made a lightning-speed by people with the latest information at their fingertips, just before they climb into a car and speed to the next appointment in traffic-free cities.

The reality is very different.

As a Consultancy, when we send out messages to Clients or associates, we often get a message a few weeks later saying ‘sorry I didn’t get back to you…’

Of course, there is a simple answer available to them – the ‘holding reply’, but it takes extra discipline, so a lot of people don’t bother. You would have to say something like ‘I’m busy at the moment and will get back to you next week’, and then make the vital step of setting yourself a reminder to do so, followed by actually doing it.

New ways now available to show disrespect

But now that we have Zoom and Teams etc., along with calendar sharing apps like Calendly, things are so much easier, aren’t they?

Yes, and no.

Yes, because they are great tools to be more organised and – potentially – more efficient; but ‘No’ because we still bring our ready-made personalities along for the ride.

If you were rude to others before the pandemic, chances are your disrespect will come out using the new communication tools available to us.

Zoom your way to disrespect

We’ve recently been left sitting waiting for two Zoom meetings to start by people who apparently didn’t think it would be a good idea to let us know in good time that they couldn’t make the meeting they had asked to be set up in the first place. For ‘couldn’t’, perhaps swap with ‘couldn’t be bothered because they didn’t think it mattered that much’.

I call this ‘disrespect’, and I don’t think this is a good characteristic to get the best out of people and build trusting relationships.
They would probably call it ‘normal business life…I’m far too busy…and far too important to respect other people freely giving up their time for me’. I suspect if there was a lot of money at stake then things would look very different.

I’m far too busy

Another example: Often, we get new enquiries from people who clearly have no idea about what they are ‘shopping for’.
They have been given the task of finding a Consultant by their Manager or Director who is far too busy to get involved. This is despite the fact that the person they choose will be helping to steer their organisation towards compliance with important legal obligations…perhaps for years into the future.
Consider the irony here: Directors all parrot out the ‘everyone’s health and safety is very important to us’ line, but at the same time would ask someone with little experience to shortlist a consultant.
Of course, we treat these callers with due respect, but how do you explain a service – which, let’s face it, has some complex elements – to someone who doesn’t know what they are looking for?

I always get what I want

Another surprising example: some organisations seem to think that when they make an enquiry, the Consultant will automatically go along with any request, no matter how wrong-headed.

They are sometimes surprised, and affronted, when a consultant acts independently and says ‘I’m afraid I won’t be able to help you as the way you’re insisting on is the wrong way of doing things’.

But thinking it through – they’re meant to be engaging ‘Competent Persons’ who have professional standards and will ‘speak truth to power’.
Would you engage an Architect who meekly agreed to design an unsafe building based on unfounded ideas about construction?

Consultants can also be guilty

On the flip-side, some consultants can be just as disrespectful – often from a misguided sense of superiority about the subject.
As a consultant, if you approach new situations with your ego freshly-shined up and don’t show others sufficient respect then – it is sad to note – you’ll probably be a big success. Not in terms of relationships and quality outcomes, but for your own ends.
The so-called ‘Type-A’ personalities are well known for ‘reaching the top’ whilst having very little regard for the feelings of others – but is this the kind of success that everyone craves?

Not at all.

Time-after-time, major accident enquiries have shown the importance of acting professionally, communicating well and aiming for high standards.
We believe that respecting others – whoever they are – is one of the key foundations. This includes respecting their time, their expertise in what they do, their right to state their opinion even if different to your own, and their right to disengage if resolving disagreements isn’t possible.

Respecting others is more likely to result in more trust and as a consequence lead to a shared understanding of what can be achieved, and how to go about it. This is true in all walks of life, and no less so in our field of Health and Safety.