Balanced Feedback

February 18 2018
By: Terry L. Mathis

Feedback is simply information about performance. In safety, feedback can come from a manager, supervisor, safety professional or fellow worker. Unless there is a specific program in place for peer observation and feedback, or a delegation of daily safety duties to production supervisors, most feedback comes from superiors or safety professionals. Traditionally, people in these positions manage by exception; that is, they look for problems to address. This tradition has been further reinforced by safety metrics, which tend to be lagging indicators.

The net result of these practices and influences is that workers get told when they are doing something unsafe or at risk and get little or no feedback on what they are doing safely. This unbalance causes any number of problems, including creating punitive relationships and cultures and creating the illusion that safety is more about what not to do than what to do. The overall effect is that most organizations and workers are trying to avoid failure rather than achieve success.

Leaders and safety professionals need to give balanced feedback and even emphasize positively reinforcing safe behaviors over correcting unsafe ones. Those who do discover that building on strengths can be easier and more effective than correcting weaknesses.

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.

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