June 12 2023
By: Shawn M. Galloway
We only have so much mental bandwidth. When things do not go as planned, when an upset condition occurs or anxiety increases, our bandwidth becomes compromised, and we don't think as clearly. Our I.Q. decreases, and an error trap opens.
In a stressful situation, the capacity of your frontal lobes, which regulates thinking, reasoning, planning, and decision-making, reduces as your amygdala hijacks you, prompting the primitive fight or flight response. When stressed, most of the time logic doesn't prevail, emotions do.
We want people to value safety, think about safety, know what to do, and do it in a perceived crisis. But how well has the workforce been prepared for this? What mental models have been provided? What behaviors will they go to? How well are you providing your workers with the competencies and confidence to respond when things do not go as planned?
Of course, we must train and educate someone on how to do their job. How much time and energy has been spent on what-if scenarios, tabletop exercises or response drills? Stop telling employees to "think safety" when things don't go as planned. Enable them and assess them for competency. Reduce the stressful response by helping employees prepare for it.
"High stress levels are not only associated with poorer brain functioning but may even link to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease." — Brendan Kelley, MD, neurologist, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
"Logic makes people think, emotion makes them act." — Alan Weiss, PhD
"When there is any fear or anxiety, the amygdala region of the brain, your emotional center, jumps to attention and takes resources away from the executive decision making of the prefrontal cortex." — Dr. Relly Nadler, Psy.D., M.C.C.
Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.