A Tap on the Shoulder or a Slap in the Face

January 10 2016
By: Terry L. Mathis

Many safety employee engagement programs attempt to get workers to look out for each other and intervene when they see a safety issue. The problem is, some types of intervention are actually damaging to relationships and overall safety culture. The popular idea that intervention means confrontation is a perfect example of how to do it wrong! Confrontation is, by definition, adversarial. Do you really want to turn workers against each other? Admittedly, the advocates of confrontation try to soften it and make it a bit more friendly, but these attempts almost contradict themselves. The idea of a friendly confrontation is akin to the idea of a peaceful attack.


The ideal type of intervention is more coaching than confrontation. It is an intervention by a friend trying to help, rather than a critic trying to challenge. Organizations seeking to increase employee engagement should carefully consider what types of interventions are really desired and teach workers how to intervene appropriately.






Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and 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.