Page 19 - Mississippi 811 Magazine 2021 Issue 2
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Today’s COVID environment provides an excellent example. How many times have you seen people “not wearing a mask?” People who make this choice, adversely impact us because they are potentially endangering the lives of others and it seems they do not care about the welfare of others. We can’t know what they really think about wearing the mask, but the power
of their example is often seen as a negative.
Let’s return to the damage prevention world. Have you committed that error or have known someone that expressed their anger in the field? Is this fish stinking? Absolutely! Their stinking thinking affects the ability of those who are present during their stinking behavioral display to work safely. The stinking behavior automatically diverts attention from the work at hand and elicits a negative emotional reaction. You know that negative emotions can sabotage working safely!
Have you known a supervisor or co- worker that people simply don’t like to work with for whatever reason? This person has the rotting fish syndrome.
The very sight of that stinking fish leads to an adverse emotional impact upon employees. Yes, that person is a safety hazard. Unfortunately, there are two phenomenon that occur with these people. First the stinking fish is often blind to their negative emotional impact upon others. This blindness is referred to as a behavioral blind spot. Second many supervisors hesitate trying to help these stinking fish to use more effective interpersonal behaviors. (This is sad but true and is a story for another time!)
Consider the supervisor who ignores safety tape, i.e., stinking thinking! Is that supervisor leading by example and sending the message that is it okay for others to ignore such safety procedures? You bet it is. All of us lead by example with every word spoken, not spoken,
or behavior that we display or don’t display. We can’t escape this natural phenomenon so we’re setting both positive and negative examples every day all day long!
Time for a story illustrating a positive safety example — I’m teaching a class on leadership when the company owner abruptly left the classroom to provide
real-time feedback to one of their employees who ignored the safety tape protecting a landscaping project. The employee failed to wear safety glasses and a hard hat. What a powerful message this owner sent to the course attendees who observed this example.
In closing this article let me suggest an interesting and productive exercise that you can complete with your people. Conduct a brainstorming session
to identify the examples of stinking thinking behaviors that are witnessed on the worksite. If you want to push the envelope with another exercise, identify your episodes of stinking thinking and ask those working with you to list what they see you do! Then compare the two lists. Now you can see what others see you do which is more important than what you see! It’s a terrible fact that we become blinded
by our routines that we fail to see the stinking thinking that seemingly automatically emerge.
Larry Cole, Ph.D., is founder of TeamMax a consulting company that helps people work together. Please send questions and/or comments to Larry at
2021, Issue 2
Mississippi 811 • 17

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