Get support by showing positives, not sharing frustrations
Date Posted: 01/17/2022
Managers sometimes have to support policies they don’t agree with. Employees might not support every rule either, but usually follow them (most of the time). This reluctant agreement to follow rules can increase the challenge of getting support for change. In some cases, resistance to change is simply a knee-jerk reaction to rules written by someone who “doesn’t know the job.”
A supervisor or safety manager ideally builds a cooperative (not combative) relationship with employees. Unfortunately, some supervisors bond with workers by sharing frustrations. Even if supervisors don’t support a rule, they should never criticize it; instead, they should highlight the benefits. If management shares frustration about a change, employees might assume they won’t enforce it. This may create awkward situations if discipline is imposed, with questions like, “But you said it’s pointless, so why are we here?”
If workers object to a change, you need to acknowledge their objections. This does not mean validating objections, but it does mean addressing them. For example, if someone complains that a new step will add time, you might say, “The company understands that this might take longer, but it’s still required.” Ideally, follow up by describing some benefits or expected outcomes.
The key is to empathize, yet still support the change. You could even express uncertainty such as, “This is new to me also, but we all need to make it work.” That’s much better than saying, “I understand your frustration and agree that this seems pointless.”
Essentially, make your approach along the lines of, “We’re all in this together.” A management job requires implementing policies and imposing discipline for violations. You can avoid discipline if you have employee cooperation. In short, ask for support by pointing out that:
- Your job includes supporting policies, and this is not optional;
- Their job includes following policies, and that is not optional;
- You’re all in the same boat and you’d prefer to work together.
Even if you’ve previously made the mistake of sharing frustrations, you can still ask for help. If needed, admit that following the rules is your job also, and you made a mistake by not supporting a policy. Acknowledge their objections to show that you value their opinions, but also explain that you need their cooperation to avoid confrontations that neither of you wants.
How Safety Management Suite Can Help
Staying in compliance with safety regulations is tough enough, but gets even more challenging without the support of supervisors and employees. In addition to providing regulatory assistance, our experts can often help you with the “people” side of compliance. Submit your question through the Expert Help tool. The Subject Matter Experts who support the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE will provide a response within one business day.
Sign up to receive the weekly EHS Insider email newsletter for safety articles, news headlines, regulatory alerts, industry events, webcasts, and more. Enter your email address below and click submit. See Example