Why Do You Work? What Motivates You To Come Home Safe?

Dog sitting by doorway

Most employees can produce a quick answer to the question: "Why do you work?”  The answer typically includes something that gets employees to show up to work on a regular basis, a paycheck for example.  When asked: "Why do you work safely?” the responses are a bit more labored or indecisive.  

Organizations often struggle with an 'it’s not going to happen to me' mentality with one or more of its employees.  These tend to be the employees that may occasionally, or even regularly, intentionally work in an unsafe manner.  They typically justify these actions through the assumption that there won’t be any negative consequences to these unsafe actions.  They often think they save time as well; this can actually result in a short-term positive consequence.  Unfortunately, luck often runs out and the unsafe actions result in workplace injuries.  Now they (and the employer) may have a long-term negative consequence to deal with.  The challenge with these employees is finding the way to motivate them to work in a safe manner. 

What is your employee's motivation for coming to work each day?  One approach to connecting with employees with a negative attitude towards safety is to ask what motivates them.  Why do they come to work?  Sure, a paycheck, but what do they do with that paycheck?  What is something that they enjoy doing?  When having these conversations, you should have a personal example of what drives you to work safely. 

During a recent meeting, the discussion included why working safely is important.  I reminded people that I do my job safely because I want to be able to provide for my family and, in my personal time, do the things I want to do.  I want to teach my kids to play sports and see them grow up.  I want to enjoy family outings and vacations.  By working safely and being aware of both my own and my co-workers' safety, I am doing what I can to ensure that my actions on the job do not negatively affect my ability to go home the way I came to work.  This can help employees make safety more personal. 

Once you've identified those motivating factors, ask them how an injury could impact those activities.  How would that make them feel?  Wouldn't the effort to avoid that negative outcome be a motivator to work safely?  Getting employees to reflect on how their choices at work can influence their personal lives may help evoke an ‘Ah ha!’ moment. 

Another idea to help personalize safety is to have workers put up a display board where employees would be able to post applicable photos of what they enjoy after work.  This serves as a visual reminder of why they should work safely.  Family, pets, motorcycles, boats, and cars are popular pictures that appear on these boards.  This also serves to make employees aware that their actions in the workplace affect not only themselves, but their family and the families (and pets) of their co-workers. 

At your next safety meeting, try asking the group to reflect on the question: "Why do I work safely?"  For more information regarding workplace safety check out the MEMIC resources available in the Safety Director.

By Mike Havel