Professionalism and Safety: Are You a Top Hand?
As we conduct seminars and workshops around the country, one of the most frequently asked questions is "What are the barriers to a zero-injury job?"
by Carl Potter and Deb Potter
As we conduct seminars and workshops around the country, one of the most frequently asked questions is "What are the barriers to a zero-injury job?" We have asked many groups to answer the question individually and in groups. We get many different answers, yet the one that is the most common and that everyone tends to agree on is attitude. Exploring that answer further, we often hear that a professional attitude is what makes the true difference when it comes to creating a safe workplace.
What is professionalism? Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines it as "the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person." Having a specific job title, holding a certification to do certain types of work or attending training does not make you a professional. In other words, being professionally skilled and having a professional attitude are not the same thing. Having both of these traits-being skilled and behaving professionally-are highly desirable traits. Some would call you a top hand.
On the Other Hand
Perhaps the best way to recognize a top hand is to think about the ideal worker, the one you want to work with every day. On the other hand, we often work with people who don't have a professional approach to their work life. We've identified three attitudes you might recognize to help you understand what a professional attitude is not. Do what you can to dodge these attitudes in yourself and others:
Avoid the Know-it-All Attitude
Most workers are skilled and trained to do their jobs. Confidence is an important trait when you are working in your field of expertise, but being arrogant to the point of not listening to reason from other qualified, trained professionals around you can lead to a poor attitude. It's difficult to teach someone when they say, "I know" any time you point out something that could be done differently or better. Each of us can get into the habit of becoming a know-it-all if we don't stop and listen. Then, there's the person who thinks just being on the planet should be enough.
Run from the "I'm Glad You Get to Work with Me" Attitude
Work, by definition, is the use of energy in some form to produce something. We are created to produce and work; building things takes our energy. When we work with someone who seems to have just shown up for a paycheck, it wears us down faster than the work itself. The person with the "I'm glad you get to work with me" attitude comes across as if we should be grateful for their presence!
Give up the "Is Anyone Watching Me" Attitude
We all know people who seem to work hard when the boss is watching yet manage to slum when no one in authority is around. Working with a person who has this attitude can be exasperating, as you never know what to expect; it all depends on who they think is watching.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "It's always the right time to do the right thing." Behaving professionally includes being skilled in the job and having the right attitude.
Three Tips to be a Top Hand
Doing the right thing might mean different things to different people and has a lot to do with your particular role in the organization. Regardless of your assigned job, the following three tips will help you be known as a professional.
1. Always do high-quality work. What defines quality in your area of work? Is it a completed job with no rework required? Is it a neatly organized worksite? Understand what quality is and what it looks like in your work, and then always make that your goal.
2. Be known as a productive contributor. Whether you are a field worker, mechanic or you serve customers directly in your business, make productive work one of your goals. What wastes time or causes work to be redone? Find ways to smooth out the work processes so you and your coworkers efficiently deliver products and services.
3. Focus on safety. Not the least of the three, safety is on the top of every professional's mind. If the work is to be done productively and with high quality, it must be done safely. In some industries, safety processes may take more time than the actual work. Yet, the work itself may be hazardous and lead to injury if the proper precautions are not in place. A professional is always concerned about the safety of everyone involved.
Really Show Up for Success
A professional shows up with the right equipment and the right attitude, ready to get on with work. With a professional mindset that includes quality, productivity and safety, the likelihood that everyone will work safe is high. Isn't that what we all want-a work place where nobody gets hurt?
About the authors: Carl Potter, CSP, CMC, and Deb Potter, Ph.D., CMC, work with organizations that want to create an environment where nobody gets hurt. As advocates of a zero-injury workplace, they are speakers, authors and consultants to industry.