A memory popped in my head on my drive in to work this morning that was inspiration for this 
installment.  It was a reflection on how a safety management program I was involved in administrating 
for years, one that I had felt to be strong and getting stronger, and how that strength unraveled in the 
span of what felt like a couple weeks.  Who was involved in eroding the positive work environment is 
secondary to how little effort it took a few people to pulverize the existing cultural capital, and how 
great an effort it takes to not only stop the assault but eventually rebuild.   


In the depths of a feedback loop of workplace negativity (which happens from time to time in this 
business), I take refuge in the countless stories in print, film and in sports about ideas introduced that 
turned an overly negative work environment in culture and productivity into an exciting place to go to 
work where teams accomplished great feats.  The stories typically unfold the same from start to finish, 
but it’s how the idea is built and delivered to the team to gain buy-in, and the resulting rebuild effort 
that piques my interest.  Everyone in the workplace has a stake in the culture, and everyone needs to be 
on board with the plan and play their part if headway will be made. 


When the needle on the culture gauge has dipped into negative territory and the responses within your 
workplace appears to have limited or no effect, it could be time to step outside of the echo chamber.  
Some sources I’ve looked to for insight include my colleagues, columns/blogs/books on workplace 
heath, and from loved ones.  Ideological beliefs and principles, core values or prepackaged strategies of 
management are, at best, meaningful to owners and management as a dollar store compass of sorts to 
navigate broad macro-challenges tied to continual economic growth.  There is real work that needs to 
take place that recognizes the dynamic nature of a workplace cultural health-crisis that a corporate 
mission statement or mantra can’t perform.  


Compelling leadership to your analysis of the damage, and the ideas and/or options to respond 
effectively can be a challenge to put it mildly.  The effort required to prepare a solid case will extend 
outside of business hours as workplace leaders are probably not seeking your contributions on billable 
time.  Having access to safety performance metrics related to your portfolio is an absolute must as they 
are early indicators of cultural rough waters ahead.  If you are not collecting data on safety 
performance, start today, as it is key information for the presentation of objective feedback rather than 
feedback of the emotional or anecdotal variety.   Don’t expect your efforts to deliver a short-term 
rebound or that they will even be accepted in the end.  The energy invested has never been wasted in 
my experience and has manifested in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.