carefulness at work

By Marc Resnick

I recently read an article with an interesting finding on the different influences of coworkers and supervisors on employee behavior when it comes to things like safety (and probably other metrics like quality, et al).  It turns out that how careful you are is determined by how careful your co-workers are, but not on the behavior of your supervisor.  On the other hand, your compliance with official rules and regulations is determined by your supervisor’s attitudes, but not the attitudes of your co-workers.  So peer pressure is good for carefulness but not compliance.  Command and control is good for compliance but not carefulness.

So how do we use this difference in Engineering Management? Well, what is the performance metric you are trying in influence?  Carefulness seems to have an intrinsic motivation.  You are careful when you WANT to be.  Peer pressure influences this amount of WANT because you one of your wants is that you want to be accepted by your peers.  So you do what they do.  But unless you want to be buddies with your supervisor, there is no similar influence.

But compliance seems to have an extrinsic motivation.  You comply when you HAVE to be.  When you have a fear of getting caught not complying.  Since peer behavior doesn’t affect whether you personally would get caught, it has no effect.  But supervisors who are stricter than others certainty do affect whether you get caught and what the penalty will be.  So you do what the supervisor wants you to do.

Let’s generalize for a moment.  What about other behaviors we want to encourage or discourage.  Attention to quality.  Attention to 5S.  Attention to hygiene.  We can predetermine what the motivation for the behavior will be.  Is it fitting in with coworkers or is it fear of getting caught doing something that is more likely to be most influential?  This is how you can plan your incentive/motivation plan.

Clever, or am I just making this up?