•Drift and weak signals (clues to potential incidents) are often hidden. Even when known, strong sociocultural barriers prevent people from talking about them.
•This article explores research that supports the need to encourage, equip and coach managers and supervisors on the art of conversation with their employees as the most influential form of communication.
•The research areas include social neuroscience, relationship psychology, complexity, drift, weak signals, information management through relational coordination, and the role of leaders in managing and influencing behavior. The authors combine these concepts into a direct approach to managing the human/organizational factors of safety performance.
During the authors’ many years of work to improve safety, they have interviewed hundreds of employees from all levels in many organizations. Yet, one interaction in particular stands out. After a fatality at a Georgia plant, a large group of employees and supervisors gathered to provide insight into the incident’s root causes. Despite being pushed to identify other possibilities, they remained adamant that the root cause was a lack of trust and open communication. The group reported that it had long tried to bring the potential dangers of that situation to management, but “they just didn’t listen.”
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