Why “Ignoring,” As A Consequence, Is So Damaging To An Effective Safety Culture

Why Ignoring, As A Consequence, Is So Damaging To An Effective Safety Culture

Ignoring, intended or unintended, is actually a common form of negative punishment. You might think ignoring employee behaviors is actually withholding a consequence. No such luck. Every response, including ignoring, is a consequence. In fact, ignoring desired behaviors in the workplace is usually the least effective consequence because it leads to extinction of those

behaviors. Think about it. Have you ever been ignored when you thought you should have been recognized? I bet you were upset. And it didn’t matter why you were ignored either: you didn’t like it. So, let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of extinction:

  1. It is the withdrawal of recognition;

2. The worker is ignored and no matter what, desired behavior becomes less frequent. For instance:

  • If workers break safety rules, and a supervisor ignores the non-compliant behaviors, the worker may perceive this as a positive consequence and will less likely behave safely in the future.
  • If workers comply with safety rules and the compliant behaviors are ignored, the workers may perceive it as a negative consequence, and they will be more likely to break safety rules in the future.

3. Workers eventually perform without an expectation of recognition.

4. No relationship with management exists.

5. It is the most common form of consequence in the workplace – It’s epidemic in organizations.

6. Examples of the thoughts and beliefs produced when people are ignored include:

  • “It doesn’t matter how hard I work around here.”
  • “Apathy is rampant, but who cares.”

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