The Energy/Attitude Dynamic in Safety Culture Development

The Energy/Attitude Dynamic in Safety Culture Development | Call to Action!“No one wants to work in an unsafe environment, right? Everyone wants to go home the same way they came in to work. So why is it so hard to get people to get with the program?”

These questions were posed to me by an HSE professional tasked with safety culture development in his organization. As I thought about it, I was reminded of a model created by my partner, Claude Lineberry.

We were consulting partners, working to help companies introduce strategic change. Our clients had well-founded strategies and programs, and the end results were going to make the companies more effective and even better places to work.  Yet, in addition to the strong support we were getting, there was still halfhearted acceptance and outright resistance.

The Energy Investment Model and Safety Culture Development

Claude thought about the people who face change and realized that how they dealt with it depended upon their attitude about the change and the amount of energy they were willing to invest in that attitude. Based on that, he developed the Energy Investment Model to help guide organizations in dealing effectively with stakeholders when planning change or when undertaking safety culture development.

energy investment model for safety culture changeI will address each of the quadrants more fully in subsequent articles, but for now we’ll just take a stroll through the neighborhoods and introduce you to their inhabitants.

Walking Dead

In the lower left quadrant are people who have negative attitudes toward the planned change (and usually anything else going on in the organization), but very little energy to act on their attitude. They may moan a bit, sigh and shake their heads, but they are not active resisters. These folk have basically retired in place, and Claude named them the “Walking Dead.”


The neighbors to the north, the “Spectators,” are the proverbial “yes men” who talk so highly about the announced change, but take no active part in making it happen. They are all in favor of safety culture development, as long as it’s driven by someone else. They are happy to watch things unfold from their seats on the fence.  50 things you must know about safety leadership

Well Poisoners

In the lower right we find the folks with negative attitudes, but lots of energy to act on that attitude. Their conversations tend to be about why what’s being proposed will never work. They will go into minutiae about the smallest details and find fault with each one of them. They are happy to revisit every failed initiative and recap why they failed, and how they knew they were going to fail, but did anyone ask them? Oh, no. These are the cynics or, in the extreme cases, the “Well Poisoners.”


In the northeast corner, we find the “Players” (or winners) who have positive attitudes and the energy to match. These are not naive Pollyannas or starry-eyed newbies. These are folks who see the benefits of what the organization is trying to accomplish in terms of safety culture development, and are willing to invest their discretionary effort to help make it happen. The words you’ll hear most from these folks are “yes,” “we” and “us.”

fctc-online-bannerIn the next few articles I will cover each of these types in detail and offer some ideas on how to move the other three types toward the upper right hand quadrant, and how to maintain the Players’ energy and attitude.

~Gene Drumm

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About the Author

safetyBUILT-IN is the safety-leadership learning and development division of SCInc. We believe sustainable safety performance is best achieved through a core-values based safety culture, and that culture must be driven by leadership. Our safety-leadership programs are competency-based, and focused on performance outcomes. We believe in building capability and ownership into our client organizations—as well as sustainability into our programs—so that our clients can continue running those programs long after we’re out of the picture. Our emphasis is on building better leadership presence, better leadership communication and better leadership coaching by first building relationships of trust with people and learning how to engage them on the level of their core values and beliefs.