dial to shift your mind from crisis mode to opportunity mode; attitude is important during covid re-entry

Complainer, spectator and champion attitudes: Coping with Covid Re-Entry

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Having the right attitude for safety can be a challenge, particularly as we get back to work during the COVID era. Not only are people stressed out about COVID, but work activities may also seem less consequential than normal with constant news about COVID deaths and sinking economies. Here is a model for assessing attitudes that may be useful for honest self-appraisal and for influencing others. Attitudes can be classified as Complainers, Spectators, and Champions (adapted from Yanna, 1996). Leaders can use this information to positively influence employee attitudes for COVID re-entry.

Types of attitudes to COVID re-entry:

  • Complainers usually voice safety concerns to express displeasure, not to make improvements. They often direct complaints to other employees instead of EHS or supervisors who have the power to make changes. They also believe other people cause their problems and change is inherently bad. This leads to feelings of anger, resentment, doubt, frustration, and fear. 
  • Spectators rarely discuss safety concerns, as they believe their actions will have little effect on the company. As a result, they seldom get involved in safety efforts. Spectators typically believe other people will solve important problems, change is unnecessary, most situations are “no big deal,” and people have minimal control over their lives. As a result, Spectators often feel uninspired, detached, unemotional, and indifferent.
  • Champions normally express safety concerns constructively and work effectively with others to make improvements. Champions believe problems create opportunities for change, change is a sign of growth, and people control their own lives. They also deal with negative aspects of the company in a reasonable, mature fashion. This leads to feelings of confidence, happiness, contentment, personal control, and optimism. 

The good news is we can change our own attitude mindsets and, in many cases, influence the attitudes of others. So, complainers can become champions (and vice-versa).

In general, effective safety leaders use the following techniques to try and move employees from complainers to champions:

  • Own up to past organizational mistakes and look to the future to make improvements.
  • Treat mistakes as learning opportunities, not occasions to punish.
  • Solicit input from employees about safety concerns and respond to these concerns in a timely manner.
  • Create opportunities for employees to get involved in safety initiatives. 
  • Encourage discussions between and within organizational levels.
  • Increase the frequency and quality of one-on-one conversations.
  • Treat employees fairly and respectfully.
  • Consider how you can improve your own safety attitudes to lead employees.

During this COVID era, these guidelines are even more important. In particular, leaders need to increase the quality of genuine, one-on-one conversations with employees (at a safe distance). It’s imperative leaders check in regularly with employees to see how they’re doing and ask what they can do to help. This actively caring leadership style will help convert some of your complainers and spectators into champions for safety both during and after this crisis. 

At Propulo, we can help you develop strategies for smart COVID-19 re-entry that is effective now and sustainable in the future. 


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