Vaccinating the organization against safety risks


Qi Zhang. Leadership coach and change management consultant. Freelance trainer and marketing manager at InTense.
Some say that the Covid-19 has permanently transformed how we work. When the vaccination finally arrives in the market, what is urgently needed, is some other kind of vaccination against the safety risks that organizations may or may not have noticed. Leaders within the organization nowadays find themselves confronted with two possible syndromes that are threatening the health and safety culture as the foundation for the business operations: a paralyzed workforce or complacency.

Paralyzed workforce

Working from home, multitasking, the fuzzy boundary between work and home space all become our daily setting. Meanwhile, in isolation, the connection within the team, the intimacy, and warmth we used to feel is weakened. If that is not enough, the uncertainties in the market environment make it harder and harder to predict the trend. We noticed that often just when we feel we are making progress, there comes the setback. This kind of one step forward two steps back reality affects our motivation and team spirit. And if left unaddressed, the teams and organization start to feel more and more paralyzed: Less commitment to the goals, declining performance, lowered alertness, and higher health and safety risks. If we look at the CSP model InTense uses to address human behaviour, this paralyzed feeling is directly connected to the over-stretching or, in some cases, even the panic zone. With all the mental and physical consequences …

The leaders, in managing the Covid-19 uncertainties, also find themselves facing a challenging task: recharging their fatigued organizations by actively managing the energy of their workforces, cultivating the quality of relationships, and demonstrating a capacity for resilience.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

Leaders must keep moving to maintain equilibrium, and they also have the opportunity to do more than just “get through” the pandemic and restore for their companies and employees the performance and redefine the work-life they can truly enjoy.


Another syndrome that by nature is very hard to detect for the leaders within the organization is complacency. It can be defined as self-satisfaction, and a sense of security in one’s own abilities, especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. To put it short, complacency is forgetting to be afraid. When the leaders and teams lose the ability to fear, they also lose the risk insights and lose the ability to act. To connect it to the InTense CSP model, complacency connects very well with the ultimate feeling of being in the Comfort-zone.

In real life, safety never really gets fixed, it just gets managed. The better it gets managed, the easier it is for leaders to devote time and attention to business growth. Yet complacency is safety’s worst enemy. It creates a false sense of security and builds a real tolerance for deviations that lead to accidents.

Complacency is the last hurdle standing between any team and its potential greatness.  – Pat Riley, former NBA Coach

So how to detect and address complacency? The best of management is to recognize complacency within yourself, your people, and your organization. The top management is the key, and the supervisor is the first line of defense to fight complacency on the shop floor. Ask yourself the below questions:

  • Is it true your organization has not had any lost time incidents for a long time?
  • Are you satisfied with your current safety performance?
  • Do you think people are aware of the risks in their workplace?
  • Do you feel people are afraid of the danger that can be resulted from those risks?
  • Do you feel in control of the risks identified in your workplace?
  • Is it true that you have not received feedback from your team members for a long time?

If your answer to the questions above is “yes”, then you might need to get suspicious whether complacency is getting a grip on you. If any of your answers are no, then the last question is: Are you taking action if the answers to any of the above questions are “no”?

And if you have not taken actions, you may want to ask yourself WHY? And if you are determined now to take actions, it is the beginning of fighting against complacency.

Building a learning organization The greater the challenge, the greater the opportunities to learn as a team. The best vaccination you can give to your team is an open mind and a growth mindset. The paralyzed task force is a signal that they are overstretched into the panic zone, where the instinctive behaviour takes over to protect and preserve. In that mode, they lose the ability to respond responsibly. A complacent organization, on the other hand, is too much in the comfort zone. They do not feel challenged and are on autopilot and fall collectively blind to the risks and danger. So how to keep an organization in the “learning zone” where they remain alert, humble, creative, and motivated to make continuous improvements to live up to their HSE conviction? 4 areas function as 4 seasons to keep your organization in a self-regulating learning zone.
  1. Get aligned around the organization’s HSE vision and conviction. Let employees know how vital their role is to the overarching current and future goals. Break down the big goals into tangible milestones and sub-goals. Frequent connection to the goals as a team will boost motivation.
  2. Encourage open, honest communication and foster ownership in small teams. Provide employees with an efficient means of communicating with each other and with management. Foster a culture that allows for questions, feedback, and the exchange of differing points of views.
  3. Recognize and reward strong performance. Competent employees with example HSE behavior will become more engaged if they feel valued for the work they are doing. Their colleagues will be inspired to improve if they know they can receive recognition. Cross sharing successes is like the autumn harvest, which prepares the organization to savor their positive changes.
  4. Create a space for reflection. Space for reflection is like quality time out, it nourishes the organization and creates possibilities for learning to integrate. Individuals and teams can benefit from the reflection by evaluating their performances and gaps compare to the set goals, the tops & tips they recognize in each other’s safety leadership behaviors. Readjust their goals for continuous improvement.
Curious about how to build a learning organization with proactive HSE culture and a healthy immune system to fight the safety risks? Enquire more info about the InTense HSE Leadership program (

Over the past 25 years, InTense has trained, coached and guided more than 100,000 employees of companies around the world towards a reinforced mindset regarding safe and healthy work, exemplary behavior and safety leadership.