Stop making people hate their jobs

I found the above picture on-line a few years ago (*see below for attribution). I like it because it takes the Daniel Pink autonomy, mastery, purpose recipe for motivation a bit further and puts a really stark emphasis on the outcome of whether those motivating factors are present or not. There is little that makes a message more compelling than love and hate.

I have often shared it in presentations and meetings and asked people where they think safety management lives on the ‘job you love’ or ‘job you hate’ spectrum. The most positive response I have ever had was “maybe on the line.” Once. Every other single response has been quite clearly ‘job you hate’.

It’s become apparent to many of us that health and safety has something of a reputational problem. This picture was on a Christmas Card I was sent a couple of years ago. When popular culture considers your job to be as dumb as this, you clearly have an issue.

But look at how we often manage safety through this motivational lens:


Rules and procedures telling you what to do and a strong focus on compliance, even for trivial matters.


Repeated basic training to meet refresher timetables for people that are highly skilled in the job and do it day in, day out to great effect.


Endless form filling and signatures that do nothing to actually make a job safer.

I am often asked, “My workforce is not engaged enough. How can I better engage them?” This is the wrong question. It is in people’s nature to be interested in how to not kill themselves at work. We have spent millions of years of evolution perfecting automatic responses to avoid death. The question should be, “What are we doing that is disengaging workers?” Then, stop doing it.

Just imagine if we had workers that felt their safety work had a useful purpose, that we gave them some control over their working environment and that we trusted and acknowledged their expertise in their chosen field. When you are introducing a new safety process or activity, or when you’re considering the value of one that you already have, think about it in these terms and maybe you might find all that culture change stuff people keep talking about happens all by itself.

*I don’t know where I found this so I did a search to see if I could attribute it to the originator. I found it used here The Science of Encouraging High Performance ( with a statement sourcing ‘Cortext City’, but a follow-on search for Cortext City didn’t come up with anything, so I’m still none the wiser. If anyone knows where it originated, please let me know and I’ll attribute it.

For access to more in-depth safety thinking, visit our Books page

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,290 other subscribers.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: