What does social safety mean to you? That turns out to be a more difficult question than expected, because social safety is a broad term. Together with John Piarelal, who works for the ESHPM Education Service Centre, we discussed positive and negative experiences on the shop floor. In this way, we discover the steps forward together.
Reading time: 4 minutes
To me, social safety is mainly about being seen, about people knowing who you are and that you dare to say what you have to say. To John, the answer lies primarily in the informal contacts that people have with each other. "You can’t know everyone these days. There are so many employees now. It’s important that you are open to other people. To me, the best place for that is next to the coffee machine. Always introduce yourself. Who are you? How can we help each other? Individually, we cannot be the social cement. We can only make people feel welcome together."
Scope for improvement
"I don’t yet have the feeling that everything is arranged all that well. I don’t always dare to come out with what I have to say. I don’t feel completely safe yet." John has had a difficult time in the past, in which he was not sufficiently well heard. ‘I was close to a burn-out. At the time, when I reported that to my manager, I was told: 'With your type of work, you can’t possibly be close to a burn-out.' I was shocked by that response and after that, I ignored my own complaints. As a result, my performance became worse and worse." Despite the indications from his GP and care providers, John was not taken seriously enough. And because he was already so exhausted, he did not have the energy for a fight.
Now that he has recovered, John intends to try and always say what he thinks and believes. Situations similar to his still often arise with colleagues. "I see it all around me. People end up in similar situations. People listen, but a good solution isn’t provided for. I hope that this pattern can be broken. Changes are coming, with new people, so also new opportunities."
“With your type of work, you can’t possibly be close to a burn-out”
There are many people in the department who work hard, but John never had the feeling that he couldn't disturb them. It is counterintuitive. "I prefer a closed door to an open door. I know that I can knock on a closed door. At an open door, I'm wondering, is this really open? This shows that clear boundaries with clear instructions can actually create greater accessibility, because what you should do is clear right away."
"They see you and you're accepted, despite your situation"
Making a contribution
Everyone contributes to social safety. For John, it is important that people make contact with each other in the organisation. "Go and see each other if you are on the campus. Don’t try to do everything online, but walk over to each other. In that way, you can start a conversation more easily."
It is also important to ask follow-up questions and seek help right away if you run into problems. If you are not sure who to ask, HR can always help. John hopes that if problems are raised, they will immediately be taken seriously. "If I raise something now, it's often treated as baggage from the past. As an old grudge. And then I always think, you always carry experiences from your past." And you can also spot things in good time. Sometimes problems return, because they weren't solved properly the first time round. Asking follow-up questions first, before we start labelling people, makes sure that no one is disqualified. ESHPM will become a socially safer place if we can discuss things openly together.