The construction superintendent growled. Muttered cuss words under his breath.
Translation “Get lost. I don’t have time for this.”
“This” were the safety concerns two of his crew members had told me about. One crew member had already left. If the foreman figured out who had called me, that employee wouldn’t have long on this project.
The construction foreman and I shared a lot in common. We both cared about work. We both gave our jobs everything we had.
One crucial difference. I place people first, knowing there might be job consequences. Deadlines missed.
Placing people first means ensuring safety. Because who cares about a deadline if it costs life?
Fortunately I worked directly with the owners, who believed in safety and truly didn’t know some of the top performers under them cut multiple safety corners to meet performance expectations. The answer: communication. The owners called an “all hands” meeting and clarified — when there’s a conflict between safety and production — safety wins.
If the reports about how managers and supervisors spoke to employees when a catastrophic tornado approached are true, what happened at the Mayfield Candle Factory serves as a horrific object lesson for managers and supervisors who forget that people and safety come first.
Allegedly, fifteen employees beseeched managers to allow them to take shelter at their own homes when word concerning the coming storm spread, only to be warned by three or more managers they’d be fired if they left their shifts early.1, 2
According to reports given NBC, “workers were on the line until the sirens went off, just minutes before the tornado ripped the building apart.”1
Eight employees died. The factory was leveled.
Company officials denied the employee allegations.
I don’t know if the four employees who spoke to the media told the truth. I suspect they might have. Because sometimes managers forget that people and safety come first.
If you liked this post, you’ll like the real stories in Managing for Accountability, https://bit.ly/3CTFTKVBusiness Expert Press, 2021. Because managers have to show accountability if they expect employees to do so. Here’s a 70-second video,
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