Joe Exotic: Not the name that first springs to mind when it comes to EHS wisdom.
However, insight can come from the strangest of places, and if the mulleted, big-cat loving, bombastic star of the Netflix sensation “Tiger King” can teach EHS professionals anything… it’s what not to do.
Read on to discover some common counterproductive EHS practices out in the wild, and how to avoid them, all uniquely illustrated by the one and only Joe Exotic.
Quarreling with other departments or stakeholders
Conflict and pushback can sometimes go hand-in-hand with implementing and enforcing EHS standards. Even if you’re on the same team, friction with other departments or management can lead to some ruffled feathers. Those disputes, if left unchecked, could potentially cause some trouble down the line for the safety culture of your organization. Quarrels have a subtle way of building up -- just look at the rivalry between Joe Exotic and fellow tiger mogul Carole Baskin. Both devoted their lives to big cats, both had big personalities and wild pasts. Even with a common goal of preserving exotic animals, they let their conflict build to the point where it uprooted both of their lives and landed Joe in prison. Even though your workplace conflict will almost certainly never reach the point of arson accusations or hiring hitmen, it’s worth addressing any conflict head-on, with empathy for the other party and a focus on your shared mission. Even though it’s not always easy, taking the time to communicate and work through issues is necessary for building a resilient safety culture throughout your organization. As one example, upper management may not always be immediately responsive to the finer points of EHS essentials, but bridging the gap through illustrative data and in-depth reporting technology can help. Plus, everyone stays out of jail!
Losing focus of the things that need your attention
We were this close to President Joe Exotic. In 2016, Joe attempted to run for the highest office in America. Ambition is great, but in this case, running for president cost Joe some valuable focus when he needed it most. The tigers in his animal park ended up severely mistreated, his finances took a nosedive, and his rivalry with Carole Baskin grew beyond his control. The lesson here? Set your sights on one thing at a time. That may be a tall order for EHS professionals, who often have to juggle work on multiple fronts, but the distributed nature of EHS work means it’s doubly important to not let your attention spread too thin. Visualizing, strategizing and planning aren’t just buzzwords when it comes to setting and achieving EHS goals -- together, they are proven methods to make sure your initiatives don’t get lost in the shuffle.
Taking shortcuts and failing to adhere to compliance regulations
We get it. Maintaining full compliance is notoriously demanding for EHS professionals. You’re often managing at a distance. What’s more, you’re not only expected to achieve full compliance but to maintain it. Full compliance is a big ask, and it can be tempting to abandon that lofty goal in favor of some occasional skirting of regulatory corners. The trouble is, complacency can be a slippery slope. Ask the Tiger King; he surely didn’t plan on the animal mistreatment, the hired killers and a two-decade prison stay. These things sort of sneak up on you. Taking half-steps and shortcuts isn’t a sustainable strategy when it can so easily become a habit. You don’t want to be sweating out a compliance audit wondering how things got so bad.
The truth is that 100% compliance is a myth -- something to aspire toward but not necessarily achieve. Setting more realistic and achievable compliance goals can help renew your motivation, improve your team morale, and bolster your compliance efforts.
On the Hunt for Better EHS Practices?
We wouldn’t suggest hiring Joe Exotic as your EHS coach. But we would encourage you to learn from the mistakes of kooky characters like Joe, Homer Simpson and Clark Griswold as you refine your own program.
Sometimes knowing what not to do is equally as valuable as knowing what to do.
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