People do things they know they shouldn’t because there’s often a very strong need in us to conform to social influence. We’re subject to these influences before we’re even born and it’s very difficult to maintain a different view or course of action if we feel we’ll be judged unfavourably.

All through our lives we’re programmed by a need to fit in. When you’re an infant if you don’t get the social stuff right early on you risk not getting looked after long enough to be able to fend for yourself.

We also feel the need to be valued by others. When that’s missing we struggle to build self esteem, and despite achievements people still feel inadequate because socially they’ve never felt part of the ‘in-crowd’.

How far does this go?

We all know how important first impressions are and I’m sure you’ve taken some time to deliberate over clothing at some point (even you guys). But would you actually go against your own view of something you think is right? Would you change your view just to fit in with someone else?

Research shows we will do this if we feel enough social pressure – take a look at this YouTube video. Ever found yourself in this position?

Still sure you’d stick to your guns even when someone has a different view to yours? Of course you might say it depends on who it is. There are some people you might not agree with but don’t want to antagonise with your opposing opinion.

At the supermarket recently, a lady in front of me began a rant about her husband being out of work because of too many Polish people in the area. She was loud and believed every word she said, which made the poor cashier look very uncomfortable. She just nodded and smiled, rushing the loud women’s items through before breathing a sigh of relief when she left. Afterwards the cashier immediately said to me “I’m not racist, I hope you don’t think I agree with her – I just didn’t know what to do”. Part of learning how to cope in social situations is being able to acknowledge the views of others while maintaining your own and not feeling inferior.
Wooden pegs and holes game
Lone contractors work alongside full-time employees and they’re very often seen as the most difficult group to manage. Why is this? Well they’re under competing influences that might not all be about working safely. A strong induction message from the foreman with clear expectations helps set the cultural tone, but all too often inductions are rushed or missing all together. As is supervision, so as soon as they start to work in the vicinity of others stronger forces come into play.

Contractors soon succumb to pressure to rush the job. Seeing how people around them work, they don’t want to hold things up so they cut corners they know they shouldn’t. Or they might not wear PPE either because others say it’s not needed. They do this to conform and fit in. Often they can’t leave until they’re done as well, and there’s no one around to tell and you don’t ‘dob people in’ do you?

So how can we get people to follow company rules which might be more rigorous than those on other sites? Education is key. So that lone contractors fully understand the consequences of not following expected working practices. Both in terms of disciplinary action, but more importantly the injuries they could sustain.

People need to have a level of expertise and professionalism that means they feel confident enough to stand their ground when others question their methods. Talking through these situations as part of training can also help bring them out into the open.

With the right empowerment, contractors start to see themselves as champions and want to have a good influence on others by doing things the right way. As the video proves, as soon as one person sticks to their guns others feel they can too, and their behaviour influences everyone until the norm is to ‘do the right thing’.