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May 2020 – Question of the Month

May 13, 2020 - By Wendy Lambourne, Director, MA Industrial and Organisation Psychology, Registered Psychologist with SA Medical & Dental Council

Question of the Month: We have set the rules for social distancing, communicated them and the Why behind them. People have been given the means to comply but some still don’t do so. We have been “nice” about it, reminding people over and over, but in some instances, to no avail. Should we now sanction the transgressors – maybe even fire those who won’t adhere to the social distancing protocols?

 

Answer: Social distancing is no different from any other behavioural standard and will not be adhered to unless all seven requirements below are met:

  1. Role model – everyone in a leadership role needs to provide the example for others to follow.
  2. Define – the standard needs to be simple, clear and exact.
  3. Communicate – the standard needs to be communicated especially the Why (keep everyone safe), and preferably face-to-face.
  4. Understand – the “means” and “ability” needed to comply.
  5. Provide the means – the sanitisers, the demarcations of 2m, the facemasks and so on.
  6. Ability – there is no skill involved but the Why has to be in the people’s best interests.
  7. Hold people accountable against the standard for their intent:
  • Discipline for deliberate malevolence (for reasons of justice), bearing in mind that at some point repeated carelessness should be treated as malevolence.
  • Censure for carelessness (to stop careless and encourage careful).
  • Praise for careful (thank those who comply – it is only good manners).
  • Reward for extra mile (holding others to account as well as demonstrating excellence – it is only fair).

It would appear in this case that the first six requirements have been satisfied and now it is time for accountability, BUT:

  • Make sure there is both positive and negative accountability.
  • Consult with respect to the appropriate sanction – although ultimately only you can decide. Ensure the sanction is neither too harsh nor too lenient.
  • Communicate in advance what the consequence will be so that there are no surprises.
  • Stay firm in the face of kickback, if it arises. Show that you are serious about the standard.
  • Remember that your intention is to save lives.
Wendy Lambourne
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