We regularly publish articles and content aimed to inspire, educate and inform our clients and the broader community.

Some of our current Articles are listed below and you can find many more on our LinkedIn page. If you would like to see articles on a particular topic please Contact Us. If you would like to contribute to the conversation you can join us over at the Care Factor Community


"Zero Tolerance" versus "Harm Minimisation": Time for HSE to shift its Mindset?

By Clive Lloyd
Principal Consultant at GYST Consulting Pty Ltd

Prior to being dragged kicking and screaming into the field of health and safety some 20 years ago, my specialist area was the treatment of addictions. Treatment efficacy of the addictions was also my area of post-graduate research and I published several articles and book chapters in the area (e.g., Lloyd and O'Callaghan, 1999). Back then, successive Governments had pushed a "Zero Tolerance" approach to drug use, going as far as declaring a "war on drugs".

While taking such a hard line on illicit substance use was (potentially) a vote-winner among an electorate largely ignorant of the vagaries of addiction, there was a strong lack of evidence that such policies were in fact effective. Rather, they tended to drive "offenders" underground and fill up prison cells with little or no improvement in addiction rates or the resulting harm.

My research (and that of many others - then and subsequently) demonstrated that a "harm minimisation" approach was more effective for treatment outcomes. A harm minimisation approach understands relapse is a normal part of recovery, and seeks to mitigate risks and potential harm collaboratively with patients.

When I moved into the area of health and safety, I was once again confronted by "Zero Tolerance" language (Zero Harm, Zero Incidents etc). Again, there is little (if any) research demonstrating that this approach is effective. However, there are studies demonstrating (perhaps counter-intuitively) that a goal of "Zero Incidents" is associated with higher levels of serious injuries and fatalities (e.g.,Sherratt & Dainty, 2017).

Research suggests that when a Zero Tolerance approach is present, it can result in organisations becoming intolerant of incidents, with the unfortunate side-effect of impeding honest reporting and subsequent learning.

By adopting a "harm minimisation" approach, we are more able to work collaboratively with teams without inferred retribution after (for example) mistakes or deviations from normal work (which are common and to be expected).

Zero tolerance has not been an effective approach to reducing harm from substance abuse. Neither, in my view, is it an effective strategy to reduce physical and psycho-social injuries in the workplace.

While Governments, company boards and executives may still see a certain political appeal in continuing a "war on injuries" based on a zero tolerance approach, I believe we would do better to be steered by the evidence and start developing harm minimisation strategies, in collaboration with the very people likely to benefit most from it - the frontline workforce.


Sherratt, F., & Dainty, A. (2017). UK construction safety: a zero paradox? Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 15(2), 108–116. doi: 10.1080/14773996.2017.1305040.

Lloyd C., & O'Callaghan, F. (1999). HierarchicalTherapeutic Communities: The Jewel in the Crown or the poor relation among treatment approaches to chronic addiction.


Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist who assists high-hazard organisations to improve their safety performance through the development of trust and psychological safety and by doing Safety Differently. He is the co-director and principal consultant of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.



Creating Psychological Safety: Moving Beyond the Fruit Bowl!

By Clive Lloyd
Principal Consultant at GYST Consulting Pty Ltd

[Note: A condensed version of this article was first published in SafeGuard Magazine in December 2021].

“You can’t fix a secret!”

October was “Safe Work Month”, and, as usual, I received many requests from companies wanting me to deliver sessions on creating a culture of wellbeing and psychological safety.  One such request came from the Group Head of Safety with a global mining company.

She wanted me to facilitate a series of webinars about creating psychological safety for leaders and employees, which is the type of work I do routinely.  As I described the content I would deliver, the head of safety asked me if I could possibly “couch” my language, as she was concerned her managers would be uncomfortable with what I was saying.  I pointed out that she was seeking to manage (indeed, micromanage) my messages in a session about psychological safety, yet the irony seemed lost on her – she was so focussed on (and anxious about) the anticipated reaction from her managers, she could not seem to grasp the absurdity inherent in her wish to dilute the core messages.  Indeed, she actually suggested she could be fired if the session went ahead!  While I felt a degree of compassion for the fearful Head of Safety, I was not about to enable a toxic culture by complying with a directive to wear kid gloves for the benefit of an autocratic leadership team.

“A policy can’t make it safe to speak up!”

And here’s the challenge! Most companies want a culture in which people are willing to speak up, report hazards and near misses. Yet all too few create the psychological safety and trust required for such behaviours to become the unequivocal norm. Leaders may, for example, have an “open door” policy, yet that will count for nothing if people are too afraid to walk through it!

Some companies seek to tick a few boxes to demonstrate they are promoting employee wellbeing (fruit bowls in the kitchen, discounts on gym memberships etc.), yet ignore the very things that are essential to creating a climate of health, safety and wellbeing – trust, psychological safety and the subsequent willingness of employees to speak up.  The group safety manager described above wanted to tick the “psychological safety” box, but was terrified that actually examining psychological safety within her workplace could result in her being fired by a management team who didn’t want to hear anything that may result in them feeling challenged or uncomfortable.  You can’t fix a secret!

“You can blame or you can learn, you can’t do both”

When companies (directly or indirectly) inhibit the sharing of ‘bad news’, learning will always be inhibited. Leaders that “shoot the messenger” are promoting a blame culture (“people are the problem”) rather than a learning culture, and over time this can become entrenched via a self-fulfilling prophecy that I call “the fear loop” (see figure 1. below).

Figure 1: The Fear Loop (Lloyd, 2021)

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Leaders in such immature cultures tend to see their people as a problem to be solved.  In a recent workshop for frontline supervisors, I asked the group “why do we have incidents at work?” One of the supervisors responded “Because they’re just bloody stupid!” No doubt the “stupid” workers would receive the requisite punishment which would serve as a lesson to them and their colleagues.  The next time there is a near miss or an actual incident, it is highly unlikely such events will be reported.

Moreover, if the limit of our incident analysis is “they are stupid”, we are just waiting for the next stupid person to get hurt in the same way.  There is no depth of learning about system issues, why the behaviour made sense, or any other contextual factors.  As long as our fundamental assumptions are about the “problem behaviours” of our people, there can be no learning and we are doomed to repeat the pattern outlined in the fear loop, crushing trust, destroying psychological safety and ensuring our people remain silent. Without trust, it is almost impossible to get reliable and timely information, especially if someone has made a mistake.

“Behaviours are not the problem; behaviours are expressions of the problem”

More mature leaders recognise that behaviours per se are not the problem, however, behaviours can point to system issues and other opportunities for improving the safety of work (how does the system encourage or enable such behaviour? Why does that behaviour make sense? etc.).

Rather than being driven by a fundamental assumption that people are the problem, they see their people as the solution.  When framing our teams in this way, it makes sense we will engage with them more frequently, ask them questions (humble enquiry) and involve them in identifying solutions, as well as challenges.  Over time, teams learn their opinions are valuable, that they can share challenges, ideas and ‘bad news’, building a sense of ownership, control over their work and psychological safety.  This approach, when applied consistently, can also become entrenched via a self-fulfilling prophecy that I call “the trust loop” (see figure 2. below).

Figure 2: The Trust Loop (Lloyd, 2021)

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“Trust arrives on foot but leaves on horseback” – Dutch Proverb

The companies I work with that have been successful in developing cultural maturity have been those whose leaders focus on relationships rather than rules and enforced compliance – they engage with their people, building psychological safety and trust.

A plethora of studies have identified trust as a key predictor of safety performance and an essential component of proactive safety cultures. Specifically, findings from these studies show that trust in management can increase employee engagement in safety behaviours and reduce the rates of accidents. Conversely, other studies noted that mistrust is associated with diminished personal responsibility for safety and increased injury rates (Lloyd, 2021).

In short, trust is the primary currency for leaders. Without it, nothing else you do will make much difference.  A fruit bowl is very nice, yet such gestures, however well-intended, can never be a substitute for the consistent efforts leaders need to make to create and sustain trust within their teams.


Lloyd, C. F. (2021). Next Generation Safety Leadership: From Compliance to Care. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.


Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist who assists high-hazard organisations to improve their safety performance through the development of trust and psychological safety and by doing Safety Differently. He is the co-director and principal consultant of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.

The Journey From Compliance to Care: How Mature is your Safety Climate?

By Clive Lloyd
Principal Consultant at GYST Consulting Pty Ltd
Developer of the Care Factor Program


The Journey From Compliance to Care: How Mature is your Safety Climate?

The following article aims to provide the reader with a clear picture of the key characteristics associated with various levels of safety climate maturity. It is an edited excerpt from Chapter 1 of my new book, "Next Generation Safety Leadership: From Compliance to Care" which can be purchased as a hardback or (Kindle) e-book here.

My experience, as well as the research, tells me that where fear among team members is high, trust and psychological safety will be low (often indicated by an employee’s reluctance to speak up). Conversely, in a high trust culture, such fears are no longer present and people feel free to share their concerns and ideas. As Edmondson (2019) warns, “no twenty-first century organization can afford to have a culture of fear” (p. xix).

Similar observations were shared by Professor Patrick Hudson, who identifed increasing levels of trust as an indicator of maturity in his Five Levels of Safety Culture Model (Hudson, 1999, 2001). The original model is now almost 20 years old, and while there have been a number of variations to this framework over the years (including by the Keil Centre which used slightly different terminology to describe its Safety Culture Maturity Model), I found it useful to propose a revised version of Hudson’s original model that draws upon more current research, and with a particular focus on the social–psychological aspects of safety culture development. 

The revised model is presented below.

In Hudson’s original model, the levels were drawn as separate, discrete entities, suggesting that a company is at one level or it’s not. The revised model shows level progression more as a journey, including the inevitable ups and downs encountered along the way.

Hudson’s model also listed an increasingly informed workforce as an indication of progress; however, that still infers top-down, one-way communication. I have revised that to an increasing flow of authentic information, which points to the fact that leaders of more mature cultures don’t merely keep their employees well informed – rather they are also well informed by their employees – indicating genuine two-way communication. In order for a team to feel comfortable speaking up, psychological safety must be present; hence it has also been added to the model.

Finally, the essence of the revised model depicts a journey from compliance to care, and illustrating what that means is the central theme of my recent book.

Brief descriptions of each level’s basic attributes are presented below:

Level 1 – Apathetic

In apathetic cultures, management adopts a ‘blame the worker’ approach in that incidents are generally seen as a result of a worker’s stupidity, inattention or willful violation. ‘Being safe’ is primarily viewed as mechanically following procedures and adhering to regulations, with the safety department deemed responsible for ‘policing’ such compliance. This creates a perception that safety is somehow distinct from day-to-day operations, which conveniently negates any need for visible, felt safety leadership from outside the safety team. In apathetic cultures, many incidents are seen as unavoidable and just part of the job (“sh#t happens!”).

Communication between management and the workforce largely consists of top-down parent-to-child interactions, and 'us versus them' language is highly prevalent. As a result, management is often perceived to be uncaring, and trust levels are low (incidentally, much of the above is experienced by contractors when working with client organizations that operate within apathetic and reactive cultures, partly explaining why incident rates among contractors are so high).

Level 2 – Reactive

At the reactive level, safety is a priority ... after an incident! Senior managers may apply elements of behavior-based approaches (e.g., punishment) when incident rates increase and may operate under the errant assumption that the majority of incidents are solely caused by the unsafe behavior of front-line staff. Hence, among the workforce there is still a degree of fear around reporting incidents, and secrets are often kept from management, impeding the authentic flow of potentially vital information. Unsurprisingly then, reactive organizations tend to have more than their share of serious incidents (Hudson, 2001).

Level 3 – Involving

Companies operating at the involving level recognize that the active participation of the workforce in safety discussions is important; hence teams are invited in to contribute. Consequently, as trust and psychological safety increase, employees become more willing to work with management to improve health and safety. Moreover, leaders are now prepared to concede that a wide range of factors cause incidents including management decisions. Safety performance is actively monitored, and the data is used purposefully. The organization has developed systems to assist with hazard management; however, the systems are often rigidly applied (Hudson, 2001).

Level 4 – Proactive

At the proactive level, the majority of employees in the organization believe that health and safety is important from both an ethical and economic point of view. Leaders and staff recognize that a wide range of factors cause incidents and the root causes are likely to come back to management decisions (Hudson, 2001). There is a growing recognition around the importance of all employees feeling valued and being treated respectfully, which helps build trust and psychological safety. The 'us versus them' language associated with less mature levels is replaced by we, and communication between management and the workforce increasingly consists of two-way adult-to-adult interactions. The organization puts significant effort into proactive measures to prevent incidents through visible, felt safety leadership and by demonstrating genuine care for its people. Safety systems are designed to support staff, not the other way around.

Level 5 – Integrated

At the integrated level, leaders have fully invited their teams in, as they are seen as the subject matter experts. Leaders have created the climate necessary (high trust and psychological safety) for the workforce to accept responsibility for managing their own risks.

Safety is not viewed as ‘separate’ from the work done – safety is just how the organization does business, and the focus is on reliability, learning and doing work well. While such organizations may have had a sustained period (often years) without a recordable or high potential incident, there is no feeling of complacency. They live with the knowledge that their next incident is just around the corner, yet they are highly resilient when dealing with challenges (Hudson, 2001). The organization uses a range of indicators to monitor performance, but it is not performance driven, as it has trust in its people and processes. As a learning organization, it is constantly striving to improve and find better ways to design and implement hazard control mechanisms with the full involvement of the workforce (Hudson, 2001).

Reflection Questions

At which level(s) do you believe your team is currently operating?

Do you believe your leaders and team members would agree on the current level of maturity? If not, why?

What are three things that need to change in order to progress to the next level of maturity?


Edmondson, A. (2019). The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Hudson, P. (1999). Safety Culture – Theory and Practice. The Netherlands: Centre for Safety Science, Universiteit Leiden.

Hudson, P. (2001). Safety management and safety culture: The long, hard and winding road. In: Pearse, W., Gallagher, C., & Bluff, L. (eds.), Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. Melbourne, VIC: Crown Content, 3–32.


Read more about proactive ways to improve safety climate maturity in my new book, "Next Generation Safety Leadership: From Compliance to Care" which can be purchased as a hardback or (Kindle) e-book here.

Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist who assists high-hazard organisations to improve their safety performance through the development of trust and psychological safety and by doing Safety Differently. He is the co-director and principal consultant of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.

Reducing Incidents by Managing Unconscious Drift

By Clive Lloyd
Principal Consultant at GYST Consulting Pty Ltd
Developer of the Care Factor Program


Reducing Incidents by Managing Unconscious Drift

In my experience there is almost always a gap between how leaders imagine their teams go about completing tasks, and how the tasks are ACTUALLY performed by the teams.  This disparity evolves over time - usually unconsciously - and is actually a fairly normal and common occurrence sometimes referred to as drift.

The human propensity for type 1 (unconscious) thinking means we tend to seek out the path of least resistance - indeed, our brains are largely wired for this. The resulting drift is not necessarily a bad thing, as we may discover more expedient ways to perform and complete tasks, while expending less cognitive effort.

The problem is, where this gap exists, our risk mitigation processes, for example, Job Hazard Analysis tools (JHAs) based on “work as imagined” are no longer appropriate for drift-affected “work as done”. I believe that many incidents occur due to this unmanaged gap, and the larger the gap, the potential for more (and more severe) incidents increases.

Of course, after an incident, the subsequent investigations will likely identify the gap, and (more often than not) put the blame squarely on the “offender” for "violating" safe work practices. Given that drift is a natural process, such a retributive reaction makes little sense, and only serves to further exacerbate the problem.

We can blame or we can learn!

Wouldn’t it be better if we had processes whereby we could readily identify emerging gaps, and then learn why the drift made sense, and adjust the JHA to suit? This can be done by performing regular analyses of “work as done” versus “work as imagined” with the full involvement of the work teams.

Of course, to make this process meaningful, useful and authentic, leaders will need to have created Psychological Safety within their teams, otherwise team members may be reluctant to disclose any known drift due to fear of negative consequences.

Where the teams trust their leaders, and know there will be no punishment for drifting from specified procedures, learning can occur.  The result can be a modified JHA for a more expedient work method, or a better understanding of why drift occurred and what can be done to better manage it.

Regularly “minding the gap” in this way can enable leaders and work teams to identify unmanaged drift BEFORE an incident, rather than the dreadful alternative.

Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist who assists high-hazard organisations to improve their safety performance through the development of trust and psychological safety and by doing Safety Differently. He is the co-director and principal consultant of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.

Building Engagement and Facilitation skills in your Leaders

By Clive Lloyd
Principal Consultant at GYST Consulting Pty Ltd
Developer of the Care Factor Program


“Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it.” –Timothy R. Clark 


Whether it is a manager seeking to create enthusiasm for significant organisational change, a trainer with a goal of educating the workforce, or a supervisor running a toolbox talk, sound engagement and facilitation skills are vital if a message is to heard, accepted and internalised.


As a company that assists our client organisations to create psychological safety, well being and mentally healthy workplaces, our people have to be able to create engagement and rapport in a relatively short time, and have mastery over facilitation skills to ensure the learnings are internalised, and to help deal with resistance. However, we have noted (as have many of our clients) that not all leaders possess such high levels of engagement and facilitation skills.

This situation sometimes arises because staff members are often elevated to supervisory roles because they were "good on the tools" or otherwise highly skilled and competent on the job, however, this does not automatically mean they will also possess the skills necessary to engage their teams. This becomes particularly problematic when such supervisors or leaders are conducting important sessions related to safety and well being in the workplace.

"You can lead a horse to water, but is it thirsty?" 

Because the above scenarios are far from uncommon, we are increasingly being requested to provide skills-based training with our clients' leaders and supervisors that provide them with tools to better engage their teams. A core module of the Care Factor Program (Leaders) is devoted to these vital skill sets.

The following are excerpts from our Care Factor Facilitation and EngagementModule, and will provide the reader with some fundamental concepts that are used by highly skilled facilitators.

Previewing the Session Components

This involves giving your team a "head's up" about what is to follow in order to increase a thirst for learning. The usual shorthand for this approach is "tell them what your going to tell them - tell them - tell them what you told them". 

Provide the "why"

Provide a meaningful context about the information to be shared (this goes some way to satisfying the "what's in it for me?" aspect of human nature). If your audience understands why the information is of value to them they are far more likely to be engaged.

Example: “By the end of today's session you will be able to facilitate toolbox talks that your people actually enjoy attending - it also means they will be more aware of the risks they face out in the field”


Our brains are hard-wired to respond to stories. A great way to start a session and build engagement is with a relevant case study or story, particularly if you have a story of your own that is relevant

Using "Universals"

Universals are statements that tend to be true for everyone. They are useful for building rapport and for encouraging engagement from the whole audience. (Example: “We all want to go home safely, so …”)

Reinforcing participation

Acknowledging or even praising (where the praise is genuine and appropriate) input from the team (example: “Excellent point! You’ve touched on something I think is an important issue that we need to communicate to our new people”)

"Tell me more"

Asking for additional information encourages participants to share more of their ideas with the team (example: “Great point! Can you tell me some more about that”)

Using Questions

Questions switch the conscious mind on – do less “telling” and more asking (examples: "What are you hoping this session will cover?”, "Why would that be important to you?")

Tapping into the group's wisdom (bouncing back to the group)

Encourages introspection and allows the facilitator to deal effectively with potentially challenging topics. Participants are often more successfully challenged by one another than by the facilitator (example: “That’s a really interesting question - does anyone have any other thoughts about that?”)

Surveying Activities

Whenever possible, include activities that require the participants to get involved. Surveying is a way of collecting useful information by asking participants to indicate their own beliefs and perceptions (example: “OK, so within your small groups, discuss what you believe are the top 3 things the company could do to improve the flow of information?”)


Summarising or reflecting something that a participant has said to check for accurate understanding (example: “So, it sounds like you believe that what the company should focus on first is … is that right?”)


Memorable summaries of important information can be used to help ensure key material is internalised (example: “If you were to take away just one thing from this workshop, what would it be? …”)


Regular summarising helps both the facilitator and the audience to keep track of information and embed key points (example: “So, the four main areas we have covered so far have been ..."


“Dispirited, unmotivated, unappreciated workers cannot compete in a highly competitive world.” –Francis Hesselbein 


Take a look at the Care Factor Group Engagement and Facilitation Skills Module or Do you have something to add? Join the conversation! 

Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist specialising in Psychological Safety, well-being and mentally- healthy workplaces. He is the director of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.

How Cognitive Biases affect decision-making (and what we can do about it)

By Clive Lloyd
Principal Consultant at GYST Consulting Pty Ltd
Developer of the Care Factor Program


How Cognitive Biases affect decision-making (and what we can do about it)


Cognitive Biases – An Introduction

As leaders, we are required to do a great deal of problem solving, planning and decision-making about key areas such as:

•      Performance Management

•      Cost Forecasting

•      Customer & Stakeholder Management

•      Safe Operations (etc.)

We can tend to think our planning and decision-making activities are conscious acts, involving deep thinking and analysis.  While this is true some of the time, a great deal of our thinking takes place at an unconscious level.  Being aware of this tendency to operate on autopilot, as well as understanding what we can do about our brain’s tendency to switch to unconscious processing is essential to objective decision-making.


The “Lazy” Brain

Our brains represent about 2% of our body weight yet use around 20% of our energy.  Hence, our brains seek to conserve energy through automating movement and cognitive processes (including our thinking).  The average human brain has around 100 billion neurons (nerve cells). About half of these neurons are located in a large brain mass known as the cerebellum

The cerebellum is located at the very base of the brain and its main role is to help us acquire new skills and once acquired, to make them automatic. This automation can also apply to our decision-making and planning.


Type 1 and Type 2 thinking

Kahneman (2011) divides our thinking into two subsystems: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 thinking is fast, intuitive, unconscious thought. Most everyday activities (like driving, talking, cleaning, etc.) make heavy use of the type 1 system. 

The type 2 system is slow, calculating, conscious thought. When faced with a difficult maths problem or thinking carefully about a philosophical problem, you're engaging the type 2 system. From Kahneman's perspective, the big difference between type 1 and type 2 thinking is that type 1 is fast and easy but very susceptible to bias, whereas type 2 is slow and requires conscious effort but is much more resistant to cognitive biases.

Traditionally, intelligence has correlated with type 2 thinking. So, it would be reasonable to assume that people who are better at type 2 thinking would use it more and, therefore be less vulnerable to bias. However, research shows that even those who are very good at type 2 thinking are even more vulnerable to cognitive biases. This is a deeply counter-intuitive result. Why is it that people who have a greater capacity to overcome bias have a greater vulnerability to bias?

A number of theories have been put forward to explain this result.  One relates to overconfidence. If you've become accustomed to thinking of yourself as being better at avoiding cognitive bias, you come to be confident in your abilities, to the point where you (ironically and unconsciously) think of yourself as less susceptible to biases.

Too often we become over-confident in how our minds think. We believe we see reality perfectly, and there’s no way our minds can ever be wrong or misjudge a person or situation. But this isn’t the case, and we need to accept these imperfections if we want to make an honest attempt to improve our objective decision-making processes.


What are Cognitive Biases?

A cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that affects the decisions and judgments that people make.  They are often referred to in psychology as heuristics (cognitive shortcuts) usually as a result of type 1 thinking.

Some of these biases are quite generalised energy-saving heuristics, while others refer to quite specific areas of unconscious processing. Some examples of generalised cognitive biases include:

  • Black & White thinking
  • Catastrophising
  • Mind Reading
  • Overgeneralising
  • Filtering

All of these biases assist the brain to make quick (type 1) decisions, however, they can lead to major errors in critical thinking.

There are many examples of specific cognitive biases, in fact there are around 100 such biases that have been consistently shown to impact our decision-making, some more potently than others.  The following biases (in particular) have been identified as consistent, powerful and problematic:

1.   Confirmation bias

2.   Planning Fallacy

3.   Anchoring Bias

4.   Fundamental Attribution error


Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias happens when you look for information that supports your existing beliefs, and reject data that go against what you believe. This can lead you to make biased decisions, because you don't factor in all of the relevant information.

A 2013 study found that confirmation bias could affect the way that people view statistics. Its authors report that people have a tendency to infer information from statistics that support their existing beliefs, even when the data support an opposing view. That makes confirmation bias a potentially serious problem to overcome when you need to make an objective decision.

Confirmation bias is a common and insidious problem that can keep us from making accurate judgements and decisions in our personal and professional lives. Since it is hardwired into our human nature, it is difficult to see and to resist. It is far easier to spot confirmation bias at work in others then in ourselves. 


What can we do about Confirmation Bias?

Look for ways to challenge what you think you see. Seek out information from a range of sources, and use an approach such as De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” technique to consider situations from multiple perspectives.

Alternatively, discuss your thoughts with others. Surround yourself with a diverse group of people, and don't be afraid to listen to dissenting views. You can also seek out people and information that challenge your opinions, or assign someone on your team to play "devil's advocate" for major decisions.

The primary defence against confirmation bias is a healthy sense of self-awareness coupled with humility. When making decisions and judgements, keep the following thoughts in mind:

  • Why do I hold my current beliefs?
  • What impact would there be on my ego and pride if I were to learn that my views were incorrect?
  • Have I genuinely sought out alternative viewpoints?
  • Is it possible that I am simply wrong?
  • Pretend that you are supporting an alternative viewpoint. Walkthrough a plausible explanation supporting that perspective.

Having a healthy understanding of confirmation bias can make you a better critical thinker and decision maker. A good starting point is to observe the bias in others, both in the workplace and in your personal life. When you are feeling passionate about an issue or person, stop yourself and run through the bulleted checklist above. See if you can observe yourself falling victim to confirmation bias. While it can be painful to admit that your beliefs were misguided, it can ultimately result in better decisions and improved relationships. 


The Planning Fallacy

The planning fallacy is a phenomenon in which predictions about how much time will be needed to complete a future task display an optimism bias and underestimate the time needed.

This phenomenon occurs regardless of the individual's knowledge that past tasks of a similar nature have taken longer to complete than generally planned. The bias only affects predictions about one's own tasks - when outside observers predict task completion times, they show a pessimistic bias, overestimating the time needed.

The planning fallacy requires that predictions of current tasks' completion times are more optimistic than the beliefs about past completion times for similar projects and that predictions of the current tasks' completion times are more optimistic than the actual time needed to complete the tasks. In 2003, Lovallo and Kahneman proposed an expanded definition as the tendency to underestimate the time, costs, and risks of future actions and at the same time overestimate the benefits of the same actions. According to this definition, the planning fallacy results in not only time overruns, but also cost overruns.


What can we do about the Planning Fallacy?

The good news is that the planning fallacy is really only a problem for our own work. Pair people up and use group estimating techniques to avoid unrealistic optimism creeping in.

Use past practice to guide future estimates. Have meetings to go over lessons learned, and make sure that you manage and record that organizational knowledge so that it isn’t lost. Then use that knowledge to help with planning similar tasks in the future.

Anchoring Bias

Anchoring is a cognitive bias that leads people to rely too heavily on an initial piece of information offered (known as the "anchor") when making decisions.

During decision-making, anchoring occurs when individuals use this initial piece of information to make subsequent judgments. Those objects near the anchor tend to be assimilated toward it and those further away tend to be displaced in the other direction. Once the value of this anchor is set, all future negotiations, arguments, estimates (etc.) are discussed in relation to the anchor. 

This bias occurs when interpreting future information using this anchor. For example, the initial price offered for a used car, set either before or at the start of negotiations, sets an arbitrary focal point for all following discussions. Prices discussed in negotiations that are lower than the anchor may seem reasonable, perhaps even cheap to the buyer, even if said prices are still relatively higher than the actual market value of the car.

Put simply, this bias is the tendency to jump to conclusions – that is, to base your final judgment on information gained early on in the decision-making process. Think of this as a "first impression" bias. Once you form an initial picture of a situation, it's hard to see other possibilities.

What can we do about the Anchoring Bias?

Anchoring may happen if you feel under pressure to make a quick decision, or if you have a general tendency to act hastily. So, to avoid it, reflect on your decision-making history, and think about whether you've rushed to judgment in the past. 

Then, make time to make decisions slowly (type 2 thinking), and be ready to ask for longer if you feel under pressure to make a quick decision. (If someone is pressing aggressively for a decision, this can be a sign that the thing they're pushing for is against your best interests.)

The Fundamental Attribution Error

This is the tendency to blame others when things go wrong, instead of looking objectively at the situation. In particular, you may blame or judge someone based on a stereotype or a perceived personality flaw.

For example, if you're in a car accident, and the other driver is at fault, you're more likely to assume that he or she is a bad driver than you are to consider whether bad weather played a role.

Fundamental attribution error is the opposite of actor-observer bias, in that you tend to place blame on external events.

For example, if you have a car accident that's your fault, you're more likely to blame the brakes or the wet road than your reaction time.

What can we do about the Fundamental Attribution Error?

It's essential to look at situations, and the people involved in them, non-judgmentally. Use empathy and (if appropriate) cultural intelligence, to understand why people behave in the ways that they do. Also, build emotional intelligence, so that you can reflect accurately on your own behavior.

It's hard to spot psychological bias in ourselves, because it often comes from unconscious (type 1) thinking. For this reason, it can often be unwise to make major decisions on your own. Kahneman et al. (2011) reflected on this in a Harvard Business Review article, in which they suggest that you should make important decisions as part of a group process.

In Summary

Psychological bias is the tendency to make decisions or take action in an unknowingly irrational way. To overcome it, look for ways to introduce objectivity into your decision-making, and allow more time for it.

Use tools that help you assess background information systematically, surround yourself with people who will challenge your opinions, and listen carefully and empathetically to their views – even when they tell you something you don't want to hear!


Avoiding Psychological Bias in Decision Making: How to Make Objective Decisions

Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux,

De Bono, E. (1999). Six thinking hats. Boston: Back Bay Books.

Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist specialising in Psychological Safety, well-being and mentally- healthy workplaces. He is the director of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.

Helping Your Team To Overcome Challenges Whilst Building a Culture of Responsibility and Accountability: The Stockdale Paradox

By Clive Lloyd
Principal Consultant at GYST Consulting Pty Ltd
Developer of the Care Factor Program


Helping Your Team To Overcome Challenges Whilst Building a Culture of Responsibility and Accountability:

The Stockdale Paradox

A good deal of our coaching work with leaders is spent assisting them to effectively work through current issues (e.g., organisational change, increasing injury rates, declining morale etc.).  Furthermore, we then coach these leaders so they (in turn) can assist their teams to overcome their own perceived challenges.

The process we most frequently utilise in such sessions is a relatively simple one, yet - when facilitated well - it is extremely powerful for identifying clear, solution-focussed pathways while simultaneously creating a culture of accountability and responsibility within our teams.  This tool is the Stockdale Paradox.

Background – What is it?

Admiral James Stockdale was the highest-ranking naval officer to be held in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp during the Vietnam War.

In captivity, Stockdale and his men were part of the so-called "Alcatraz" gang - American prisoners who were held in solitary confinement. They were tortured on many occasions, and the lights in their tiny cells were kept on 24 hours a day. They were forced to sleep in shackles, and endured such conditions for eight years.

Nevertheless, Stockdale approached such adversity with the mindset of an extraordinarily resilient leader. He accepted the “brutal facts” of his situation, and rather than moving into denial, pretence or avoidance, he focussed his energies on what he could control and influence, and did everything he could to lift the morale and prolong the lives of other prisoners.  Stockdale developed an innovative system to help his men deal with the torture they had to endure.

After Stockdale’s release and subsequent return to the USA, Stockdale met with psychologist Jim Collins and shared his perspectives on how he and his men had coped with such an incredible ordeal.

At one point in the interview, Collins asked Stockdale what was different about the men who didn’t make it out of the camp, and was surprised by Stockdale’s answer.  He said:

“ They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart”. 

Stockdale then added:

“This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Witnessing this philosophy of duality, Collins went on to describe it in his classic book “Good to Great“ as the “Stockdale Paradox”.

Here is the paradox: While Stockdale had an unshakeable faith that he and his men would prevail, he said that it was always the most optimistic of his fellow POWs who actually were the ones who failed to make it out alive.

What were the optimists missing? They failed to confront the most brutal facts – the reality of their situation - instead relying on avoidance, denial or wishful thinking.

Doctor Dennis Charnev, a psychiatrist specialising in new treatments for depression and anxiety, notes that the key survival mechanism for Stockdale and his fellow POWs was the ability to combine realism with optimism: 

The Stockdale Paradox really defines the optimism that is most important in becoming a resilient person and that is, when you're faced with a challenge or a trauma, you look at that challenge objectively. You might make the assessment, 'I'm in really big trouble.' You have a realistic assessment of what you're facing. On the other hand, you have the attitude and the confidence to say, 'But I will prevail. I'm in a tough spot, but I will prevail.' That is the optimism that relates to resilience. – Dr. Dennis Charnev (Psychiatrist) 

So what? - Using the Stockdale Paradox as Leaders

As leaders, we simply can’t afford to avoid our own “brutal facts”. If we want to create successful teams within a culture of accountability and responsibility, we need to not only remain optimistic, but also remain brutally honest, with a willingness to take action when things are not working in our teams.

If a leader ignores the challenges, he or she will appear aloof and out of touch. On the other hand, If the leader solely focuses on problems, they can create a culture of pessimism which can demoralise, demotivate, and undermine the effectiveness of the team.

What does this process look like?

In our experience, a “Stockdale Paradox” activity should be facilitated regularly to resolve challenges as they arise.  Moreover, when the activity becomes a regular aspect of a team’s timetable, the team becomes increasingly skilled at gaining the maximum benefit from the process.

The process does not have to be overly long, although naturally more complex challenges require more time to work through.

Generally, we’ll start with two large sheets of flip-chart paper on the wall. On the first sheet we’ll give the heading “Our Brutal Facts” (see below).

On this sheet, we record what the team identifies as current challenges.  The facilitator helps the team to get specific about the challenges, as the clearer the team can be, the more powerful the second part of the activity can be.


The second sheet of paper has the heading “Our chosen responses”.  The facilitator will then help the team to identify positive ways forward.  For this part of the process to be as useful as possible, it’s often valuable to teach (or remind) the team what they can control and/or influence (and what they can’t).

This is usually done by moving through the circles of control, influence and concern model (see below).





The circle of concern may well align to some of the team’s perceived brutal facts (i.e., things they can’t control nor influence), nevertheless, as the model states, we can always control how we respond – and it is these consciously chosen responses that we record on sheet two.  The content from sheet two is then operationalised as an action plan (who, what, where, when, etc.).

This is not a difficult process, however, when facilitated well (and frequently) it has the potential to help your team to take responsibility for identifying solutions to challenges in “Above the Line” (internally-Locused) ways.

If you would like build this capability within your leadership team please contact us.


Collins, J. (2001). Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't. Harper Collins, New York

Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist specialising in Psychological Safety, well-being and mentally- healthy workplaces. He is the director of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.

At Last! A way to objectively measure your safety culture

By Clive Lloyd
Principal Consultant at GYST Consulting Pty Ltd
Developer of the Care Factor Program


How Mature is your Safety Culture?

Measuring and Operationalising the "Care Factor" across Hudson's Safety Maturity Dimensions


"All models are wrong, but some are useful"

- George Box, Statistician (1976) 

Of the myriad models seeking to clarify or explain workplace injuries and safety culture, I have found Hudson's model of Safety Culture Maturity to be one of the more useful for generating meaningful discussion with leaders and (particularly) work teams about gaining insight into an organisation's safety culture and performance.

The model is fairly intuitive, and I find that team members (when discussing the model in an atmosphere of genuine enquiry and confidentiality) find it reasonably straightforward to assess where their own team and the organisation as a whole sit on the continuum, and often with very high inter-rater reliability.

Similarly, leaders are generally open, honest and courageous when assessing their own organisations (although interestingly leaders invariably rank the organisation as more mature than do their teams). Due to such discrepancies and the inherent subjectivity of qualitative data, we have received frequent requests to conduct a more meaningful, robust and quantitative survey (rather than informal discussions) whereby organisations can objectively assess their safety culture maturity levels across all strata and the various departments within the business.

As well as being able to benchmark their performance against the model, other similar organisations and industry leaders, our clients want clear, relevant and meaningful recommendations on how to progress to the next level(s). Historically, practical suggestions regarding the way forward have been sparse in the literature, but a robust analysis of safety culture maturity gives insight into the logical next steps in safety culture development. 

To provide such a reliable, valid and research-based survey, GYST Consulting partnered with Blue Provident - a company highly regarded for their work in organisational culture assessment and development. The result is an outstanding survey tool organisations use to get a current fix on their safety culture maturity level.

Typically, the survey is conducted site-wide prior to a rollout of the Care Factor Program. The subsequent survey report outlines clear pathways for a client to pursue in order to progress to the next levels. These recommendations are addressed during the Care Factor Program rollout, and when the program is complete, a follow-up survey objectively tracks the company's progress.

Survey Components

Hudson's original model describes increasing trust levels as a core aspect of maturing cultures, and for good reason.


"... the evidence is that safe behaviour programs do not work when the workforce mistrusts its management.

Where such beliefs prevail, employers must first win the trust of their workforce by tackling some of the issues they see as affecting safety"

- Professor Andrew Hopkins, (Melbourne, 2005)  

Why Trust?

In the last decade, there has been a plethora of studies pointing to trust as a key predictor of safety performance and an essential component of effective safety cultures (e.g., Burns et al., 2006; Eid et al., 2011; O’Dea & Flin, 2001). 

Findings from these studies show that trust in management can increase employee engagement in safety behaviors and reduce rates of accidents (Zacharatos et al., 2005). Conversely, other studies noted that distrust is negatively associated with personal responsibility for safety (Jeffcott et al., 2006) and positively related to injury rates (Conchie & Donald, 2006, cited in Conchie et al., 2011).

Furthermore, in a recent Australian study focussed on the mining industry, Gunningham and Sinclair (2012) found that “ … unless the mistrust of the workforce can be overcome then even the most well-intentioned and sophisticated management initiatives will be treated with cynicism and undermined.”

Clearly employee distrust is a major risk factor in terms of physical injury, but also in terms of the wider organisational culture, and employee well being. 

Trust – A Working Model

One of the most frequently cited models of trust (particularly in the safety literature) was posited by Mayer et al. (1995). This integrated model suggests that trust is based on perceptions about three key factors:

Ability (Perceived Competence)

Benevolence (Perceived degree of Care shown)

Integrity (Perceived honesty and openness)

Subsequent research has demonstrated that all three factors are important in building trust and overcoming mistrust. For example, a leader may be viewed as highly competent, open and honest, however, if he/she is perceived as uncaring then trust cannot be built nor sustained, and any existing mistrust will not be overcome. 

Interestingly, in terms of building trust, the Integrity factor has emerged as the most significant, while the Care Factor has been found to be the most powerful component in terms of overcoming mistrust and assisting an organisation to progress to higher levels of safety culture maturity. In fact, Blue Provident’s foundation research into safety culture showed that employees typically don’t support the systems designed to keep them safe unless they first believe the organisation cares for their wellbeing. 

While the level of trust is a central tenet for progression through Hudson's levels, trust and its core element of benevolence (care) is given scant attention in the literature in terms of providing a clear understanding about how these key variables fit into the measurement and subsequent identification of specific actions required for level progression.

Rather, the historical focus has been on ensuring systems are in place and that people are compliant with them. Little wonder many companies languish around levels 2 and 3 - having put systems in place yet they remain seemingly helpless regarding stubbornly low levels of workforce buy-in and people using reporting systems as intended. 

"Unless these trust-related cultural aspects are attended to, an organisation simply cannot progress to the higher levels,

regardless of the quality of safety management systems in place." 

Assessing the Care Factor

The survey assesses the entire workforce’s perceptions about key aspects of the organisation’s safety culture. The model underpinning the Care Factor Safety Culture Assessment is based on three foundations:

  1. A revision of the Energy Institute’s Hearts and Minds culture maturity ladder toolkit, which was designed to facilitate cultural change within organisations. This framework has been around for several decades and been refined based on usage in different industries and contexts, thus providing benchmarking opportunities.
  2. Hudson’s Model of Safety Culture maturity, including correlates of demonstrated care.
  3. Research into the areas of High-Reliability Organisations (HROs), situational leadership, emotional intelligence, and organisation development (note, for further information regarding the research-base for the survey, please contact Blue Provident).

Understanding Safety Culture within a Care-Based Maturity Framework offers the following benefits:

  • Identification of meaningful opportunities for improvement,
  • Evidence-based decisions about when and where to act on risks,
  • Development of clear actions to move to the next logical stage of safety culture maturity,
  • Targeted application of time, resources and effort in undertaking these actions – an evidence-based approach enables better use of resources on a targeted basis rather than expensive group-wide initiatives that can be ‘hit and miss’,
  • Active tracking of improvement efforts to establish the desired safety culture, and development of lead indicators for the success of the Care Factor Program and other interventions aimed at improving safety outcomes.

Safety improvement strategies take time, effort and investment. Aligning improvement initiatives to the current level of maturity is a sure way to maximise the relevance and effectiveness of those initiatives. The Care Factor Safety Culture Survey will enable and encourage active development of the safety culture along the following continuum of maturity.

Conceptualising the model in this way provides highly intuitive language that the workforce can immediately grasp, and hence, readily identify where they believe their team and organisation currently operate from. 

As well as assessing perceptions around more traditional variables (systems, processes etc.) the survey digs deeply into human factors that have previously lacked rigour in measurement and subsequent specific actions to drive change. The holistic approach to assessment provided by the Care Factor Safety Culture Survey provides a deeper insight and a more specific roadmap for the journey to higher levels of cultural maturity.



Burns, C., Mearns, K., and McGeorge, P. (2006). Explicit and implicit trust within safety culture. Risk Analysis, 26(5), 1139-1150. 

Conchie, S.M., Taylor, P.J., & Charlton, A., (2011). Trust and distrust in safety leadership: Mirror reflections? Safety Science 49, 1208–1214

Eid J, Mearns, K., Larsson G., Laberg, J., and Johnsen, B. (2011). Leadership, psychological capital and safety research: Conceptual issues and future research questions. Safety Science. 

Hudson, P. (2007). Implementing a safety culture in a major multi-national. Safety Science 45, 697–722 

Mayer, R.C., Davis, J.H., and Schoorman, F.D., (1995). An integrative model of organisational trust. Academy of Management Review 20, 709–734.

O’Dea, and Flin, R. (2001). Site managers and safety leadership in the offshore oil and gas industry. Safety Science 37, 39-57 

O’Dell, (1998). California Management Review. Volume: 40, Issue: 3, Publisher: California Management Review, Pages: 154-174 

Zacharatos, A., Barling, J., and Iverson, R.D., (2005). High performance work systems and occupational safety. Journal of Applied Psychology 90, 77–93.

Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist specialising in Psychological Safety, well-being and mentally- healthy workplaces. He is the director of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.

How to Ask Really Great Questions! Helping leaders one question at a time

By Clive Lloyd
Principal Consultant at GYST Consulting Pty Ltd
Developer of the Care Factor Program


Is there such a thing as a dumb question?   A Leader's guide to using questions effectively


The phrase “there is no such thing as a dumb question” is often used in public forums to create a trusting environment such that anyone can ask anything without fear of ridicule or criticism. This makes sense, and indeed, as leaders we should always be striving to create psychological safety so that our people ask questions when unsure and otherwise speak up when challenges are identified.

That being said, some questions are better than others, and there are certain types of questions that should never be used – especially by leaders!

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” -Voltaire


After 20+ years working as a psychologist, I am convinced that one of the most powerful influencing tools we have at our disposal is the effective use of questions, yet developing this skill set has not necessarily received the attention it deserves in leadership development programs.

While most leaders have been schooled about the vagaries of basic ‘open’ and ‘closed’ questions, there are far more powerful techniques that can be explored and mastered relatively quickly that can dramatically impact team culture and performance.

This article will provide some brief insights into how leaders can quickly develop their use of effective questions. It is far from exhaustive, and the interested reader is invited to get in touch with us to discuss how our question-specific Care Factor Program modules can rapidly build mastery in this area within your leadership team.

But first, a brief experiment …

Please DO NOT answer the following question!

What is 2 plus 2?

So what happened? If you are like most people your brain automatically answered the question for you (despite the instruction asking you NOT to). You became conscious of the number 4.


Questions are powerful because they switch the conscious brain on, and our brains are hard-wired to seek answers to questions. It becomes very important then, that leaders are mindful of the questions they ask. For example, consider the following two questions:

1. “Who is to blame?”

2. “What is just one thing we can do to move forward?”

Question 1 will result in the creation of fear and defensiveness, whereas question 2 is more likely to lead to a solution focus.

As leaders, becoming more conscious about the types of questions we ask can quickly result in more helpful and productive responses from the teams we lead, as well as positively impacting upon the prevailing culture.


Assumptive Questions

Again, consider the following questions.

1. “Are there any questions?”

2. “What questions do you have?”

Question 1 is commonly asked by rookie facilitators or trainers at the end of (or prior to a break in) a training session. The question is non-assumptive, and a clear response option to the question is simply “no” (usually evidenced by the group sitting silently in front of the facilitator and wondering if they can leave now!).

In stark contrast, question 2 assumes there are questions, and is more likely to elicit responses from the group.


Other assumptive and powerful questions for the above scenario include:

  • “So, we have now covered the following (xxxx). What is the main question you have, based on what we’ve covered so far?”
  • “At this point in the session, what do you reckon is the most frequently asked question?”

Assumptive questions such as the above are extremely powerful, and much more likely to elicit responses than passive questions such as “are there any questions?”.


Internally Locussed (“Above the Line”) Questions

For a number of important reasons it is desirable for leaders to encourage an internally-locussed (often colloquially referred to as “Above the Line”) mindset within their teams. Internally-locussed teams tend to perceive more control and are likely to take responsibility for their choices (for more on the importance of creating an internally locussed team click here).

The types of questions leaders habitually ask their teams can have a dramatic impact (positive or negative) on the locus of control within their teams. The basic rule here is that internally-locussed questions will tend to elicit internally-locussed answers. Equally, externally-locussed questions will encourage externally-locussed answers.


Examples of Externally Locussed (Below the Line) Questions

  • “Who is to blame?”
  • “Why are we so unlucky?”
  • “Can’t you get anything right?”
  • “Why do they keep picking on us?”
  • Etc.

Such questions can be very damaging to relationships and the team culture in general. They serve little (if any) useful purpose and tend to put the team’s focus on blame, fear, negativity and mistrust. 

Examples of Internally-Locussed (Above the Line) Questions

  • “What are we learning from this?”
  • “What will we do differently next time?”
  • “How do you think we can best move forward with this?”
  • “What are your thoughts on how we can improve this?”
  • Etc.

Such questions - especially when used consistently - build a solution-focus as well as a sense of responsibility and control. Over time, trust levels increase and the team are likely to adopt the use of such questions for themselves.


Advanced Questions

Some questions can be extremely powerful for uncovering blind spots within individual leaders and the wider organisational culture. These are often referred to as “courageous questions” – for good reason! They include questions such as:

  • “What are we pretending not to know?”
  • “If I could only ask one question to best understand the Company’s current challenges, what would it be?”

Such questions can elicit very powerful information, and as such they may be best left for professional coaches/facilitators to ask the brave leadership team. These advanced questions will be covered in a separate article to be published in the near future.

I hope this brief introduction to effective questions has been helpful. Please let us know if you would like to further explore this important area of leadership.

In the meantime, what are some of your favourite questions?

Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist specialising in Psychological Safety, well-being and mentally- healthy workplaces. He is the director of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.

Who has more workplace incidents and what can we do about it?

By Clive Lloyd
Principal Consultant at GYST Consulting Pty Ltd
Developer of the Care Factor Program



Who has more workplace incidents - internals or externals?

The role of Locus of Control in Organisational Safety




Few, if any areas of social psychology have enjoyed the longevity or research attention lavished upon Locus of Control. Since Julian Rotter first developed the personality concept in 1954, thousands of studies have assessed the role of Locus of Control in areas as diverse as health, political affiliation, sporting achievements and workplace safety.

In personality psychology, Locus of Control is the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control. A person's "loci" (plural of "locus", Latin for "place" or "location") are conceptualised as internal (a belief that certain aspects of our life can be controlled) or external (a belief that life is controlled by outside factors which they cannot influence, such as luck, fate, chance etc.).

Accordingly, individuals with a strong internal locus of control believe events in their life derive primarily from their own actions: for example, when receiving exam results, people with an internal locus of control tend to praise (or blame) themselves and their effort or abilities. People with a strong external locus of control tend to blame external factors such as the lecturer, the exam or bad luck.


Locus of Control and Workplace Incidents

In 1985, Jones and Wuebker developed and validated a safety-specific locus of control scale. Subsequent research has consistently demonstrated that externally-oriented individuals exhibit higher accident rates (e.g., Hansen, 1988; Arthur, Barrett, & Alexander, 1991). Across a variety of occupations, Locus of Control has been found to predict the number of reported accidents, and accident severity (Wuebker, 1986).

Transport related incidents are frequent, and Roy and Choudhary (1985) found that "externals" were more likely to be involved in driving-related accidents. Moreover, Jones and Wuebker (1993) found that individuals with an external Locus of Control had average accident related medical costs over 2.6 times higher than their internally-oriented counterparts (cited in O’Connell and Reeder, 2017).

What can be done about it?

Can an individual's Safety Locus of Control change? What about the Safety Locus of Control of a work team, or a whole organisation? - Absolutely!

It has been recognised for decades that specific training and education can contribute to a more internal safety locus of control orientation among individuals and work teams (Jones & Wuebker, 1993).

Simply "blaming the worker" for having an external Locus of Control makes no practical sense, particularly when leaders exert such strong potential influence on the prevailing Locus of Control of their teams. We have seen the negative impact that externally-locussed leaders can have on their teams, and we have consistently found that training leaders how to model internally-locussed language, questions and behaviours can have a dramatic positive impact on their teams.


Asking the right questions

Consider the following questions:

  • "Why does this always happen to us?"
  • "Why do you keep letting me down?"
  • "How do they expect us to get this done on time?"

The above questions are all externally-locussed, and externally-locussed questions will get externally-locussed answers! If leaders consistently communicate in these ways, over time it is likely they will negatively influence their team's locus of control. Instead, we assist leaders to make a shift toward internally-locussed questions. For example:

  • "What are we learning from this?"
  • "What's just one thing we could do to move forward?"
  • "How can we get this done - safely?"

Leaders that consistently ask such solution-focused questions are actually helping to influence their teams in positive ways by encouraging them to frame challenges in internally-locussed ways.

Several of our Care Factor Program modules specifically target Locus of Control, both with leaders and their teams, to create a strong Internal Safety Locus of Control within the organisation.



Arthur, W. J., Barrett, G. V., and Alexander, R. A. (1991). Prediction of vehicular accident involvement: A metaanalysis. Human Performance, 4, 89-105.

Colquitt, J. A., LePine, J. A., & Wesson, M. J. (2015). Organizational behavior: Improving performance and commitment in the workplace (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education. 

Hansen, C. P. (1988). Personality characteristics of the accident involved employee. Journal of Business and Psychology, 20, 345-365.

Jones, J. W., and Wuebker, L. J. (1993). Safety locus of control and employees’ accidents. Journal of Business and Psychology, 7, 449-457.

O’Connell, M., and Reeder, M.C., (2017). Selecting Safer Employees: Looking at individual characteristics as predictors of workplace safety. Select International Safety White paper.

Rotter, J. B. (1954). Social learning and clinical psychology. New York: Prentice-Hall.

Roy, G.S. & Choudhary, R.K. (1985). Driver control as a factor in road safety. Asian Journal of Psychology and Education, 16, 33-37.

Wuebker, L. J. (1986). Safety locus of control as a predictor of industrial accidents and injuries. Journal of Business and Psychology, 1, 19-30.

Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist specialising in Psychological Safety, well-being and mentally- healthy workplaces. He is the director of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.

What's your story? Creating trust in a fearful world

By Clive Lloyd
Principal Consultant at GYST Consulting Pty Ltd
Developer of the Care Factor Program


I remember meeting “Phil” for the first time, and the instant dislike I took to him. I had just joined the clinical team in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, and Phil was one of the counselors. He seemed sneering and angry, constantly sarcastic to peers and patients, yet sucked up to the management and seemed to have an endless stream of stories to relay to them about his accomplishments. 

My instant dislike was intensified and generalised by the “halo effect” (the tendency for an impression created in one area to influence opinion in another area) and very soon Phil could do nothing right in my eyes.

Of course, my negative judgements about Phil became a self-fulfilling prophecy, and in an alarmingly short time, he and I were members of a mutual loathing society. This unhelpful relationship impacted negatively upon my work, the organisation’s culture, and worst of all the patients.

Then something very simple but profound occurred. As part of the clinical team’s group supervision process, we were all invited to share our stories – our life journey to that point. Phil shared incredibly authentically and courageously, about the abuse and neglect he experienced throughout his formative years – how his older siblings were treated differently, and how his parents seemed aloof and dismissive of any of Phil’s achievements. 

Phil’s sharing enabled me to make sense of some of his current behaviours. He was still seeking approval from authority figures, and was threatened by his peers, so he was dismissive towards them. After his sharing, it was easy (indeed automatic) for me to approach him and hug him, and to thank him for his courage and honesty. 

We all have a story. We have walked through different parks and kneeled at different graves, and our stories shape who we are. Few of us had perfect childhoods, and where our fundamental needs were not met, we adapt our behaviours as coping mechanisms.

Our lazy brains’ preference for System 1 thinking (fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious) over System 2 thinking (slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious) means that we form opinions about people very quickly, particularly when we don’t know the background story.


Steven Covey illustrates this point brilliantly in his classic work, The 7 habits of highly effective people.

I remember a mini-Paradigm Shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly -- some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene. Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people's papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing. 

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, "Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn't control them a little more?"

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, 'Oh, you're right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don't know what to think, and I guess they don't know how to handle it either.' 

Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn't have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man's pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. "Your wife just died? Oh, I'm so sorry. Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?" Everything changed in an instant.

It seems to me of late that political expediency is served by focussing on division and creating fear among the electorate, with a subsequent reduction in trust and empathy that, in turn, discourages the use of system 2 thinking. If we could move past assumptions, and seek to understand why people act as they do, we could reverse this toxic trend.

Similarly, trust in business leaders is declining, with the subsequent damage to engagement levels and company culture becoming all too evident. As leaders, think what sharing our own stories could do for the culture of our teams.


What’s your story? 


Our Care Factor Psychological Safety & Well-being Module can help with understanding yourself, other people and how to create care in the workplace 



Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. New York: Free Press.

Kahneman, D. (25 October 2011). Thinking fast and slow: Macmillan

Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist specialising in Psychological Safety, well-being and mentally- healthy workplaces. He is the director of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.

Are your Company Values working for you? Try this test

Are your Company Vaules working for you? Try this test

"Your core values and purpose, if properly conceived, remain fixed. Everything else—your practices, strategies, structures, systems, policies, and procedures—should be open for change. Values are a fixed stake in the ground. You get it right once, and the rest of the work consists of tinkering with the organization. Typically, executives devote a tiny percentage of their time and effort to gaining understanding, a tiny percentage to creating alignment, and the vast majority to documenting and writing a statement. In fact, the distribution of time and effort should be nearly the opposite. You should spend a significant percentage of time actually trying to gain understanding, a tiny percentage documenting that understanding, and the vast majority of your time creating alignment. In short, worry about what you do as an organization, not what you say.” - Jim Collins

I work a lot with Companies who are seeking to improve their organisational culture, and a key starting point in the Care Factor approach is to look at a Company’s values, and ask some hard questions.

Are these espoused or in-use values?

How would you know?

What would your people say about the values? (Do they even know what they are?).

Gaining clarity around these questions can assist an organisation to understand whether their values are contributing positively to the culture, or actually undermining it.

If company values are well known and understood, then used as decision-making tools to steer consistent leadership behaviours then it is likely that trust and engagement will be created and sustained.

However, if the values are merely words that look good on posters or the Company’s website, but are barely known or utilised, then the end result is likely to be a cynical and disengaged workforce.

What are your Core Values?

Identifying core values that your team can buy into is essential if the organisation is to use the values as intended and positively influence the culture.

Jim Collins has put forward a series of questions to assist courageous leaders in identifying their Company's core values – have a read through the below questions and answer authentically (ideally with other members of your leadership team).

If you find yourself saying “no” to one or more of the questions (as applied to each of your Company’s espoused values), then they are unlikely to be genuine core values,and (of course) it will be much less likely that your leadership team will base decision-making on them.

If you were to start a new organisation, would you build it around this core value regardless of the industry?

Would you want your organisation to continue to stand for this core value 100 years into the future, no matter what changes occur in the outside world?

Would you want your organisation to hold this core value, even if at some point in time it became a competitive disadvantage—even if in some instances the environment penalized the organisation for living this core value?

Do you believe that those who do not share this core value—those who breach it consistently—simply do not belong in your organisation?

Would you personally continue to hold this core value even if you were not rewarded for holding it?

Would you change jobs before giving up this core value?

If you awoke tomorrow with more than enough money to retire comfortably for the rest of your life, would you continue to apply this core value to your productive activities?

Care Factor Vision and Values Alignment Module  

Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist specialising in Psychological Safety, well-being and mentally- healthy workplaces. He is the director of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.

What stops your people from doing safety interventions?

Given the recent findings (below), what do we need to do as leaders to encourage more of these potentially life-saving conversations?


The two primary reasons that respondents gave for not intervening when they see something unsafe –

(1) the other person would become defensive or angry, and

(2) it would not make a difference

– indicate a common, underlying problem. Namely, a large number of employees do not intervene when they see something unsafe because they either are or believe themselves to be incapable of doing so effectively.

They do not believe that they can intervene in a way that stops and sustainably changes the other person’s unsafe behavior, while also preserving a respectful working relationship.


Looking to Create an Intervention Culture?

Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist specialising in Psychological Safety, well-being and mentally- healthy workplaces. He is the director of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.


3 Ways to build workforce support for Personal Risk Assessments

By Clive Lloyd
Principal Consultant at GYST Consulting Pty Ltd
Developer of the Care Factor Program


If you work in the mining, oil & gas or associated industries, there’s a very good chance your company utilises Personal Risk Assessments (PRAs), most commonly tools such as 5x5s, Take 5s etc.

There is also a very good chance that your workforce views such tools with a high degree of cynicism and (essentially) as an “arse-covering exercise by management”, and/or just another annoying thing they have to do before every job.

In some organisations (not many, but they are out there), the majority of the workforce actually embraces PRAs, and hence, tend to use them as intended.

So which is it? Tick and Flick farce or useful safety tool?

Well, both (or either)! However, the central observation above – that is, in some organisations the tools are used effectively, whereas others struggle to gain any genuine benefits – really demonstrates that the success or otherwise of a PRA has little to do with the tools themselves. What makes all the difference is how the workforce thinks and feels about the tool, and subsequently what they do with them!

The critical mass of workforce opinion about PRAs is fundamentally influenced by how leaders have introduced the tools, by the ways they “police” their use, whether or not the use of such tools is at workers’ discretion or compulsory, if there are metrics involved (e.g., “you need to do 5 per day and hand them in”) etc. In short, leaders strongly influence the degree to which PRAs become a useful safety tool, or a “tick and flick” farce.

The following are some strategies that can lead to greater workforce engagement with BBS tools such as PRAs – I’m sure readers of this article can add to the list – please do so.

1. Provide the “why”
Leaders frequently outline the “what” and the “how” around the use of PRAs, yet often seem to miss the crucial “why” aspect. Human motivation is largely driven by the “what’s in it for me?” mindset. In short, if people don’t understand why they are being asked (or forced) to perform a given task (and what they’ll get out of it) they will tend to do it in the quickest, easiest way (e.g., fill them in while in the crib room). We find that helping the workforce to understand how the brain works - for example, how it is hard-wired to be complacent - goes a long way to providing a sound rationalisation for the effective use of a PRA.

2. Ownership
Companies I have worked with that see the greatest workforce engagement around PRAs are those that have actually included the workforce in the design of the tools. Asking the workforce to contribute to the design also has the advantage of making the tool more relevant to particular work areas. More to the point, if people have been involved in the process, they will take ownership of the tool and will be more likely to use it as intended. Conversely, if a generic tool is merely imposed upon them, they are less likely to be motivated to use them in helpful ways, especially if they don’t understand the “why” behind their use.

3. Beware Metrics
Finally, I’m not a fan of putting metrics on the use of PRAs. Many companies insist that their people hand in 3 or 5 completed PRAs per day. Given that few companies do anything meaningful with the data, the workforce tend to (rightly) assume that the reason they have to hand in the stated amount of completed PRAs is because their leaders don't trust them! Given that trust is a strong predictor of safety culture and performance, such an approach is actually likely to do more harm than good.

In summary, help people understand the “why” behind the use of PRAs, get the workforce involved in the design of the tools as much as is practicable (this will give them a sense of ownership), and finally, really think through the pros and cons of attaching metrics to the use of PRAs – at the very least, if you are going to demand your people hand in 3 a day, then at least do something with the data, otherwise you are simply screaming “we don’t trust you” – and then we wonder why the workforce is cynical!

What other strategies have you seen that increase engagement around PRAs?   Be part of the conversation over at the Care Factor Community also Take a look at the Care Factor Safety Program

Clive Lloyd is an Australian psychologist specialising in Psychological Safety, well-being and mentally- healthy workplaces. He is the director of GYST Consulting Pty Ltd, and developer of the acclaimed Care Factor Program.


“This workshop very cleverly explains human nature and how it affects safety. I believe this course has completely changed my outlook on safety, as ultimately safety is your own responsibility. It has changed the way I manage myself in pressure situations and stopped me getting upset with things I cannot control. The course was excellent...”


"Clive is a highly motivated and dynamic trainer. He has a deep understanding of his subject and delivers a very powerful message in an incredibly short space of time. This is probably the best training session I have ever attended and I would highly recommend Clive and GYST Consulting."

Business Manager

"The Care Factor Program has enabled me to be conscious of taking responsibility and understanding the how/what/why my thinking is built on. Also, that to change culture, I must empower others by asking questions and not being afraid to intervene"

Mining Engineer  

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