Promoting Team-Oriented Behavior Based on Regulatory Focus Theory
Authors: Keitaro Ichikawa, Daisuke Karikawa, Makoto Takahashi, Tsubasa Otsuki
Abstract: This research analyzed the effects of two safety management approaches with respect towards teamwork. An approach based on a conventional safety perspective called Safety-I has contributed to improving industrial safety by eliminating failures or mistakes as much as possible. In such a case, any mistake would be punished, even if it’s done trying to help a colleague, for example. One concern, therefore, is that this seemingly harsh Safety-I approach can promote self-protective behaviors to minimize mistakes on an individual level but not on a team level. Considering complex systems require entire teams to function properly, such as in aviation where two pilots work together, teamwork should be promoted to achieve higher levels of safety. Under Safety-I management, there is no incentive promoting team-oriented behavior, but it encourages self-protective behavior making it an unbalanced trade-off. On the other hand, a new safety perspective, termed Safety-II, has been recently developed. Safety-II gives an alternative approach to improve safety by increasing the number of things going well. Under such a perspective, team-oriented behavior might be rewarded by considering it as one of the things that go well. Previous research, however, never gave us experimental evidence showing how the two different safety approaches can affect teamwork. The research focuses on answering the following two research questions: (1) Does the safety-I based approach demonstratively have a negative effect on teamwork?, and (2) How effectively is the Safety-II approach at motivating people to pay attention to each other’s activities. The results from our experiment will give us insights to understand how effective safety management can be utilized on-site.An experiment was designed based on regulatory focus theory to simulate the two safety approaches. The theory has two focuses termed promotion and prevention focus which delineate motivation when people pursue their goals. Prevention focus was considered as utilizing the Safety-I perspective while promotion focus was considered as utilizing Safety-II perspective. In the experiment, participants were required to perform a prevention focus task: to avoid violations; and a promotion focus task: to earn incentives that could lead to supporting their partners. Participants received either positive feedback which would induce promotion focus, or negative feedback which would induce prevention focus during main tasks. We then analyzed how the participants' behaviors changed following the feedback.The experimental results showed that participants who received positive feedback were inclined to make more incentives even though they had to sacrifice a few more violations. As we expected, the number of violations were lower in the prevention focus group. However, the prevention focus feedback didn’t encourage participants to work on the prevention focus task to the degree that the promotion focus feedback encouraged participants to work on the promotion focus task. These results might indicate that emphasizing “Do not make mistakes” is not the most effective approach for achieving higher levels of safety. The results also suggest that safety management with a promotion focus might cause people to focus on teamwork, consequently leading to higher levels of safety.
Keywords: Teamwork, Regulatory Focus Theory, Safety Management, Safety-I, and Safety-II
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