Getting your feelings hurt is NOT a recordable incident

 Subscribe to our newsletter

                                                                                                         Read this article in ISHN Magazine

Some folks say that 3rd-shifters are ornery; a cantankerous, unruly bunch who brave midnight shifts with skeleton crews.  I’ve always found them to be honest brokers who will tell you real issues directly to your face.

To be a supervisor of such a group takes a patience and humility that few possess. 

I was doing a New Year’s series of speeches to all three shifts of a large manufacturing plant with a proud history of serving the nation’s military and transportation industry.   The company President, VP, and HSE Coordinator were all there.  I had finished my talk with the dozen or so 3rd shifters who described the safety program as “loads better” than their early years of employment.  Nonetheless, they also offered blunt discussions around hazards and safety issues left unresolved.  Good for them.

During the break I overheard the 3rd Shift Supervisor talking to the plant’s Safety Supervisor about the discussion.  The 3rd Shift Supervisor (who was kind enough to drive me to my rental car at 3am in -3o F) had recently transferred from Texas.  To me it was clear that he had the respect of his employees and they felt free to put the issues on the table. 

Regardless, it can sting when your employees are complaining about safety issues on your watch when the President of the company is in the room for the Safety Kick-Off.  The 3rd Shift Supervisor told the Safety Supervisor that it kind of hurt his feelings that they were complaining so much after all he had done to improve safety for these folks.

Dave, their Safety Supervisor extraordinaire of 7 years, offered a load of wisdom.  “You gotta have thick skin when dealing with safety issues.  Just do what you know is right regardless.”

It got me thinking that Dave was giving spot-on advice.  In the Safety Game, to play it right, we put ourselves out there; our egos and reputations are wide open to criticism.  And often, we get our feelings hurt.

Consider the Supervisor above who is following up on safety concerns nightly but then has those same concerns put under the spotlight in front of the President

Consider the employee who goes out of his comfort zone to approach and talk with another employee who may be taking a risk only to be confronted with a mean comment about the concerned employee’s manhood.

Consider the Risk Manager who has spent her career designing and managing an effective employee-based safety program only to have it undermined by new management.

The list goes on and on (e-mail me at to tell me yours).

Fortunately, getting your feelings hurt is NOT a recordable incident.

True, no OSHA or other government reporting need be done, no incident investigations must ensue, and I’m not sure it evens qualifies as a near miss.

Instead, I’d argue it is the opposite of an incident.  People who are willing to put themselves out there for the safety of others produce small wins.  These are special people… and special people need special defenses for their feelings.

Instead of:

Getting beat down

Getting defensive and firing back

Giving up

Spreading rumors

Writing off that person


They respond to hurt feelings with an inward smile and greater resolve to make things better.  And “yes” they go to their social support group not to be negative and complain, but to help build resolve and design solutions.  (See my recent blog post called New Years Resolutions for the HSE Pro where I suggest you “Get to know 5 HSE professionals outside your company.  E-mail them once a month with questions or ideas.”)

That’s right…for in each interaction that you have with a naysayer, you gain insight into the problem you have to solve. 

Instead of being the VICTIM of ridicule…

You become a better AGENT of change.

And with each blow you successfully shield off, learn from, and solve… the more powerful your resilience becomes… and the more effective you are.


Don’t make it about yourself… if you do, then your feelings are bound to take a beating. Take yourself out of the equation and see these criticisms and setbacks as calls for help.  Then help.

It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have to worry about getting your feelings hurt (because they are not recordable).

                “Even if your on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there."    -Will Rogers


Timothy Ludwig’s website is where you can read more safety culture stories and contribute your own.  Dr. Ludwig is a senior consultant with Safety Performance Solutions (SPS:, serves as a commissioner for Behavioral Safety Accreditation at the non-profit Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies (CCBS: and teaches behavioral psychology at Appalachian State University, in Boone, NC.  If you want Tim to share his stories at your next safety event you can contact him at



Thanks, Tim, the quote at the end is great.  You've touched on an important topic that I have seen at every site where I have worked.  People don't like complainers but the truth is, there is a lot of information in those complaints from safety issues to just an overall assessment of the relationships and culture.  In one site with multiple plants, one plant went from a plant manager who was terrible at relationships (but great with numbers) to a plant manager who was great at relationships.  It was amazing to see how a new plant manager changed the way everyone in the plant talked about safety, production, and everything else.  She was really good at listening and empathizing.  She is making things loads better, their numbers are so good now.  The funny thing is, she pisses off upper management a lot, because she sides with her people so much and pushes back in an effort to get what they need.

Nicole Gravina, Ph.D., Reaching Results

Hi Tim,

I shared your article “Getting Your Feelings Hurt is Not a Recordable Injury” with the leaders at my work and it was very well received. They really liked your frank and candid approach to getting the message across. Us New Zealanders are very up front when we discuss things so this went down a treat. Your work is very inspiring and incredibly helpful. Thank you so much for the huge effort you put into making behavioural safety resources more available and better understood.


Donna Carter,  Safety AdvisorNew Zealand Aluminium Smelters Ltd

‎"Instead of being the VICTIM of ridicule … You become a better AGENT of change. And with each blow you successfully shield off, learn from, and solve … the more powerful your resilience becomes… and the more effective you are."

Beautifully said Dr. Ludwig! Yes people, be the AGENT of change :)  

Amanda Mentzer via Facebook

Contact Dr. Ludwig                                 © Timothy Ludwig 2017