While living and working in the Pacific Northwest portion of the United States I met a puma face-to-face for the first time. In this part of the world puma is another name for mountain lion, or cougar, or panther – all describing this large wild American predatory cat. I was at a roasting for a long time supervisor, Herman, who had finally reached retirement age. As he took part in the lighthearted fun one of his associates asked about his wife’s nickname, “The Puma.” Why was she called this, and what was her real name, anyway? Herman brought his wife on stage and introduced her as Dorothy and then explained how she became The Puma. Early in his career each work day ended at a local bar where the production leadership discussed the day’s events over adult beverages. One evening Dorothy brought in his three young children, cleared away seats next to him at the bar, sat his kids down next to him and then loudly said something like, “Children this is your father and this is the only way you will ever get to know him!” She spun and walked out of the bar leaving him embarrassed with his three youngsters. She thus got the handle The Puma and quickly got the father back home with his children as well.
Recently one of our customers related a similar story that brought home the often overlooked power of a spouse. In this case an employee broke an important safety rule and experienced a close call that could just as easily have become a serious injury or fatality. As the organization’s leadership reviewed the event with this man, he was informed that his serious infraction could very easily be turned into a discharge. However, instead he would be allowed to continue work if he took a half day off with pay to think over the situation and during this time at home review the event with his wife.The next day he would report back to the manager and discuss what transpired.
The report out revealed the worker’s wife became extremely upset not only at the possibility of a severe injury, but also the fact that one of the reasons this man had joined the organization was because of their excellent safety reputation. “So why would you take this chance when you knew better for all kinds of reasons?” It had an indelible impact on him that changed his path and, as he voluntarily shared this with his work group, their future safety culture as well. I know of organizations that mail appropriate safety materials to employees’ homes, addressed to their spouses. This is because there is a noticeable impact on the employee and their families as a result of engaging the spouse in the importance of a 24/7 safety culture. Is there a way you can engage your organization’s spouse-Pumas and thereby improve your safety culture?