The Hidden Cost Of Workers Too Afraid To Tell You When Something’s Wrong

Manufacturing Insights

The Hidden Cost Of Workers Too Afraid To Tell You When Something’s Wrong

It’s human nature to want to hear good news but sometimes we need to be hit with the bad stuff so we can address it and move on. Anyone with experience in the manufacturing industry, knows that things go wrong – frequently. With complex production lines churning out hundreds, sometimes thousands, of items daily, there are bound to be issues. Usually, the first people to notice when a machine breaks down, an accident occurs or goods are damaged, are the workers down on the shop floor. But what happens when your workers are so afraid to lose their jobs that they won’t tell you there is a problem? It sounds exaggerated but this is a scenario that occurs more often than you might think.


It is obvious to skilled managers and business leaders that reporting issues is a good thing – getting problems into the open allows them to be dealt with, preventing them from further damaging the organization. Many organizations however, do not operate under this assumption. Rather, a culture of fear prevails where workers are too scared to report problems or dangers in case they will be reprimanded or even forfeit their jobs.


In his book, The New Economics, W.Edwards Deming writes “fear invites wrong figures. Bearers of bad news fare badly. To keep his job, anyone may present to his boss only good news.” When workers feel compelled to hide bad news, or even manufacture false good news to keep their bosses happy, facts are distorted and this can only damage the business.


Speaking of creating the desirable 21st century work culture, Fast Company relates that “there was a time when it was perfectly acceptable for leaders and managers to rule with an iron fist” however, “when the command-and-control leadership style prevailed, employee engagement, commitment, and innovative thinking all suffered”. When workers live in a constant state of fear, they tend to be unhappy, unmotivated and less efficient. It’s no wonder this old-world model went out with coal-powered factories! It didn’t make economic sense to have terrified and unmotivated workers then, and it doesn’t makes sense today. The new era of management recognizes that to perform at their best, workers must feel invested in the greater organization, know they can freely express their views and not fear reporting issues as they arise.


You may think this would never happen in a modern-day factory but studies reveal another picture. Stay Safe discovered that 38% of employees are too scared to report workplace injuries for fear of negative consequences. Consider the case of Brian L. – a worker on an assembly line in an automotive factory. Brian has known for a long time that there are exposed wires in the machinery he operates daily, but doesn’t want to draw attention to himself or risk his job by reporting it. He occasionally receives minor electric shocks but considers it a small price to pay for job security.


Deploying cutting-edge machinery in your factory will likely boost your profits, but fewer manufacturers realize that achieving a healthy work culture can have an equally great impact on your bottom line. Can you really confidently say that you know what’s going on on your production floor? That you are aware of every issue that crops up and needs to be addressed? Chances are there are many seemingly small things that slip your notice, things that when added together could make a huge dent in your profitability.


While you work on resolving any work-culture issues you may have unveiled, industry 4.0 technologies can provide protection from the issue of hidden, and therefore unresolved, problems. New technologies can identify exactly where problems arise and display them electronically on a computer screen so they can be dealt with promptly. Workers feel more relaxed knowing it’s not solely down to them to report envy single blip and managers enjoy peace of mind of knowing that they can oversee every aspect of production without stressing over unreported problems.


Is your factory taking advantage of these game-changing technologies?


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