Barriers to Professional Advancement

Article excerpt

DURING THREE QUARTERS OF MY WORK EXPERIENCE, I faced two problems -- job satisfaction and personal income. Early on, a solution to this enigma was constantly under study. One fact became painfully obvious: the career ladder for most safety and health specialists is not designed to extend their practice above the level of middle management. Our professional development has yet to include the methodology of managing -- analytic, synthetic, and interdisciplinary.

Starting in 1936 with a B.S. degree in industrial engineering, my experience ended in 1990 with induction into the Safety and Health Hall of Fame International. Most of this time was spent as a practicing safety engineer. The last 17 years were spent at the highest level of management. Here I was able to make radical changes not before possible. By interaction with my peers, error-free performance was slowly introduced as a basic part of all decision-making. My textbook, "Managing for Performance Perfection," (Bonnie Brae Publications, 1990), explains in more detail the process of this change.

My engineering degree, requiring two years of business administration, was of great help about the process, practice, and behavior of management. Being an "outsider," my first task was to change my image from an "engineer" to that of a "manager" by learning to speak, write, and act as one. My title of "chief of safety engineering" was changed to "director of safety management." I ceased doing things on my own and began to interact with others to get things done through their staff services. This was a time-consuming task since each had to be convinced that our missions were basically the same. "Mishap prevention" and "management improvement" became accepted as one. The notion of engineering revision became the activity of performance perfection. Advantage was taken to use a most important principle acceptable by all top-level managers, i.e. "to make a productive enterprise out of human and material resources."

Top-level action requires one to look beyond the particulars of compliance, using logic over force. Program objectives are achieved with principles of management far easier than by using the absolutes of safety rules and regulations. All this and more demands a reasonable understanding and use of the planning process, organizational structure, and corporate behavior. What works at the production level usually does not apply to the administrative level. Rigid safety requirements must be translated into less rigid principles. Absolutes do not attract executive interest since they offer no chance for decision-making. I eventually came up with more than 60 basic principles to aid my functional existence. Here are a few:

In principle, business enterprise cherishes the right to make its own decisions without outside interference. The French originated this principle as "laissez-faire." Broadly translated, it is the right of private enterprise to be free of government interference, allowing top managers to make their own decisions as to how and when they will engage in certain safety actions. Obviously, federal labor laws tend to conflict with this principle, making it a factor in all safety and health program strategy.

In principle, all managers must "justify their existence and authority by the economic results they produce." This puts a management price tag on our activity with regard to the respect, interest, and support we receive. …