Do you have a person involved in your safety program who is always negative? Is he constantly looking for why or how everything will not work or why you shouldn't do it? Such devil's advocates are not unusual. In fact, sometimes they serve a valuable role in the decision process. A part of every decision should be looking for ways it could go wrong and making sure it does not. But the negative role should not be the sole role of one person.
In his book, The Six Thinking Hats, Edward DeBono proposes that everyone should be the devil's advocate for a period of time. If everyone has to play devil's advocate, the one member of the group will be less likely to feel the need to be so constantly negative, and the whole group can look on the dark side before making decisions. Asking decision makers to parallel their thoughts and brainstorming rather than having them assume different and conflicting roles can be extremely positive both for improving the decisions and the relationships within the group.
Next time a member of your team plays devil's advocate, everyone join in for a few minutes and explore the downside together before finalizing your plan.
Terry L. Mathis is the founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, an international safety and performance excellence firm. He is known for his dynamic presentations in the fields of behavioural and cultural safety, leadership and operational performance. For more information, visit www.ProActSafety.com.