This post is inspired by a real-life Wonder Woman who found herself in an abusive relationship. In fact, she was almost killed by the hands of her then husband. How does this relate to occupational safety and health? It comes down to a single moment of realization.
Have you ever been in denial? Been in a situation so long that you don’t know any different? Perhaps lost your voice for fear of judgment, rejection, or retaliation if you speak up?
Our Wonder Woman, we’ll call her WonderMin, likes to use the story about boiling a frog. The premise is that a frog will immediately jump out if put into a pot of boiling water. However, if you put that frog in a pot and slowly bring the water to a boil, the frog will die. Why? The fable tells us it’s just too subtle of a change for the frog to notice the danger and save its own life.
Just. Too. Subtle.
Status quo creeping in on you? Tried fighting for something only to get shot down or embarrassed? Taking excuses at face value (nobody’s been hurt yet, we don’t need to change)?
WonderMin is an educated, independent, mother of two. She has her MBA and holds a leadership role with one of the community’s top employers. She freely shares her experience in hopes of helping others get out sooner.
Her story begins like many others. Things are fine at first. Not just fine, but wonderful. However, that begins to change and after about two years of wedded bliss, the first incident occurs. Tears are shed, promises are made. She is outraged by her husband’s behavior, but vows to forgive and forget, because it would “never happen again.”
But it did. Subtly at first. More frequently and more violent by the end.
After one profoundly horrific weekend, WonderMin finds herself in a counselor’s office, as made available by her employer, doing her best to hide bruises on her neck and face, eyes wide with fear and uncertainty. For the first time, she vows not to protect or pretend. She speaks the truth, and in return, is given a shoulder to lean on, and a pamphlet with a series of checkboxes. She systematically checked every single box. No longer could she deny the truth. It was staring at her in black and white. The analytical side of her brain jumped into action. She spoke the truth aloud again. It is time. This was never an acceptable situation, but she needed to see it in writing to realize the danger. And once she did, she knew she could never go back. From this moment, she knew it was time for drastic change. It was time to save her own life, and potentially the lives of her two daughters. Time to leap.
Do we sometimes find ourselves paralyzed? Terrified of change, not realizing change can dramatically improve our situation and potentially save a life? Do we sometimes need to see the warning signs in black and white to recognize the danger and be bold enough to speak the truth?
Have you ignored signs? Are your instincts trying to tell you now is the time to evolve, to upgrade, to improve? Our personal and professional safety are intertwined. The lessons I’ve learned at HSI, the stories I’ve heard, the lives we’ve impacted, have all changed the way my mind operates. Our Active Shooter course has me identifying escape routes and nearest exits in movie theaters. Our Distracted Driving course has me stashing my phone away before I start my car. Even our Cold Prevention course prompted me to get my flu shot and prevent spreadable illness.
Can we learn from courageous people like WonderMin, who recognized danger just in time, to do something now before it’s too late? Can we speak truth to power to create change in our organization and potentially save a life? Safety isn’t a corporate initiative that ceases to exist the moment we clock out. But I think we can learn from our personal experiences to make a difference in our professional spaces as well. They are woven together to make us who we are. And we all deserve to be safe.