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Even though there is good research generally disproving it, the Halloween myth of tampered candy with razor blades or poison in it persists year after year.

While we’re not suggesting you still shouldn’t vigilant when it comes to inspecting your child’s Halloween candy, we are bringing up this long-standing urban legend to point out that fear-based messages have a way of sticking with us. On the other hand, research has also shown we tend to think of positive incidents as isolated incidents.

Based on these findings, the message for managers ought to be: Regularly praise your staff for good work, but occasionally warn them about the frightening consequences of not following best practices.

This strategy of “carrots and sticks” is particularly relevant when it comes to safety. Safety managers need to walk the line between encouraging good safety habits and using fear to help employees avoid bad habits. Below are a couple of tips on giving your staff members a little scare in order to keep them safe.

Use a Story with a Message

As with the Halloween candy legend, messages often resonate more when they connect a story to a message: You’re much less likely to let your child have uninspected Halloween candy after hearing that story.

When it comes to “scaring your employees straight” with respect to safety, using a scary story is easy because scary stories with negative consequences tend to be more compelling than happy stories.

However, positive stories are still very useful in a workplace setting. For instance, you could share a detailed narrative about how a staff member earned a major bonus by addressing a minor safety issue. Telling this story won’t just make a person who made the achievement feel honored, but it’ll also inspire others to follow suit and look for ways they can be rewarded.

Consider the Timing

Scary stories are most effective at night, next to a campfire, in the woods. Likewise, your stories will have the most impact and most staying power if you shared them in the moment. For instance, you could tell a story about a painful accident after documenting a near-miss situation.

If you would like to inspire somebody with a positive story, recognize her or him right after they put in extra effort or achieve something great. This kind of positive reinforcement can be seen at the Olympics, where medal winners are recognized right after their achievement, not weeks later.

Scary stories might be more prone to stick with us, as they shake our sense of security to the core. However, scary are less effective when it comes to encouraging initiative. Scare tactics keep us from avoiding things, while good, effective positive messaging inspires change and even greater levels of achievement.

Let Us Work with You to Keep All Employees Safe

At Cornerstone, we work hand-in-glove with our clients to ensure that all employees in a workplace are doing their jobs in the safest manner possible. Please contact us today to find out how we can provide you with safe, productive employees.


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