Creating a Sense of Us
Partnering with the University of Queensland; WorkCover and LivingWell in the 5R Program in late 2018, I have applied an intervention using social identity theory (Turner & Tajfel, 1979) in a leadership and wellbeing program which we then integrated into our strategic planning for 2019.
Social Identity Theory provide an approach (perhaps more commonly known as ‘citizenship’ in OH&S literature. Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s). The approach highlights the traditional leadership approaches which focus on individual traits, skills and behaviours of the leader (i.e. transformational, authentic leadership etc). Haslam et. al, (2017) states the core insight of this approach is that key forms of organisational behaviour reflect and arise from people’s sense of themselves as group members (“us”) as much, if not more than, their sense of themselves as unique individuals (“I”).
During the leadership intervention sponsored by WorkSafe (QLD); WorkCover (QLD) and LeadingWell (QLD), I rolled out some activities at work (UGL Limited) designed to apply social identity theory to team and organisation goal setting. What we found we unexpected utility in giving the team leaders a sense of understanding what was important to the team members, and more importantly the things that the leaders they could do to enhance that team’s motivation, engagement and effectives by deploying socially reinforcing initiatives.
This approach has important implications for leadership and wellbeing interventions (which is well supported by research), but also for cultural development programs targeting safety ‘citizenship’.