A Vice President for an oil and gas company recently did a field visit to one of her company’s locations. In the course of the visit she wanted a closer look at a certain valve replacement part that her company made and sold worldwide. To check the valve she proceeded to ignore safety protocols. Without the required protective gloves to expose the valve she wanted to see, she experienced an injury that required medical attention later that evening at a hospital. When her company found out about it, she was fired. Her husband told me she was getting an attorney to contest her firing. I was confused.

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The Vice President was trained in the safety protocol she ignored. It was her job to make sure all of her employees abided by the protocol to avoid injury and subsequent workman’s compensation claims. Executives in the company were told that their violation of the safety requirements would result in immediate termination. Why was she getting an attorney?

If I know that a safety protocol is a requirement and I decide to ignore it and I experience an injury, am I accountable for that? If I know that an action on my part results in termination and I choose to take that action and I am fired, am I accountable for that? It seems cut and dried to me. Accountability is a decision to be or not to be. An attorney finding a way around that seems unnecessary.


Her husband told me that he thought the company was just looking for a way to get rid of older, more experienced employees because they were expensive overhead. Really? I guess that would be saying other, non-executive employees who had done the same thing were not fired, but were instead given a chance, or several chances if they chose to ignore a safety protocol. Keep in mind, executives knew their offense resulted in termination. To make matters worse, her offense was not reported, it was discovered.

Has the world gone crazy? I asked him how on earth he could relate a blatant decision to ignore a safety protocol that resulted in an injury be related to a company’s desire to get rid of older employees. He did not know but he was sure an attorney could figure it out. I hope not.


It is time to honor people’s decisions when they choose not to be accountable. That is what documenting for discipline is for. Holding people accountable is not a punishing action, it is honoring their decisions by memorializing them. Just as we memorialize great actions (or people) that result in good, we can do the same for the bad. Accountability is not punitive it is honoring an adult’s judgment or decision without blaming or shaming.

Thinking this way could lead to something very, very good. Each of us can ask ourselves “what decision am I making right now?” I am deciding to ignore the safety protocol, the tools in front of me to avoid injury, the training I received about the requirements I must follow to keep my job. When a boss asks, “What decision did you make?” the answer is much more clear and accountability filled! “I made a decision not to act safely.” OK! Let’s memorialize that decision. I honor your decisions. I am not going to treat you like a child and tell you what you should have done. You knew what to do and chose not to. Radical.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the article. No matter how much I read of your writings, I always seem to need more.

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