Safety isn’t just about process, systems and equipment – it’s culture and behaviour that really set the scene. A listening culture encourages safe behaviour.

  • Does your manager not take safety as seriously as you believe they should?
  • Do bullying, banter or bad behaviour get in the way of doing things safely?
  • Are people seen as ‘troublemakers’ for raising concerns?
  • Do you feel that you aren’t listened to, or that you can’t challenge others?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to all or any of the questions above, it's not a safe work culture. Difficult working relationships and a culture of blame and suspicion impact more than just those people who are directly involved. They don't facilitate good performance or team morale. Not only that, they could also lead to unsafe acts and accidents.

In a listening culture, teammates are open to hearing from and learning from each other – whoever they are. And the company wants to hear from its staff. We all have a role in safety and can all identify ways to make work safer, including being aware of our own behaviour and reporting safety issues and concerns.

What a listening culture looks like

You’re not afraid to tell a responsible person about any issues – or your health, if you believe it affects you at work. You feel safe highlighting your mistakes. And everyone feels the same way about this.You are confident to approach others when they have difficulties, to help or suggest they raise concerns to build learning in the team – without fear of retaliation. There is no reason to fear raising concerns or issues. Everyone feels they can challenge constructively and calmly, or to check if teammates are ok. This is what a listening culture looks like.

Listening takes place within relationships, between people. When someone wants to be heard, the wider context is that they want validation, emotional support, and survival (in the job, and perhaps literally if there is a safety issue). When you are listening, people know you respect them. If it is clear that no one is listening, people may feel ignored and lose motivation to speak out in future. We are all more open to sharing our thoughts and concerns if we believe they are valued and will be acted upon.

Listening also happens within a broader workplace culture. That means it's leaders who set workplace norms and expectations, who actively lead by demonstrating these, and who work to embed the culture in their teams. Without this leadership, a listening culture is unlikely.

Even in a listening culture, you might prefer to raise a concern in confidence. CIRAS confidential safety hotline is independent and listens impartially. We protect your identity, but the right people hear about your concern and can act on it. We don’t take concerns about specific individuals.

Are you listening?

  • Do you pay attention? If you notice something’s not safe, will you tell someone or use the reporting channels available?
  • Do you look out for others? Will you ask someone how they are twice? ‘How are you?’ ‘Are you sure?’ It goes a long way. But recognise when someone isn’t ready to share. Let them come to
    you in their own time if they want to.
  • Are you open to listening and learning, and to constructive challenge? It takes courage but can help you learn, grow and be safer.
  • Will you challenge a teammate? It gives them a chance to change how they work before there is an accident.

Find out more

Who's listening?

Find a listening ear

How to challenge effectively