2 min read: Jim, a Retirement Officer at a Housing Association, was a lone worker who managed a retirement complex away from Head Office, with nobody to check on his wellbeing.
A new manager, Derek, started working with him and realised that there was no system in place to ensure each day that he had safely started at his work and also then safely left for the day. Derek still exercised his duty of care by calling around to track him down, but this was not only becoming time consuming, Derek also felt like he was nagging Jim.
Derek had originally asked Jim to make a call each day at the start of his work and as he was leaving, but this wasn’t happening. Derek assumed it was because Jim didn’t like being checked up on, however a conversation with Jim showed that there was much more to the situation than that.
First of all, Derek explained to Jim what he wanted and why, being very clear that this was about concern for his safety rather than lack of trust. They had a good relationship, so this was an easy conversation and Jim explained that he used to check-in with his previous manager, but the manager stopped acknowledging the check-ins and Jim’s behaviour faded away.
They agreed to try an experiment. Derek put Outlook reminders in their diaries and a physical sign on the door of the office saying, “Check In!” as a prompt to get the behaviour started. They agreed that the best method of checking in was by text message or phone call, rather than email, as Jim wasn’t always at his desk to log on.
To help reinforce the behaviour, Derek set a deadline of 15 minutes from when the shift started and ended and also responded with a “Thank you!” when Jim checked in.
Even though Derek had assumed that Jim would be put out by this new request, he wasn’t. In fact, Jim really appreciated that Derek had shown concern for his wellbeing.
So, the behaviour started and was happening each day, but Derek didn’t want it to suffer from extinction as it had in the past (where the behaviour faded away without reinforcement) so he decided to introduce a new but simple reinforcer for Jim.
Derek had received “A Book of Dad Jokes” at Christmas and he knew that Jim loved telling jokes. So now, instead of responding with “Thank you” to each check-in, Derek sends Jim a joke every day as his acknowledgement text message.
Derek could have insisted that Jim comply with his requests by enforcing compliance to the Health and Safety rules, or by taking disciplinary action, but instead he found a way to create a new habit which was fun and strengthened their relationship.