This week a hole appeared in a field near to where I live, apparently due to the ground collapsing into part of an old, disused mine. The field is popular with dog walkers and other recreational users so several people pass through the field every day.

The sudden appearance of this hole has caused a bit of excitement – not much happens around here – and it has been interesting to observe the behaviour of people.

The first I knew of the hole was when a friend told me about it. My first question was ‘how deep is it?’ to which their response was ‘there’s a barrier around it so I couldn’t see the bottom.’ Ok, so they have been drawn to the edge and tried to peer in. How close would they have got if there had been no barrier?

It strikes me that some people are inexplicably drawn to danger perhaps through curiosity or for the thrill of it. We ride rollercoasters and do bungee jumps because they are daring and give us an adrenaline rush. They excite us because they are perceived as dangerous.

Conversely, over the past few days there will have been many mothers warning their children to ‘stay away from the hole’ but we know that by the end of the week some of them will be saying to their contrite offspring ‘I told you to stay well away from the hole….’

Another related image I have seen recently, which unfortunately had some tragic consequences, was during the recent storms when folk just can’t resist standing on the sea front as giant waves crash around them. The force and power of nature is amazing but as we know can also be dangerous and destructive.

We can deduce that for whatever reason if there’s a danger, a risk or threat there will be some people who will be drawn to it. They will stand on the precipice, stare it in the face or touch it.

I got to wondering whether people continue such behaviours in the workplace. Often the most successful people are ones who have taken a risk which has paid off and we admire them, but equally there must be lots of other people who faced risks which caught them out and resulted in their downfall. Is success or failure based on luck or are some people better at calculating and managing risks?

Either way we need to acknowledge that consciously or subconsciously people in our organisations will be taking risks. It could be the IT manager who has put in a midweek fix until they can install a new device at the weekend, it could be the Facilities Manager who has patched up the problem whilst they obtain estimates for repairs. How’s your risk appetite?

I’m not saying that your colleagues are deliberately putting your organisation at risk, rather that we all have different attitudes and thresholds towards potential dangers and threats. Some of us want to stand on the edge of the hole and others of us will stay off the field.

Sometimes, acknowledging a risk, particularly in the workplace, is seen as a weakness or a failing so people may be reluctant to volunteer the whole picture and hope they get away with it. My recommendation is to make sure you probe and ask questions to get the facts and to weigh up the risk so you can avoid falling in.

November 13, 2013 at 9:54 am
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