Sure, I’m all for washing your hands after using the restroom. If you’ve shaken hands with someone who didn’t wash, you’ll know what I’m talking about; it’s disgusting and I’d prefer to avoid it whenever possible.

I’ve even been witness to individuals that see all 5 signs, look around to see if anyone is looking, and then walk out the door without washing. I bet it’s because they don’t see the need in washing hands or they just feel obligated.

Either way, something needs to happen and I’m not referring to adding a 6th sign.

“The resentment that criticism engenders can demoralize employees, family members and friends, and still not correct the situation that has been condemned.” – Dale Carnegie

Story Time

A great story demonstrating the power of different thinking (sparking actual change) comes from the best-seller, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

The story goes like this…

George B. Johnston of Enid, Oklahoma, is the safety coordinator for an engineering company. One of his responsibilities is to see that employees wear their hard hats whenever they are on the job in the field. He reported that whenever he came across workers who were not wearing hard hats, he would tell them with a lot of authority of the regulation and that they must comply. As a result he would get sullen acceptance, and often after he left, the workers would remove the hats.

He decided to try a different approach. The next time he found some of the workers not wearing their hard hat, he asked if the hats were uncomfortable or did not fit properly. Then he reminded the men in a pleasant tone of voice that the hat was designed to protect them from injury and suggested that it always be worn on the job. The result was increased compliance with the regulation with no resentment or emotional upset.

If the hats had been too uncomfortable or didn’t fit right, making them more comfortable or the right size would have fixed this problem too. But the workers simply didn’t wear their hats due to constant criticism of not wearing them.

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Every time I’m criticized or feel manipulated into doing something, I feel like my fight or flight response comes to play. It’s not that I’m opposed to making a change; it’s that the person requesting the change doesn’t approach the issue in a way that I’ll accept.

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Adding more hand washing signs are not going to get people to wash their hands. That’s been proven. How? Notice the second, third, fourth, and fifth signs? Exactly.

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So What’s the Solution?

It might not be sheer laziness that prevents these guys from washing their hands. It could be that…

Reason Solution
They don’t like pressing the soap button after someone else ?
They don’t see the soap container ?
They don’t like the soap’s smell ?
They don’t understand the importance of washing ?
They don’t wash at home so how is work different? ?
They don’t think washing after using the urinal is necessary, only after defecating (that word sounds worse than it is) ?
There aren’t any paper towels ?
The automatic hand dryer isn’t working (which is typical here) ?
They’re on their phone and not paying attention ?

…and the list goes on.

Their reason for not washing could literally be a number of things.

So how do we get them to change? What reason do we give them to start washing their hands each time?

The solution is actually found within each problem:

Reason Solution
They don’t like pressing the soap button after someone else Get an automatic soap dispenser
They don’t see the soap container Change the dispenser’s location
They don’t like the soap’s smell Try a different soap brand
They don’t understand the importance of washing Have the company’s safety officer give a brief lesson
They don’t wash at home so how is work different? Encourage spouse/parents to be a better example
They don’t think washing after using the urinal is necessary, only after defecating (that word sounds worse than it is) Send email with facts on not washing
There aren’t any paper towels Replace every day
The automatic hand dryer isn’t working (which is typical here) Hire technicians once a week for maintenance
They’re on their phone and not paying attention Any of the above solutions

The next step would be to test these theories. See what works, what doesn’t. Ask employees for anonymous feedback. It almost sounds like reverse psychology to ask the employees what would get them to wash every time but it works!

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Anything Else?

With solutions available, one sign should be placed near the soap dispenser’s location for all to see. That’s it.

I hope this post has opened your eyes to new ways to get what you want even with this silly problem.

It’s clear that this is a problem but unfortunately it’s not significant enough to get those in charge to institute any real change. Maybe if someone anonymously sends the content of this article to the HR staff…hmmm…