Focus on respect is current buzz in construction industry - Lesley McLeod

I have always prided myself on being good at what I do. I know it is arrogant but I have worked hard at learning my trade. Increasingly however – and in my mind, rightly – it is not enough just to be good at things: we have to be good with the people around us. And there, I know, I often fall short.

Behaviours are the current buzz in business. But a focus on how we treat each other is positive generally. From accusations of bullying in government to inappropriate questions raised at palace parties we all need to think before we speak. And, more importantly, challenge the assumptions we hold in our heads.

It’s not for nothing we have one mouth and two ears, but still too often people are deaf to the damage they’re doing. And that’s a problem for industry and the economy without counting the genuine distress to those on the receiving end.

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I work for the Association for Project Safety (APS) – a body dedicated to putting health and safety at the heart of the built environment. You might think it makes my members both robust and careful. And they are! But let’s face it you don’t normally associate building sites with being a model of decorum. So, we all need to be reminded there’s no excuse to treat people with casual disregard. It can too easily tip into bullying and discrimination. And suicide is an increasing industry issue. Decency is something we all have to address.

Lesley McLeod, CEO, Association for Project SafetyLesley McLeod, CEO, Association for Project Safety
Lesley McLeod, CEO, Association for Project Safety

The ripples from the Building Safety Act – the centre piece in England of how the government is trying to address failures in building safety following the Grenfell fire disaster – won’t stop at the border. Its effects will reach into every corner of the country and creep through all projects, not just high-risk tower blocks. And key to improving the situation on site will be a greater focus on competency and how professionals undertake the work they are employed to do. But part of that won’t just be the bolts and bricks end of things. The mortar holding it all together will be how people treat each other and the ways they behave to both clients and the users of the projects on which work is being carried out.

Change is coming. And to be honest, many will feel it is long overdue. It is just getting to construction a little later than some other regulated industries. Whether you believe this or not, in banking and in energy – both sectors I know well – treating customers fairly is a mantra everyone knows and recognises.

But words are not enough. Respect has to be observed because it’s all about how we fit into the jigsaw of society. I am not someone who is into cancel culture. I believe fundamentally we ought to hear out the opinions of other people. Even – and maybe more importantly – because we do not agree with them. But it makes no sense to belittle, deride or dehumanise other people.

Bullying does not beget better outcomes – in business or in life. There are quite enough sticks and stones around us. It is time to remember that words can hurt as well.

Lesley McLeod, CEO, Association for Project Safety

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