Is our work culture retributive or restorative?

When something goes wrong, when a mistake is made, do we question our systems and processes or do we find someone to blame? Is our objective retribution or restoration? As a Christian, Adventist organisation what side of this fence should we sit? Does our culture need to change?

Just Culture: The Movie is an honest, powerful account of the amazing transformation of Mersey Care, an NHS mental health trust in the UK, where only a few years ago, blame was common and trust was scarce. Their management culture was described as intimidation and bullying, “Dismissals were frequent: caregivers were suspended without a clear idea of what they might have done wrong.” Despite following “procedures” and “best practice” this was a workplace with a retributive culture of blame.

Sidney Dekker, is founder and professor of the Safety Science Innovation Lab at Griffith University, and author of dozens of books and hundreds of papers that discuss safety culture. Professor Dekker implores organisations to support the dignity of the person in safety practices. Working closely with Mersey Care UK, Dekker helped transform their organisation to one that now has a culture of trust, learning and accountability.

Just Culture: The movie, provides a raw analysis, with real people and victims, of the ‘retributive’ culture described above. As you take the time to watch, think about your workplace culture; is it one of restorative justice or retributive justice? What should it be? (30 min)

Professor Dekker inverts our thinking from where we might view an incident as something negative to be brushed away as quickly as possible, to something we can value and learn from. As he states in the movie, “An incident is something you’ve already invested, what you need to do is get a return on that investment. A restorative just culture allows you to get that return.”

A restorative, just culture asks:
“Who is hurt?
What do they need?
Whose obligation is it to meet that need?”

The goal of a restorative culture is not to add more hurt, but rather to bring healing, restoration and ultimately, redemption. And isn’t that what Church organisations should be about?

Photo credit: Shutterstock – ESB Professional