How Your Values Relate to Food Safety Culture

food safety culture values Sep 03, 2021

Yep, your values are showing EACH. AND. EVERY. DAY.

Like the other day when you had to let someone know they didn’t fill out the record completely for a temperature check, or when you high-fived someone for catching foreign material.  Your values were showing.  You were telling everyone around you that documenting food safety programs and speaking up are important.  You’re exhibiting the food safety behaviors (culture) you expect to see. 

Your values are also showing when you’re told:

  • product has been mislabeled again (no worries, it’s all on HOLD), or 
  • a corrective action response is the team member was ‘re-trained again’ for picking stuff off the floor and returning to work, or 
  • your capital expense request for software to support food safety programs is denied AGAIN.   

If you’re like me, I have visceral responses to each of these scenarios, and even just writing about them conjures up some pretty angry feelings.  It just frustrates me that others think these responses to food safety situations are okay.

Does this sound familiar to you?

This is the reason Food Safety Culture can be so tricky!  It’s not just an organization outlining their mission, values and key performance metrics around food safety.  It’s about our personal values and how they play out at work.   Values are what drive our beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.

Our values are like layers of glass jars in which we filter information.  We’ve been collecting layers as long as we’ve been around.  We have layers of beliefs and values from our parents, our families, our schools, our community, our friends, our work, etc.   Sometimes there are so many layers of values and beliefs around us, it’s hard to see which are truly important to us as individuals.   If we look closely, we may even find values and beliefs that don’t even serve us anymore or have transitioned to a new meaning. 

Now, on top of that, put a new set of values from our organization about culture, and specifically, food safety culture.   We're supposed to adopt new beliefs, attitudes and behaviors simply because our organization would like us to.   How well does that work?

The scenarios above show us.  It's likely we'll encounter differences in our values on a regular basis as we’re all navigating culture, specifically food safety culture, together.  We’re going to run into these scenarios where our values are not aligned.  What do we do? 

Well...there are two options – either figure out which VALUES are being rubbed wrong so we can figure out what to do about it OR we can stay angry, frustrated, and do nothing.   This is when you need to know your values to figure out which one is being rubbed wrong AND hopefully whomever you’re tangling with will be able to articulate their value being rubbed wrong.

It leads to the question: When’s the last time you actually thought about your personal VALUES? 

If you can list off your VALUES right now – kudos to you.  If you can’t – no worries, you’re not alone and here’s why.  Once you sort out your VALUES, you can more easily understand why you’re high-fiving someone for finding foreign material or why your blood boils when someone skips over a food safety step.   There’s a zillion ways to review your values - message me and I'll give you a few resources!

When you understand your values, you’ll know what’s actually valuable to you, and others will too.  Now you can have productive conversations around food safety behaviors and attitudes.   After all, your values are showing EACH. AND. EVERY. DAY.

Thanks for the read!

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