Speaking up on safety – new research gives workers a voice
Congratulations on being awarded your MRes, Andrea. What is your research all about?
In short, my MRes project was about communication in safety-critical environments and safety-critical organisations. Arguably, workers see and notice things in the workplace all the time, but they rarely speak up about potential issues or make suggestions to improve things. Researchers all around the world have tried to understand the psychological processes at play and how to motivate employees to speak up. Broadly, my MRes thesis investigated whether the supervisor’s leadership style may influence employees’ behaviour in voicing their experiences and suggestions.
Why did you choose this subject?
I believe this is an extremely relevant topic to investigate from a scholarly and applied perspective. Beyond the implications for safety communication theory that stem from my thesis, I think that what we uncovered is readily applicable in the workplace. We found that different leadership styles elicit different types of safety voice behaviours.
Organisations interested in specific facets of discretionary safety communication – for example, suggestions on how to improve safety, error reporting, and whistleblowing - may want to target their supervisors with specific training initiatives or incorporate desired behaviours into a formal reporting strategy.
Why did you choose Leeds Beckett?
I worked with the Psychology Applied to Safety and Health (PASH) unit within the School of Social Sciences at Leeds Beckett. This unit is led by Dr Matteo Curcuruto and Dr Jim Morgan, who have extensive expertise in organisational behaviour. Also, the psychology research group at Leeds Beckett is engaged in both quantitative and qualitative research methods, which offered me much-appreciated methodological breadth. This mix of academic and industry experience, along with methodological rigour, is what made me chose Leeds Beckett.
What’s the best thing about doing a research degree?
I think the constant challenge of making meaningful contributions to your chosen field of study and the enjoyment of independent research are the two best things about enrolling in a research degree at any level.
And what’s been the biggest challenge so far?
I was lucky that I was able to submit my thesis before the worldwide Covid-19 related health and economic crisis exploded in early March. The biggest challenge I had to overcome was finding a partner organisation where I could carry out my thesis research. That involved a high degree of project management, issue-selling, and perseverance in the face of rejections.
What’s the most useful thing that you’ve learnt so far?
Research-wise, during my time at Leeds Beckett I was exposed to several different research methods through the postgraduate research seminars organised by the Research Development team in the Graduate School. I would say that getting to learn those different approaches was by far the most useful thing.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
Before 2018, I would say that my proudest achievement was to successfully combine my academic achievement and my athletic career – I was a collegiate swimmer in the US but quit when I graduated in 2018.
Now, I really enjoy doing academic research and getting to publish my research papers is definitely a continuous source of pride for me. So far, I have had three papers published – including one in the European Journal of Psychological Assessment.
What is your top tip for new research students?
In the words of engineer Charles Kettering: “research means that you don’t know, but are willing to find out.” I interpret this as an encouragement to build upon what we already know and at the same time to step out of our comfort zone.
What do you do to unwind?
I try to exercise and listen to music after a period of work. However, a glass of good white wine also helps relaxing after a long day of research!
What would you say to someone thinking about applying for a research degree at Leeds Beckett?
I am kind of biased because I really like doing research, but please do send that application! Also, reach out to potential supervisors and/or current research students to get an insider view of what doing research at Leeds Beckett will look like.
Where do you want your MRes to take you?
I am currently enrolled in a PhD programme overseas, in the U.S. Pacific Northwest area, so doing my MRes at Leeds Beckett took me to even more research and scholarly activity!