Safety Awakening – “The Inverse Relationship Between Confidence & Competence”

January 9, 2015 No Comments

 “The Inverse Relationship Between Confidence & Competence”


There’s a big difference between being “competent” and having “confidence”.

Over 40-years ago I was a newly minted college graduate with an advanced degree in occupational safety and health.  I was extremely confident, maybe even cocky.  I thought that I knew it all, and frankly, I looked down on the old-timers who lacked the latest and greatest education that I had.

Some of the young safety professionals I meet these days have a similar attitude.  They are highly confident experts in the latest technology, and they often look down on older professionals because they are not as technically savvy.

Sure, these young professionals might be up on the latest computer technology and social media stuff, but have they ever:

  • managed a multi-location, international EHS program?
  • worked for OSHA?
  • been a successful consultant?
  • investigated a fatal accident?
  • rendered first aid to a horribly mutilated accident victim?
  • presented at national/international professional conferences?
  • supervised a staff of EHS professionals?
  • completed post-graduate, leading-edge research?
  • developed and taught university safety classes?
  • written a book?
  • turned around the accident record at a large company?
  • managed safety during a lengthy union strike?
  • helped to develop a national safety standard?


Respect old-timers who have already done the above types of things.  Realize that you’ll need decades of real-world experience to approach their level of competence.  

The older I become, the more I realize how little I really know.  This realization makes me much less confident now than I was 40-years ago.  

The more “competent” you are in your chosen field, the less “confidence” you will have. 



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