David Mayer speaks to Michigan Radio about Flint water crisis
January 21, 2016
In his January 19, 2016 address, Snyder shared the findings from a task force charged with figuring out why the state didn’t recognize the severity of the problem in Flint. The task force reported the fault lay with a “culture of technical compliance” at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and suggested a DEQ culture change.
As Mayer explains to Michigan Radio, changing the culture can be tricky. ”Organizations that want to have cultures where people can speak up have to be really sensitive around this type of information,” he says. “If stories like, ‘oh, this person who actually spoke up, now we’re not hearing from them any more at all,’ I think that’s a really tough thing to overcome in having employees feel safe.”
Mayer goes on to explain that a human reaction called “motivated reasoning” also played a role in the crisis. “They [state officials] might not have taken the threat as seriously, because then they would have had to admit that some other action could have led to harm to people,” Mayer told Michigan Radio. “And that could be challenging internally to them.”
Mayer is a member of the Center for Positive Organizations’ core faculty team and an associate professor of management and organizations at Michigan Ross.