COL Vickie Tuten, MS, CPS/A
In the military, everything is about acronyms so I will share with you an acronym that I just made up. The acronym is HOCM...Herding of Cattle Mentality (pronounced hock-um). This is a very dangerous and potential side effect of being an Occupational Hearing Conservationist (OHC) or Professional Supervisor (PS). We must be constantly aware and vigilant to not fall prey to HOCM.
So why are we at risk you ask? Well, the sheer volume of employees tested in a hearing monitoring program can cause eyes to glaze over, attention to wander, and routine and boredom to set in. It is difficult in such circumstances to not look at that employee as number 150 out of the 200 employees you know you must complete before your day ends.
For OHCs, when you get to employee number 150, you may engage in such self talk as... “ I have 100 more ears to look in, 50 more pairs of earplugs to fit, or 50 more hearing tests to print”... and the list goes on. For a PS reviewing audiograms, the same risk of falling prey to HOCM exists because you are not even dealing with a human being but perhaps looking at hearing test data on a computer screen or paper. It is important not to engage in self talk that looks at it as just one more test. Better to see that data on the screen or paper as a human being with a potential communication issue which could impact job performance, productivity, or overall quality of life.
Hearing Conservation Programs should never fall prey to HOCM. Keeping the focus on the employee first and foremost is the most important step one can take. Once we start seeing that employee as a number, we have lost the fight. The right kind of self talk is critical. Self talk such as “every employee cares about these test results that I am providing”, “showing that I care about their hearing will help them care more”, or “what I say (or don’t say) could impact a change in their behavior that could save their hearing” is the type of self talk that we want to consistently engage in.
In years spent running large programs with more than 40,000 Soldiers, I always asked technicians to explain test results to each and every individual tested, check the fit of hearing protection as if it were their own, and communicate that they care in any message they deliver or counseling they provide. Caring about the quality of the work you do, and understanding your value in the bigger picture can keep you positive and motivated and ensure that HOCM does not set in. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is stamp out HOCM!