Respect and Belonging at BIW

[Post by Chuck Krugh, December 18, 2023]

During the first week of December, I met with my entire leadership team to talk about Respect in the Workplace and Belonging at BIW. It took eight meetings to meet face-to-face with every supervisor, manager and director. However, doing this was important because it gave me an opportunity to ensure we had alignment throughout the company on both these topics. Alignment and consistency are key tenets of mine.

As you know by now, I like to ensure that we start from a solid starting point. To do that on this topic, let’s define respect and belonging for use in our discussion. Respect, according to the Cambridge Dictionary is, “The feeling you show when you accept that different customs or cultures are different from your own and behave toward them in a way that would not cause offense.” I like this particular definition because it addresses the differences between us and our behavior towards those differences. Also, one word in this definition is so important to me: that is ACCEPT. Accept means that we acknowledge or receive the difference, but to me, it doesn’t mean we have to agree, love it or even like it. In other words, we don’t have to agree with each other on everything to still be respectful of each other.

Deb Nadeau, our Director of Ethics and Compliance, defines Belonging as: “How we feel we are valued and accepted in the company.” While this definition of Belonging is relatively simple, it doesn’t detract from its importance. Belonging is critical to our success. We want our shipbuilders to feel that they are a key part of our company. All of our shipbuilders must believe they have a safe and positive place to work.

If you think about these two definitions, they are complementary. If each one of us respects our coworkers, then it would follow that our workplace would be a safe and positive place for all shipbuilders. Remember, we are all shipbuilders – regardless of the hat color, job title or job location. We cannot build and support these ships without everyone’s contributions to our company. We are all on the same team.

I believe that the importance of respect and belonging is self-evident, but look at it practically. As a shipbuilder, my job performance is not only dependent on my skills in my position, but my performance also is affected by the environment where I work.

If I have the best skills and work in a positive environment, then I have the best opportunity to reach peak performance. If I have the best skills but work in a negative environment, then I will never reach peak performance because the effects of that negative environment will drag me down.

In order for us to achieve Bath Built is Best Built, we must Safely Execute High-Quality Work. As a precursor to Safely Executing High-Quality Work, we must provide a safe and positive environment for our team members so they can execute at the highest level.

The positive environment comes not only from leadership, but also from coworkers. I met with my leadership team to make sure that they understood my expectations about our work environment as well as respect and belonging in the workplace. They have certain responsibilities for making BIW a respectful, safe and positive place to work. But you, as a coworker, have an important role to play as well.

Teams that ensure they have a positive environment for themselves and their coworkers will be more successful in the long run than a crew of highly skilled people who disrespect each other. They may be a crew, but they are not a team.

While we all work together in our mission to build Arleigh Burke destroyers to protect our families, each one of us has our own beliefs, values and culture. That diversity makes us a stronger company. Our different backgrounds help us think differently about many topics; however, on the deckplates, our different perspectives can help us reconsider the ways in which we work, develop new ways of conducting our business and find alternative solutions because we approach problem solving from a different angle.

I’m happy that our differences can drive us to be a stronger company! Respecting one another and fostering a sense of belonging at BIW is good for our people and good for our company as a whole.

See you on the deckplates!

Safely Execute High-Quality Work

President, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works

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