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Getting Along


By Michael Halliwell

A lot has been going on recently that draws my attention back to the social side of our world rather than worker safety or the latest technical innovation. I dislike being a social commentator, but I’ve seen such a night-and-day difference in the last while that I cannot help but focus on it for this blog entry.

Section of 9/11 memorial
By Spc. Jeremy Bennett / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

News coverage recently has been full of stories that are somber, frightening and discouraging, but there are also stories of encouragement and positivity.

In looking at the news recently, we’ve had so much going on that even just the list of the “big” items can be quite depressing: an anniversary of 9/11, police-involved shootings where race is a perceived factor (and the riots that follow), a U.S. presidential campaign where immigration and illegal workers have been at the forefront, the situation in Syria with the flood of refugees seeking a new start around the world, and, of course, terrorism in France and the U.S. with ISIS/ISIL claiming a role or responsibility. The list just keeps going on and on.

Yet nestled in the mass of negative world events was a sporting competition that celebrated both the differences and abilities of people who are sometimes marginalized by those around them.

Cheering Accomplishments

Sure, we’ve followed articles about the construction failures and fatalities that occurred in the construction of the Rio Olympic venues; read reports about the Olympic Village issues; and heard spectacular tales of doping, crimes and the city’s favelas, or slums ... but did you know that a second Olympics Games just finished up?

2016 Paralympics parade of athletes
By Tomaz Silva/Agência Brasil / CC BY 3.0 Brazil via Wikimedia Commons

The 2016 Summer Paralympics Games took place this summer, where individuals with all manner of different abilities engaged in supportive competition.

The 2016 Summer Paralympics Games just concluded. Massive crowds showed up to cheer on participants and individuals with all manner of different abilities engaging in supportive competition. Athletes cheered on each other’s accomplishments, rather than tearing each other down for their failures or shortcomings.

Considering my recent participation in the Ride to Conquer Cancer on a handcycle, it’s not surprising that I’m going to bring up a famous name in this blog: Alex Zanardi.

Zanardi is the former professional racing driver who lost both legs to a spectacular Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) race crash in Germany back in 2001. It ended his CART career and required a long road to recovery, but it also lead to a triumph as Alex has discovered a new passion in racing handcycles. It’s also led to marathon wins and gold medals at two Paralympics Games.

His is a great story of overcoming adversity, but, as inspiring and wonderful as that story is, it’s not the story I want to share in this entry.

Gracious Winners, Losers

No, this is the tale of the men’s H5 handcycle road race at the event, where South African Ernst Van Dyk took the gold and Zanardi took the silver.

It’s not so much the race itself that grabbed my attention (although it was a spectacular race that came down to the last corner and a sprint to the finish line), but rather the “afterwards” that caught my eye.

Rather than Zanardi letting lose with a bitter response at his loss or tearing down van Dyk, or van Dyk gloating at his win, both men were incredibly positive about the event.

Their tweets following the event are such a positive example of what is right in the world. Both shared photos of being off their handcycles, hands raised, with Alex’s arm around Ernst’s shoulder and genuine smiles on their faces.

Alex tweeted: “I lost to a great champ period Alex is really happy but that’s all I had today.”

Ernst tweeted a photo showing Alex giving him a friendly tap on the helmet just after they crossed the finish.

The result is the result, but the sportsmanship and mutual support was phenomenal from both individuals. Yes, they both have inspirational stories and have overcome adversity to reach Paralympisc gold. They have wonderful stories to tell and I’m sure they’d love a rematch, as all good competitors do, but their example is what I bring to your attention today.

Take It to the Job Site

It is so easy to allow differences of any sort to divide us, to be a source of strife and contention that leads to hatred. The news is full of examples where this is taking place: fearmongering in the presidential election, news stories highlighting religious or race-based incidents of hatred and fear. But what about on your work site?

Each day, we have a lot on our plate: we’ve got a job to do, a deadline looming and many others to deal with to get the job done.

Which example are we choosing to follow on a day-to-day basis? Are we celebrating the differences that can make the job a success, that can build a stronger team, that can find new and innovative ways to solve a problem and do the job in the best way possible?

Or are we poisoning our jobsite by allowing negativity, put-downs, unfriendly competition or even hatred to divide ourselves and make us weaker?

vessel paint repairs
© / Teun van den Dries

My challenge to you today, is to think about how you’re getting the job done. Can you say you’re being like van Dyk and Zanardi and celebrating each other’s accomplishments in getting the job done?

My challenge to you today, is to think about how you’re getting the job done. Can you say you’re being like van Dyk and Zanardi and celebrating each other’s accomplishments in getting the job done?

Or are you being like far too many others: finding a way to find fault with your co-workers and celebrating their failures to try to make yourself feel better if something didn’t go your way.

There is a Latin proverb that says “It is easier to pull down than to build up”—but isn’t our job construction?

Keep building, folks; it makes the world a better place.


Michael Halliwell

Michael Halliwell, M.Eng., CESA, EP, P.Eng., is an Associate and Environmental Engineer for Thurber Engineering Ltd. in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. During his 17-plus years with the company, he has been involved with environmental site assessment, remediation, construction inspection and supervision, and project management. He also performs hazardous building material assessments for asbestos and lead paint.



Comment from Jeff Horvath, (9/29/2016, 7:35 AM)

Michael- Thanks so much for the wonderful, encouraging article. It is so refreshing to see/read some positive thoughts. Great application for all of us!

Comment from Bob Dahlstrom, (10/7/2016, 2:32 PM)

Thank you Michael, love the part where you say "Rather than Zanardi letting lose with a bitter response at his loss or tearing down van Dyk, or van Dyk gloating at his win, both men were incredibly positive about the event." and then relate it to our industry and jobs with the challenge to think about how we get our jobs done; "Can you say you’re being like van Dyk and Zanardi and celebrating each other’s accomplishments in getting the job done?" I firmly believe that by working positively together we can look out for each other (safety) and be more productive.

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