In Managing Workers’ Comp, Emotions Are Best Left Out of the Decision Process

At the NWCDN Annual Conference in Nashville last week, a presenter shared a personal story about how their emotions once got the best of them when handling a particular claim. The speaker, whom I will not identify here, told the attendees about a claim that landed on their desk early in their career. In the course of the investigation, they learned the injured worker was, in their words, “A really bad man.” And what they meant by that was he was a convicted sexual predator who had done some pretty heinous things in his life.

For our claims professional it became personal, and they resolved that this evil person would never see a dime out of this particular insurance company. There was no way they would reward such a terrible person with any compensation for this injury. They dug in their heels and fought the claim.

Except, as you may expect, the courts did not see it that way. The work injury was unrelated to his status as a predator. To compound things, the odds of this guy working anywhere else were absolutely zero. It seems that sexual predators are not in high demand in the workforce. For this claims professional it was a very expensive lesson about letting your personal emotions be involved in your decision-making process.

While it was an extreme example, it struck at the core of a real challenge for workers’ compensation professionals. We are all human, with thoughts and opinions that can be influenced by our experiences. Add to that the fact that the nature of our business does not lend itself to joyous frivolity, and you have a potential recipe for problems on the job. Stubborn employers, angry and confused injured workers, and long days with endless friction can create a stew of negativity, which creates risks regarding the decisions we make.

And those decisions can be costly, especially if they are influenced by elements other than the pertinent facts of the case.

It can be a challenge to help someone you genuinely do not like. It can be difficult to go the extra mile for a person who consistently fails to appreciate your efforts. In those difficult situations, we must learn to separate ourselves from our emotions and concentrate on the pertinent points of a case. It is the ability to act in that manner that makes us professionals, rather than simply someone with a job to do.

It is increasingly obvious that improving communications in workers’ comp could go a long way to alleviating some of the more challenging emotional issues we see. Injured workers who have a better understanding of the process would experience (and cause) fewer frustrations during the course of their claim. Employers who understand the importance of compassion and communication could also alleviate much of the negativity that ultimately challenges today’s claims professionals. The more we understand and educate the minds of the people we are serving, the easier our jobs will ultimately be.

Until that time, however, your emotions may be best checked at the door. They may get you in trouble, and in the end that can only make things worse. 

I know personally, that when my emotions get the better of me, it really pisses me off.