Managing People with DITMR (Deer in the middle of the road syndrome)

For thousands of years deer had two primary methods of survival.  The first was to run very fast when they were in an open field.  The second was to stand very still when they were in a forest.

If they could not outrun the mountain lion, they knew that if they stood still while in the forest that their camouflage would make it harder for them to be seen.

For thousands of years these methods worked very well to insure their survival.

With the advent of automobiles, the fundamentals of survival for deer changed. However, their basic instinct has not changed.  When a car is coming at them at 60 miles an hour many times, they freeze believing that they will not be seen.  The results are usually very hard on both the car and the deer.

This is called DITMR (Deer in the middle of the road) syndrome.

Every person can experience DITMR.

Most supervisors do not recognize when their employees are experiencing DITMR.  If the worker is dealing with a new task, when the volume of work is overwhelming or if there are large dollars at stake some people freeze.  The unconscious thought of the employee is “If I do nothing, I at least will not make a mistake or show how little I know about the job.” 

Unfortunately, for most jobs, doing nothing usually is worse than doing something.  In workers’ compensation, doing nothing usually results in slowing down the compensability decision, failure to provide benefits and significantly increases claims costs. 

When doing something, sometimes mistakes are made.  However, for claims examiners minor mistakes are actually one of most effective learning tools.  Doing nothing, usually results in a worse outcome than doing something.

It is good for supervisors and front line managers to recognize symptoms of DITMR and directly deal with the person to help overcome the problem.

The top three issues which create the most DIRMR are:

1.  The first time an employee had to perform a specific function

2.  Large or extremely complex claims files with high dollar exposure

3.  An excessive volume and variety of work which was thrown at the examiners in a short time frame.

DITMR is usually more acute with new employees than with highly experienced employees.

There are system analytics which may be employed to help identify employees who are experiencing DITMR.  These are a backlog on managing the claims diary, an unusually high number of claims which are delayed vs accepted or denied, stair-stepping reserves, or chronically not returning phone calls. Another symptom is when all claims settled are at the examiner’s settlement authority and none are above the settlement authority.

There are wonderful programs to help avoid or overcome DITMR.

  • Recognize when the examiner is doing something for the first time and carefully walk them through the process. When completed, debrief.
  • Do group staffing for larger files.
  • Trade complex files between examiners to get the right case in front of the right examiner.
  • Look for outside stressors which may be causing
  • Look for relief if the caseload if overwhelming

One successful method to deal with the DITMR, is to talk about the phenomena with all of the employees.  I encouraged them to say “I don’t know what to do on this file” “This is my first time doing this and I would appreciate some help to get me through it.” Or I am completely overwhelmed!   DITMR is one of the roadblocks to productivity and success for the employee and for the office.  Identifying who may be impacted by DITMR is the first step to solving the problem.  Implementing analytics to identify DITMR is the second step.  Creating an environment where the issue was recognized and resolved in an appropriate way is the third step to success for the employee and the company.