Acknowledgement in WC: It Matters

                               

From a very early age in life, we want to be acknowledged. We want to be seen and we want to be heard. As we grow older, we want to be appreciated, to be valued, to feel worthy. These are basic human elements to life and the human connection. The workers’ compensation space is no different.   

I have the amazing opportunity to be a Professor at Drake University. This past week, one of my students asked if I would come to the tennis meet Friday at 5pm. Sure! I love tennis and I will do anything to support my students. After the meet, this student, and two of my prior students on the team, came up to me to express their appreciation for my attendance. Two are foreign exchange students and the other student’s parents live out of state. These students expressed the meaning it had to have someone they knew come support them and their team. They felt seen, heard, acknowledged, and valued. Especially since the prior two years with the pandemic lead to no visitors. It was so much fun to see them excel… Drake swept the meet. Go bulldogs! Even more amazing was the radiation from the energy in the smiles, the hugs, and the sincere appreciation of acknowledgement.   

Acknowledgement. Being seen. Being heard. Being valued. Are these elements we teach in workers’ compensation? They are the basic elements of human connection and yet, I do not believe I have ever had someone talk to me about these from a workers’ compensation claims perspective. Could you imagine the shift, the change in the industry, the various perspectives if we began claims professional’s journeys with these simple elements… what would the experience be? How could we shape an INDUSTRY by being human?  

In an email the following day from one of the students on the Drake University tennis team, he wrote, “Thank you so much for coming. It means a lot to us, and the support really helps. Hard to describe the feeling of playing at a home match with people cheering you on.”   

What if we started treating injured workers as these people in need of support? And our roles in this industry were to support and encourage, to show up and acknowledge the human spirit? To help? What if we used wording and phrasing with proactivity, adding in a dash of sparkle to fuel that fire within each person struggling to take the next step? What if we started being those people cheering an injured worker on throughout the recovery process, and if a misstep occurred, we were there to catch these people, physically, mentally, and emotionally? What if we started helping injured workers along the process to healing and recovery? What if we HELP?  

What would our world look like then? How would we shape our industry?   

Being seen.   

Being heard.   

Being acknowledged.  

Being valued.   

Being supported.   

Being encouraged.   

Being cheered.   

I challenge all parties in the workers compensation space to begin any further trainings, education, and meetings following the principles of acknowledgement within the human spirit. We need to share in successes and encourage voices to be heard, especially with the voices not yet amplified. We talk a lot in the industry about brining seats to the table, building seats where there are not chairs present, and helping others share ideas. How do you act on these issues?  

Being seen.  

Being heard.  

Being acknowledged.  

Being valued.  

Being supported.   

Being encouraged.  

Being cheered.   

What does this look like? How do we help people understand how simple and easy this is to achieve? How gratifying it feels to change the trajectory of someone’s life in a positive way… what it feels like to spark a ripple in someone’s life that will impact so many people in a meaningful and purpose-driven manner. These feelings are unlike any other and especially as someone who interacts with injured workers on a regular basis, you can make amazing things happen for people each interaction you have with them. Be the change, spark the change. Be the change, spark the change. YOU have the power to do so. YOU.   

Being seen.   

Being heard.   

Being acknowledged.  

Being valued.   

Being supported.   

Being encouraged.  

Being cheered.   

Too many people fall through the cracks of the workers’ compensation system. Making sure an injured human being feels supported through a process designed with good intent but difficult to understand is the minimum we can do to help them along the process.   

Being seen… understanding there is a human being with a life on the other side of a workers’ compensation claim. Not a claim number, not a voice mail, not an email in your inbox, a human being with a life on the other end. SEEING this injured human being as someone who wants to become a functional contributing member of society once again, and simply had an unforeseen circumstance occur resulting in injury. SEE this as an accident, the reason in which workers compensation was formulated. And the reason claims adjusters have a job. TO HELP PEOPLE. See the person on the other side of this equation as a human. A human who has no idea what comes next.   

Being heard… listen. Actively and reflectively listen to the person on the other side of a workers’ compensation claim. What happened, what are they worried about, what concerns do they have. Listen to hear how YOU can help them. Change the perspective of your ‘job’ into thinking about being a servant leader. What can you do to help this person get back to being a functional contributing member of society, restoring their function and purpose to get them back to work, back to their life! LISTEN. This is an avenue we rarely teach for adjusting purposes and the art/act of listening, both actively and listening, needs to be one of the most important skills of an adjuster.   

Being acknowledged… something happened, or this person would have not transpired into a workers’ compensation claim. Acknowledge the fact something happened, an injury occurred, and now it is up to you to help guide this person along the workers’ compensation process. Acknowledge concerns. Utilize empathy. Have you ever been injured? Recovery can be tough. Acknowledge this is a process. People have many other things going on in their daily lives. Acknowledge the challenges present for an injured worker to deal with daily. Acknowledge the human components necessary to establish connection. Return phone calls and emails because there is a human being on the other end. Acknowledge.   

Being valued… there is a human being on the other side of this workers’ compensation claim. Human life. This person is a valuable member of their family, community, philanthropy, work environment, neighborhood, and friend circles. Understand the value of human life and the control you have over it when you are working in the workers’ compensation claims world. Treating a human being with respect and dignity. Remember the golden rule… do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Karma is a real thing…   

Being supported… This industry has so many rules and regulations. There are a lot of hoops and being an adjuster is one of the avenues where someone can really make a difference by breaking down barriers, walls, and cutting through red tape. Find choices to enhance the scope of control for an injured worker. For example, if you have multiple ways you can issue payment to an injured worker for mileage and indemnity, ask the injured worker what they would prefer: check, ACH, debit card… find options for people to have CHOICE. What day of the week do they need their check? If you can control this, provide an option. It adds support by providing choice. Does the injured worker have children? Would it be easier to have PT before work or after work? Do they need childcare to attend PT? Think outside the box to help support the injured worker through their recovery process. These little things can make huge differences in healing outcomes and reduce stress (therefore reducing inflammation) along the way.   

Being encouraged… The road to recovery can be challenging. Find ways to be encouraging of your injured worker. If they are having reductions in their weight restrictions, but feeling like physical therapy is getting harder, find some way to encourage and acknowledge the injured worker. Find ways to support if there are concerns about returning to work or if there is hesitancy. A ‘you can do it’ comment couple with a follow through call at the end of the first day an injured worker returns to modified duty can make a huge difference. Taking the time to call an injured worker’s direct leader to remind them to support, encourage, and check in matters. Encouragement is not a normality in the workers’ compensation claims world and it should be. These human elements are imperative to change the landscape of what we have created over the past hundred years.  

Being cheered… Celebrate successes! Injured worker returned to work? Fabulous!! Recognize and cheer them on! Injured worker lifted a gallon of milk and a few weeks later was able to lift their child, success! Congratulate them!! There are amazing little moments that build and snowball upon one another that can drive fantastic outcomes if we take the time to notice, recognize, acknowledge, and vocally address with another person. CHEER the injured worker on to return to work. After all, the system is set up to be a difficult and challenging process. Fine a way to be better. Our industry depends on it.   

Being seen.   

Being heard.   

Being acknowledged.  

Being valued.   

Being supported.   

Being encouraged.   

Being cheered.   

These should be the founding principles we teach adjusters when they are coming into the workers’ compensation space. It costs nothing to be a good human being and can change a landscape of negativity this industry has felt for decades. Be the change. YOU determine our next steps. Join me. Be the change. Make good things happen for others. It matters.   

Dr. Claire Muselman is an avid lover of tennis, Adjunct Professor at Drake University, and the Chief Risk Officer for Emory Industrial. She believes the workers’ compensation industry can be better by adding a dose of glitter and sparkle to each interaction. If we do not make the change now, who will?  


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