In this day of political angst and division, there is one thing we should all be able to agree on. Language matters. The words we choose can influence people's perception, attitude and actions. That is the concept behind “Workers' Recovery;” the idea of rebranding the workers' compensation industry. The change of one simple word could immediately alter the perception and expectations of not only the newly injured being thrust into the system, but the professionals who toil every day to get the job of care and recovery done. Words are simply that powerful.
After all, it was likely the wording of the headline that got you to read this article in the first place. Since you've made it this far, I might as well try to tie this all together.
I have heard an ad on the radio a few times in recent weeks that put my thoughts once again on this topic. The spot purportedly features the founders of a service called Legacy Box. Legacy Box specializes in converting your old format photos and video into digital files, essentially preserving them for the ages. One of the founders is making the final pitch for their service, when he says, “So send us your degrading photos and videos, and we will preserve them for you.”
Why would anyone do that? And why just my degrading photos and videos? What kind of perverts are these people? Nothing from my college graduation or wedding? Just the degrading and humiliating stuff?
I don't know about you, but when I think of degrading photos, I am happy to know that I went to college before Facebook came along, and prior to everybody and their brother having a camera in their pocket. And any video camera anyone could afford at that time was the size of a small suitcase and weighed 40 pounds. Those facts alone cut the existence of degrading photos and videos in those days by about 99%.
Now, it is pretty clear that in this case use of the word “degrading” is focused on the quality of the media on which the purported videos and photographs exist, not the content of the images themselves. Film, videotape and paper photographs all can be victims of time and storage, losing quality and, yes, degrading over long periods. I am sure that is what they meant with that spot. That, however, is not where I landed when I heard it – and I am probably not alone. I laugh at that spot every time I hear it. They should probably fire their writers, or at the very least take their marketing director's degrading photos and post them on Facebook for all of us to see. That would teach them to use appropriate verbiage.
They should have instead offered a line like, “Your precious memories - your videos and photographs, are subject to the heartless ravages of time. Send them to us and we will make them timeless, preserving them for you and all the generations that follow.” That line may not sell any conversion services, but it would sound a lot classier than “send us your degrading stuff.”
The workers' compensation industry has its own etymologic challenges. How we came to use such sharp, cutting and dehumanizing phrases such as claimant, claims examiner, adjustor and more could be the subject of a fairly intense study. As I have written before (and will continue doing so until my will be done), rebranding workers' compensation as Workers' Recovery will go a long way in removing degrading elements of our process. The claims department would become the Workers' Recovery Unit (thanks, Claire). Adjustors and claims examiners would become Recovery Specialists. And most importantly, injured workers, those who are currently and degradingly referred to as claimants, plaintiffs or applicants, would henceforth be referred to only as Recovering Workers.
That would set the stage for far better outcomes. And that is because language matters, and words mean things. The ones we choose in our industry should be positive in nature, and not degrading in expectation.
Now that is a beautiful picture that should be preserved for all time. But just to be safe, you can send any degrading photos or videos you have my way…..
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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