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Are Bad Employees Really the Main Problem in Workers Comp?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Written By
Kory Wells

by Frank Pennachio, WorkCompEdge Blog Contributor

Are there really that many “bad employees” out there crippling the workers comp system?

The prevailing message I received at a recent two day workshop on workers compensation is that there are. But I don’t agree.

The workshop was conducted by a renowned risk management organization and primarily attended by risk managers, claims people, and safety managers from large, self insured organizations. The Bad Employee, mentioned again and again, was synonymous with one who malingered in recovery, experienced a delayed recovery, or committed fraud.

Mark Twain in cap and gown

“How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!” – Mark Twain(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

I keep asking myself why so much emphasis was put on the Bad Employee as a major, if not primary, cause of costs and problems in the work comp system. Addressing that question prompts several additional questions in my mind:

  1. Why is it that in the information age it is so difficult getting good information to people who can make a difference?
  2. Is it because the person doing the telling has something they want to sell you and can benefit from such erroneous myths?
  3. Is it because dusting off and rolling out the same old tired stuff is easier and takes less effort?

I realize that these questions point to a range of ills, from operational legacies to intellectual laziness to the much more serious intentional deceit. My dad, who got smarter as I got older, used to say that a person’s position depends on his position. In other words, a person’s point of view depends on his or her station in life or business. Is it too cynical to think that service providers think they can make more and easier money off the Bad Employee story as opposed to an alternative, more credible story?

Truthfully, I’m not that cynical most days. I think it’s more the case that the Bad Employee just makes a good story, an easy scapegoat. But I know for sure that these workshop leaders vigorously defended the current methods of management in the workers compensation system. Are we all thinking the same ways on these issues, or are we simply overdue for new thinking to reach all levels of the work comp business?

There are ample amounts of academic and actuarial research written over many years that tell a story different from the Bad Employee one. But, as Mark Twain said, “How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!”

In addition, John Kenneth Galbraith said, “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”

Do you think Bad Employees are the root of all problems in the work comp system? Is a malingering employee a Bad Employee? Post a comment to the blog and let’s get a discussion started!


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