When I tell people, at a BBQ for example – when their PC demeanor is perhaps suppressed – that I work in the arena of workers’ compensation, the reaction is usually disappointing. It would be very rare for someone to react by saying that it must be great to work in a field where you can help people, or for them to express their wish they had gotten into the worker’s compensation industry. So I generally just say I am a physiotherapist.
If only they knew the great potential provided to organisations by their inevitable injuries.
In our culture we value decisiveness. We value being right. We value plans. We value oversimplified explanations because we’re time-poor. These values loom large in the worker’s compensation environment. My observation is that the ongoing efforts to control, perpetuated by our 3-4 year political cycles, iteratively create a dehumanizing subculture.
Optimistically, however, in an environment where the illusion of control is pervasive – manifest as processes, rules, legislation, and misleading attempts to be objective – opportunities to be human abound. When you work within a dehumanizing subculture – a humanizing approach seems novel.
My hope is that we can change our language, that we can change the discourse, and that we can challenge the conventional wisdom that people who have been injured at work should be considered with suspicion.
My hope is that we can stop calling injured workers claimants, that we can stop sending letters to workers that are infused with medico-legal jargon. That we can stop assessing claimants and start really meeting people. That we can suspend our adversarial agendas, and listen to peoples’ stories through a prism that acknowledges how little we know about them…and acknowledges that they can be trusted with choices around their recovery.
I’d really like my intuitive response at BBQs to be a proud expression that I work in workers’ compensation. I would really like the reaction to be one of genuine curiosity and even a degree of positivity.