Frequently, employers and insurance carriers ask me to determine the physical causes of a workplace injury by performing a job site analysis. They've never asked me to look at the psychosocial factors related to the injury. However, the findings in a recent study suggest that maybe they should. According to the results, conflicts with coworkers or supervisors and high emotional stress significantly increase the likelihood of an occupational injury. Interestingly, the lack of job satisfaction or job commitment doesn't significantly increase the risk. This intuitively makes sense. Have you ever worked with a colleague you couldn't stand or a chronically negative boss? It's often unbearable.
After a particularly negative encounter with a superior, a colleague pretty high on her company's food chain told me, "People don't leave jobs because of difficult work. People leave jobs because of difficult bosses." Leaders-whether working on the assembly line or in the boardroom-have a responsibility to set the emotional tone for a company. When it's negative, work suffers.
The inside cover of Daniel Goleman and his colleagues' book, Primal Leadership, summarizes its message in this manner. "If a leader resonates energy and enthusiasm, an organization thrives; if a leader spreads negativity and dissonance, it flounders." Later, the authors write, "For too long managers have seen emotions at work as noise cluttering the rational operation of organizations. But the time for ignoring emotions as irrelevant to business has passed."
I'm not placing blame on leaders and managers for workplace injuries. Unfortunately, accidents and injuries will happen. The goal of an organization is to remove barriers to safe work practices and implement safety measures that make work as safe as possible. What I'm espousing is that when leadership-given the financial and time burdens that workers' comp places on an organization-has an opportunity to set a positive tone with employees and possibly reduce workers' comp costs simultaneously, doesn't it make sense to do it?
I had dinner this week with a friend who said he was retiring after 30 years at the same job. I knew he was contemplating the move, but he hadn't yet made his final decision. I asked him what drove him to make the decision. He told me he had initially decided to work a little while longer and increase his retirement pay, but after observing an incident between a coworker and a supervisor, he decided it was time.
Briefly, this was the incident: His boss' supervisor was in his work area for a meeting on two consecutive days. On both days, the coworker went to the restroom at the same time, a little past 7 p.m. On the second day, his boss' supervisor called the coworker into the office-who, by my friend's report, was a long-time employee who hadn't had previous problems with management. It seems the coworker was chastised for going to the restroom on company time, and the supervisor wanted to make sure that a "trend wasn't developing." That evening, my friend gave his retirement notice to the company. He said the money wasn't worth the hassle.
My challenge to managers and leaders is to set a positive tone for your employees. Your financial reward may well be worth the effort. IBI