The path to frustration
Having a conversation with a new friend I met over the Easter break by a cabin in British Columbia, I was struck by the vast difference in what she was telling me about her day to day job and her current persona. “Those above me yell at me, with spit flying everywhere and rage in their eyes. I then have to turn around and rage at some project managers with spit flying everywhere, and so on. That’s really the only way I can describe my job. I’m a bitch in heels.” These words were coming from the mouth of a woman who has the biggest smile, most welcoming attitude and came to find us when they were going to let off fireworks because she thought we would enjoy it. It really made my heart hurt that the company she worked for seemed to offer no other way of operating than being a ‘bitch in heels’.
This conversation was then compounded by listening to a girlfriend describe how the company her father works for is rocking up to annual reviews with questionable data, as it appears the older you are in chronological years the lower the percentile your performance is. Hint, if the employees can sense what’s happening on a larger scale and think you’re tasked with ‘getting the old guys out’, you might be in for some trouble over a longer period of time.
What comes to my mind in both of these situations is that the bottom line is important for each of these companies, we are talking oil and gas here so cost cutting is prevalent with the decrease in the value of oil. What also comes to mind, is that by going about things in this manner is only propagating what we are already seeing - an increase in Mental Illness claims though insurance companies. Already, I was doing some mental math on how much it would hypothetically cost my friend’s dad’s employer with the way they are currently handling things:
- Roughly 67% (Canadian Insurance) of her Dad’s current wage due to being off work for mental health reasons = approximately $130,000/year until the age of 67 which is about $650,000 for the purposes of this math
- 100% of the wage of the person needed to back fill his position, often younger with less experience and knowledge = approx $80,000/year
- The $ gap in productivity between the above two people’s efficiency, plus any associated training time required = approx $40,000 for the first year
- Increased insurance premiums due to increased claims (this can linger for 5 years in some Canadian provinces) = nightmare long term
- Increased stress for the in-house rehab/OHS/WHS employee, more cases typically leads to less time per file and an increased likelihood of people ‘falling through the gaps’ = additional stress leave potential for the claim manager.
With just a brief amount of thought (it is Easter), I think the numbers keep racking up to the tune of a minimum of approximately $250,000 in the first year before we even start looking at the broader impact of this one hypothetical “claim” over the period of its potential to be open, ball park is a minimum of $750,000. There are lots of things happening here, middle management feels pressured to achieve their directions and likely don’t feel great about ‘getting rid of the old guys’, this is a system under a lot of pressure, which ironically, leads to more mental health claims. The truly heart breaking part of this whole thing is that this is not an isolated situation. In spending time in Canada for a couple of weeks, I hear and see the same pressures, the same processes and the same challenges that we are facing in Australia. The numbers and processes might be a little different between different countries, I can guarantee you that the outcomes for both employers and both countries will be the same: Costly claims and a continuing upward trend of mental health issues in the community.
What can prevent this haemorrhaging of money and subsequent spiralling of mental health? Well, I'm glad you asked...
Here are 3 top tips:
- Don’t fear your ageing workforce - ask them what their plans are and work with them from an employment perspective. The process can be mutually beneficial with short and long term succession planning put into place
- Engage your workforce - this comes in many facets and ThinkHowe can help you identify the best avenues for your company
- Create a long term succession strategy or plan, as above, with the median age of the population increasing we need to step up and make new rules to this ‘old’ game. We get to create it.
With this world becoming ever more the global village, a macro view can be taken on how things get done. Let's apply some of the evidence based research that the academics are providing to us and start the shift towards places of employment being full of engaged workers.
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