First step: Don’t overreact. Don’t make accusations and don’t threaten.
Second step: If the employee’s stress is severe, get help for him or her from a professional counselor or a psychologist.
Third step: If the stress, and the resulting poor job performance, is caused by the employee’s personal (non-work) life, then back off. Don’t try to be a father, mother, brother, sister, priest, minister, or psychiatrist to your employees.
Fourth step: Step up the frequency and honesty of performance evaluations. Be sure that the employee understands what his or her job duties are and are not. Many employees under stress are confused about their job duties… or are trying to accomplish too much.
Fifth step: If the stress (or poor job performance) is caused by work-related conditions, help the employee break down the difficulty into manageable parts. And then help him or her tackle them one by one.
Sixth step: Allow time for improvement. Don’t expect overnight changes. let your employee know you expect change, gradually. Set realistic time frames for achievement of changes.
Profile: The Stressed Employee
Who are the employees who typically file stress-related Workers’ Comp claims against employers? Knowing this picture of the typical stress-related Workers’ Comp claimant can help you identify employees in your workforce who might need some stress-prevention attention.
Here’s a picture of the typical stress-related Workers’ Comp claimant:
- The claimant is more likely to be female, at least 55 percent of the time. This is double the percentage of all disabling injuries.
- Stress claimants’ average age at the time of stress injury is 40 years of age. This is nearly 20 percent older than other types of injury claimants, who average age 34. Although workers under age 25 account for nearly a quarter of all disabling work injuries, they account for only 5 percent of stress claims.
- White-collar occupations dominate the mental stress claim population. Workers in white-collar jobs (professionals, managerial, sales or clerical positions) account for scarcely 20 percent of all disabling injury and nearly 70 percent of stress claims. Sales and clerical employees file 40 percent of stress claims.
- Mental stress claims result from stresses occurring over an extended period of time — in other words, cumulative exposure. Nearly 25 percent are asserted during the first year of employment, and more than half of these are within six months of being hired.
- Only one in ten mental stress claims occur after a specific work related incident such as an armed robbery or a proven episode of mental abuse by a superior.
- Of blue collar workers filing claims, one in three is a laborer and only one in ten is a machine operator. Uncertainty over future job prospects and not boredom appear to be the main reason for these stress claims.
-Source: California Workers’ Compensation Institute, research notes.