Psycho-social workplace issues – George’s Safety Reflections
Guest post by the late George Robotham
I have only had to deal with one psycho-social claim in my time managing workers compensation and rehabilitation. A female secretary was being harassed and bullied by her female boss. The department manager knew what was happening, did nothing to manage the situation, tried to sweep it under the carpet and generally mismanaged the situation with the result that relationships between the 2 parties deteriorated.
By the time I got involved in my role as Rehabilitation coordinator the secretary had a medical certificate for many months off work due to stress. She was a mess but fortunately she had a supportive family. I liaised with her treating health professionals and sympathetic managers at work and eventually found her a position where she was able to gradually return to work. She was very happy that she had been removed from the bullying behaviour and that we had shown a lot of interest in resolving her issues.
The thing that concerned me was how little sympathy the secretary received from her peers, the people who said she should just toughen up did not understand the extent of the problems she had been exposed to.
The difficult area with psycho-social cases is what part of it is attributable to the person’s particular psychological makeup and what is attributable to work, this is where you need the mental health experts. Once these issues emerge they can be very difficult and time consuming to resolve.
Much better to treat your employees with respect and dignity to start with and constantly monitor if problems are occurring. Sometimes relatively minor issues can result in perceived difficulties.