Workers’ Comp Board – Alberta
© 2013 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.
Last week I spent two days speaking in Calgary and Edmonton, Canada, to almost 500 staff and managers with the Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta, Canada. This organization serves many people with benefits, services, and assessments of needs when workers have an injury, rather than having people go to court and litigating for damages and medical needs. This is very similar to Workers Compensation in the United States. The Board is an independent non-profit organization, which bids to handle this work. Most of the people making claims for benefits, services and assessments are ordinary people with a true problem, although many are having an upsetting time and their emotions can sometimes take over. Also, a percentage of people today who make claims to any organization, whether governmental in nature, private insurance or non-profit, appear to have high conflict personalities: they may perceive that they have been injured but they don’t really fit the criteria and they keep fighting – in other words “The issue’s not the “issue” – the personality is the issue.
For years we have been educating people about this problem in the court systems, and it is increasing in the workplace as well. The saying that 10% of the people take 90% of the time can fit for managers, as well as government agencies and the courts, at great expense to organizations, other employees and taxpayers.
At the seminars, I emphasized an increasingly important message these days in dealing with high conflict personalities: They don’t reflect on their own behavior, so that giving them insight into how they are generating or at least contributing to their own problems is a waste of time: “Forgetaboudit!” is the word for this. Instead, it helps to use the C.A.R.S. Method®:
CONNECTING with Empathy, Attention and Respect
ANALYZING options, choices, proposals
RESPONDING to misinformation and hostility in writing
SETTING LIMITS on high conflict behavior without making it personal
The idea of “Forgetaboudit!” is hard to absorb, yet it can save you 80% of your energy, which has probably been focused previously on trying to “make people understand” their own behavior. Instead, think about the following phrases:
Trying to make a high conflict person (HCP) “understand” himself or herself
Trying to make an HCP “see” what their part is in the problem
Emphasizing the past. (Instead, focus on short-term future behavior and consequences)
Using an angry tone of voice. (This just escalates their own anger and misbehavior)
Trying to shame them into good behavior. (This just makes them more defensive)
As part of each seminar I gave to the WCB-Alberta, they played four videotaped scenarios of potentially high-conflict interactions with clients and employees. Then we discussed the scenarios and how the staff members could respond using the C.A.R.S. Method®. Over and over again, people realized how important it is to try to CONNECT with Empathy, Attention and Respect (“EAR Statements™”), before talking about rules, laws, consequences, etc. It really makes a difference, whether the person has a high conflict personality (is an “HCP”) or is just upset at the moment about something.
It’s amazing how people appreciate being treated with empathy, full attention and respect, rather than being lectured or criticized. But, of course this is hard to do when you are being lectured, attacked or criticized yourself. So it takes practice and this group seemed very interested in applying the methods we discussed. It was also fun seeing their co-workers in the taped scenarios, getting to be high conflict people! I was quite impressed with the commitment of the staff and managers, and I enjoyed speaking to them.
Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.