By: Dr. Brian Grant, Founder and Chair, Medical Consultants Network (MCN)
Every injury and disability claim must be examined individually and generalizations used cautiously. With that caveat, it is apparent and obvious to anyone who has been involved in reviewing and managing injury and disability claims that who is hired is often a much more useful determinant of injury and disability occurrence than what happens once an individual is employed.
The best predictor of the future is the past, a concept that many employers seem to ignore or have never learned. Just as colleges admit students based upon prior academic performance and tested aptitude, so should employers consider relevant past history and aptitude when hiring individuals. The workplace is a complex place. It requires interpersonal capacity to work with and get along with others. It requires the ability to deal with complexity in terms of tasks, priorities, and managing often competing and ambiguous expectations. It requires dependability and consistency of attendance and performance.
All too often, individuals who have problems with any of the above will fail at work. In the simplest of cases, these people will quit or be fired. Either of these outcomes is expensive and painful for all. But not infrequently such individuals end up making the more tortuous, expensive, and questionable disability and workers’ compensation claims that the employer is then asked to pay for.
Experience in the medical trenches evaluating thousands of injury and disability claims has led me to the firm conclusion that in many such cases, the most important and determinant factor in the claimants’ presentation at their evaluation was the simple fact that they were hired, not anything that can reasonably be attributed to workplace circumstances. A review of their history reveals a series of interpersonal and performance failures that, if they had been considered, would have been predictive of future problems in life and at work. And these problems often become ones that the employer is held responsible for with questionable justification.
How could this have happened, I would often ask? What function did Human Resources play in recruiting and screening prospective employees? Employers have a right to be selective and discriminate in a legal manner in the hiring decision. They have a right to examine relevant past history including performance in prior jobs, in school, in the management of responsibility (such as credit checks where legal), and in any other area that is not specifically and appropriately prohibited. But how many employers exercise this right? And once hiring is completed, how many employers exercise their right to verify their hiring decision in the early days of employment by properly addressing problematic situations as they arise, perhaps necessitating an early parting with employees who are demonstrating behavior at the workplace suggesting a hiring mistake rather than hoping for a change that in many cases is highly unlikely.
The reasons for such personal dysfunction are many and include disruptive early life experiences, less than adequate parenting and guidance in childhood and adolescence, and personal decisions made by the individual. Society at large as well as the individuals themselves pay the price for these developmental, social and economic problems in the form of higher social service costs, criminal justice concerns, ignorance, increased health problems, and personal unhappiness—along with general inequities that while not fully preventable, can be moderated. But employers in a competitive society would be wise to take measures to consider carefully whom they hire and to avoid in legal and proper ways the hiring of those individuals who are at higher risk of failure and more likely result in an economic burden rather than contribution to the workplace. And we as a society should examine the cost of our decisions to cut corners in education and family support that in the end bring many of these problems forward.
About Dr. Brian Grant
Brian L. Grant, MD is the founder and chair of Medical Consultants Network (MCN). He is Board certified in general and forensic psychiatry. He is a 1974 graduate of the University of Michigan and received his MD from Michigan State. His post-graduate training was completed at the University of Washington, where he holds the position of clinical associate professor. Among his many interests are workplace function and the medical and social drivers that impact it.
MCN was founded in Seattle in 1985 and currently has offices in eight states to serve our clientele nationwide. MCN provides medical judgment services including independent medical evaluations and peer reviews. Clients include insurance, legal, health care, and government entities. MCN operates with a highly structured and scalable information system backbone and leads the industry in technology and leadership. The company contracts with over 16,000 consulting physicians in all fifty states to perform assessments.