By MATTHEW BRODSKY, senior editor/Web editor
Someone who had to wake up on Thursday for an early breakfast meeting in Las Vegas at the NWCDC perhaps could relate to the topic touched upon in a session put on yesterday: Pam Caggianelli's "What's Your Problem? How to Manage Existing Behavioral Health Issues."
They could relate, you see, because they had problems this morning eerily similar to the warning signs of behavioral health issues outlined by Caggianelli, the manager of corporate health for Bausch & Lomb whose name by the way is spoken with two soft Gs as if there were a D before them.
Warning signs like smelling of alcohol, going to work unshaven and unkempt, acting moody and withdrawn when normally they are cheery and energetic. Perhaps our hypothetical NWCDC attendee didn't even make that breakfast meeting.
Are these all signs of a serious behavioral health issue that needs tackling as soon as the employee returns to the office next week? Or just common symptoms of a stay in Vegas to be written off?
After Caggianelli's discussion yesterday, employers might lean toward the former. She cited the stat from the World Health Organization that behavioral health will be the leading cause of disability by 2020. (It's currently the No. 2 cause.)
"That's not a good sign," she said.
The state of 401(k)s everywhere could lead to that occurring several years earlier if disability and risk managers don't watch out.
In her experience in corporate healthcare, Caggianelli's had a stabbing and a heart attack at her work sites. She once had a long-standing employee and his entire family die in a car crash. A worker once popped a bottle's worth of pills before a meeting with Caggianelli. Another worker went delusional and believed a temp co-worker was her husband hiding from her behind a mask.
The lesson from these anecdotes seemed to be you cannot write off behavioral health issues. You see symptoms? You act, you confront the employee. But Caggianelli's other lesson: Confront them to help them.
Use words like, "We don't want to set you up for failure, we want to set you up for success," she said.
"It's a pretty tough conversation to have with somebody, but it's one you have to have," she said.
And you shouldn't be throwing together a script for this conversation at 9 a.m. on Monday morning to use during your 9:30 a.m. meeting with that smelly, unshaven employee who missed the breakfast meeting.
Resources and policies to handle behavioral health issues need to be in place before the crisis happens, according to Caggianelli. Such policies and resources should take into account your corporate expectations related to behavioral issues, regarding attendance, FMLA leave, drug testing, corrective actions, disability and return-to-work, complaint handling, EAPs, security and workplace violence, company cars and DUIs, and other crisis management and fitness-for-duty issues.
But from the looks of the empty casino at the Hilton on late Wednesday night, employers might not have to worry. Perhaps all NWCDC attendees were asleep by 10 p.m. last night and took a jog before their breakfast meeting. Either that or they smartly hit the bars and tables at other casinos where colleagues and other attendees couldn't find them.
November 20, 2008
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