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Functional Alcoholism: (“The Drinking Doesn’t Bother Me”)

“Functional alcoholic” is a destructive term that everybody has heard.  Generally, the term is used by those who are aware of the alcoholic’s drinking pattern, but wish to avoid feeling responsible or confronting it by denying its problematic impact.There is no such thing as a functional alcoholic just like there is no such thing as functional cancer.  This term is an example of enabling. It is a term of convenience created by enablers. In a sense, all alcoholics — if they’re alive — are functional.  It’s a matter of degree.  This term is destructive because it helps the alcoholic avoid being confronted and it works for the enabler quite well. 

Functional alcoholic means the coworker’s behavior doesn’t bother you.  Indeed, others may see the same alcoholic as quite dysfunctional — particularly family members.  Don’t use this term to describe alcoholics.If you feel that you may know someone that fits this description you can call us and we’ll help you with the resources you need to effectively handle this difficult situation. 770-683-1327 24/7/365.http://workexcel.net/reasonable_susp.htmlPosted by Dan Feerst, MSW, LISW

Getting Ready for Bathing Suit Season?

While this is a frightening thought for most of us, fitness expert Craig Ramsay (ulive.com) recommends a 5-minute workout anywhere routine:

  1. Perform these three simple excersizes while waiting in line: alternating calf raises, 20 reps; gentle pendulum side-leg swings, 20 reps; alternating purse biceps curls, 20 reps
  2. Pick vacation destinations that will challenge you physically like National Parks
  3. Call your phone and leave an encouraging message
  4. …Then ask loved ones to do the same. Listen to them during challenging times when you need extra support
  5. Put an event on your calendar every few months that motivates you to look good – beach day, pool party, get-together with friend, cruise vacation
  6. At work, try the invisible Office Chair: keep feet and knees together, bend knees while lowering booty toward where the chair used to be. Gently pulse 20 reps. Come up, stand, shake it out and repeat.
  7. Waiting for the kids by the minivan? Try backseat step-ups: Hold on to the rooftop for balance. Step up onto the floorboard with the right foot, left foot comes up to meet it. Step down to the ground with the right foot, left follows. 20 reps per side
  8. Update your gym membership. Clubs run promos that may be better than the deal you are signed up with
  9. Attention, shoppers! Pick a shopping basket over a cart
  10. …And then throw in biceps curls, squate, dead lifts – burn more calories while checking off items on your grocery list.

While you may look a little silly, you will have the last laugh at the pool when you show off your new bod! Happy exercising!

7 Myths About Bullies

bullyingMyth: Bullies seek power because they feel powerless.

Bullies use aggression in a calculated, dominating way to get what they want, and often it works. Many children experiment with power tactics early on but give them up in adolescence.

Myth: Children who become bullies were themselves previously abused.

Long-term studies of very young children who experienced abuse in preschool show that they become victims – not bullies – who have little control over their emotions.

Myth: Bullying is a problem for schools to solve.

“It’s a societal problem. School is where it happens, because that’s where children gather,” says Pepler. “Adults set the tone that shapes behavior for the children.” Notes Schwartz, “There is no research showing which school variables predict who gets bullied or not.”

Myth: The best way to manage a bully is to fight back.

Physical confrontation is the weaker position and encourages bullies to continue. Social assertiveness is better. Walking away is best of all.

Myth: Bullies outgrow bullying.

Some do; multiple factors influence development. But many who bully carry their social interaction patterns into adulthood, Pepler has found. They are at high risk of dating aggression and are highy likely to sexually harass peers. Aggression is one of the most stable behavior patterns.

Myth: Cyberbullying is an entirely new phenomenon.

Cyberbullying is a spillover of local peer-group dynamics. The same kids who get bullied at school get bullied on the Internet. “Instead of wedgies it’s text messages,” Schwartz says.

Myth: Everyone is at risk of cyberbullying.

Kids most at risk are those who use the Internet as their primary way of communicating; they may rely on it because they are isolated and lonely.

Contributed by Debra Pepler and David Schwartz, Psychology Today Magazine

6 Proven Ways to Deal with a Bad Boss

Horrible bosses aren’t just in the movies. How many times have you heard someone complain about a bad boss? Almost everyone has worked with one at some time in their careers. Type in “bad boss” on Google and you get 356 million hits. It’s an awful situation to be in, if you have one.

Not surprisingly, bad boss behavior is really harmful. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says 77% of employees receive significant stress symptoms from a bad boss. Research published in the Journal of Business and Psychology shows that negative leadership behavior produces lower employee morale and emotional distress.

How do you handle a bad boss? First, consider that you can’t change the person. For whatever reason, your boss is unable to lead people well. Yet, the reality is that many companies keep terrible bosses if they achieve their numbers or have personal relationships with key clients or executives. Second, you can only control and change how you respond. If you need or want to keep the job, don’t allow yourself to be a victim or whine about the situation. While it isn’t necessarily easy to tolerate what’s happening, here are six proven methods you can use to train that horrible boss and minimize your suffering.

  1. Control yourself –You spend way too much time at work to let a bad boss ruin your career or family life. You start to handle a bad boss best by working on yourself first. Center yourself by doing an honest self-inventory about your strengths and areas to improve. Are you sure it isn’t you that has a problem? If it’s the boss, find some personal ways to let off steam: relaxation, exercise, talking with others or taking strategic timeouts. Take the high road, treat your boss with respect, learn to do a great job or at least a better job. Why does this matter? If you do your job above reproach, you lessen your bad boss’s impact on your work performance, and you will feel better about yourself.

  2. Clarify priorities – Ask your boss for a meeting to clarify his or her expectations. Take notes. Create a plan, with goals and action steps for your responsibilities. Then present it and ask for input. Listen and make appropriate adjustments. Why will this help? You are minimizing misunderstandings about what has to be done and why. The incompetent boss will often be delighted with your initiative, sparing them that necessity. Nearly all bosses will appreciate this approach because it saves them time and effort.

  3. Communicate upward – Most bad bosses, especially the tyrants, hate surprises. Regularly let your boss know what’s going on: email, meetings, casual update. One of my coaching clients had a obsessive data-driven manager who sent long emails at all hours. Other employees became overwhelmed and started complaining to one another. This caused them serious backlash from him. My client managed his boss with good follow-up on key priorities. It provided him lots of space his co-workers never received.

    However, don’t overdo the communication; learn the timing and process that seems to work best for your boss. By doing this you will also learn other information that will help you help your boss look good. Why is this helpful? This isn’t “brown nosing” here. You are specifically checking in to keep your boss off your back and to make a tough situation better for you. A common mistake in dealing with bad bosses is avoiding or retreating from them. This just adds to your trouble.

  4. Confront strategically – The book, Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, by Wess Roberts, provides a clue for a dealing with a horrible leader. Be principled, but don’t be stupid. If you fight a bad boss on everything you most likely will lose. One manager I worked with took no gruff from anyone and had some serious arguments with his no-nonsense manager. While my friend made his points, he also lost his job when he could ill afford to do so. Pick your fights and confront positively, with key data and plans to support your point of view. Document your concerns when communicating with a bad boss, and keep a copy. How does this help? You will gain the boss’s respect, you maintain your integrity, and you have a record.
  5. Consult others – Discreetly talk to other people you work with. How do they experience your boss? Is it just you? What’s working for them? What isn’t working? How do others handle situations like yours? Do this to broaden your perspective and maybe pick up a new idea or two.

    You may consider talking to your boss’s boss. Research the status of their relationship. What kind of leader is this leader? Is she like your boss or is the person approachable? Bring your documentation when meeting with her and refer to it, if it seems like she is empathetic to you. Going over your manager’s head can come back to haunt you. Do this thoughtfully and carefully.
  6. Contact HR – Use this approach if nothing seems to get better. You have to gauge the type of Human Resource team you have. Are they compliance driven or are they employee advocates? If they are compliance driven they will often take the boss’ side, which doesn’t help you. And, bad bosses tend to get resentful. Most often it ends badly for employees. If they are employee advocates you may gain some helpful counsel while they investigate and keep your comments anonymous. Some organizations have employee hotlines coordinated through HR. Research it, before you use it.

You have to determine if can you live in the situation your boss creates. If you can, use these six tips to help. If you can’t, you can always quit to give yourself a chance for a fresh start, but get another job first. Of course, you could wish you worked at Amazon, who recently announced they will pay unhappy employees to leave.

By the way, do you want to learn proven approaches to becoming a “good boss” and increasing employee engagement? If so, I suggest you check out this complimentary eBook: How to Motivate-No-Inspire Employees: 10 Keys to Employee Engagement.

Or, are you going through lots of change at work and want to help yourself or others cope with it better? Then, check out this complimentary eBook: Changing Change Management.

New PPACA Fees Strike Employers

By Josie Martinez
Senior Partner and Legal Counsel 
EBS Capstone, A UBA Partner Firm

PPACA Fees – The goal of health care reform is health care for all… but at what cost? By 2015, businesses with 100 or more full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE) employees will be at risk for financial penalties (the so-called “employer shared responsibility assessments”) if they do not offer health coverage to full-time employees.  The same fate follows in 2016 for large employers with 50 to 99 FTEs.  We are all well aware of the “no offer” and “insufficient offer” assessments that could be applied to employers that do not offer affordable, minimum value coverage to full-time employees, and most of us have already been advising clients on penalty avoidance strategies for many months. Meanwhile, business owners nationwide struggle with weighing the financial aspects of providing such coverage or paying the penalties.  A recent survey suggests that only 28 percent of companies that employ a large number of low-income workers offer health benefits. 

There are other costs to consider as well. In addition to the employer shared responsibility assessments, various other fees are being felt by employers. These fees are expected to ultimately result in higher premiums and could undermine the core principle of affordability in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that is meant to provide basic health protections for all Americans.  Over the next several years, group health plans may be required to absorb the costs of up to four new fees. These fees imposed by PPACA on insurers will inevitably trickle down to increase rates in the coming years.  In a recent meeting presented by a major national health insurance carrier, regarding “State and Federal Reform Impact,” it became clear that at least three new assessments/fees imposed on carriers will affect employers’ renewal rates in the future and ultimately their bottom line. 

  1. Reinsurance Assessment – This per capita fee on medical plans will fund a three-year reinsurance program designed to reimburse companies that insure high-cost individuals in the individual health insurance market.  The total amounts to be assessed are $12 billion in 2014, $8 billion in 2015, and $5 billion in 2016.  The estimated fee is approximately $63 per year ($5.25 per month) per covered individual in the first year; however, fees are expected to decrease in subsequent years.  The assessment applies to both insured and self-funded plans. Insurance providers will pay the fee for insured plans while third-party administrators may pay the fee on behalf of self-funded plans. The fee is collected each year from 2014-2016 and the first payment is due January 15, 2015, for the 2014 benefit year. Membership counts for 2014 must be submitted to HHS by Nov. 15, 2014, based on the first nine months of the year. We expect this same schedule in 2015 and 2016.
  2. Comparative Effectiveness Research Fee (CERF) – This is an annual fee imposed on all insured and self-insured plans.  The goal of the research is to determine which of two or more treatments works best when applied to patients, thereby comparing different types of therapy against each other.  CERF will be charged to health plans to help fund the research that will be conducted by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a nonprofit organization established by PPACA. The initial annual fee is $1 per year per health plan member (includes dependents). The annual charge increases to $2 per member the following year and then increases annually with inflation after that until it ends in 2019.  Insurance providers will pay the fee on behalf of insured plans, while employers with self-funded plans will need to determine their liability and account for this fee in their own reporting.  For many plans, the first payments were due in July 2013.
  3. Health Insurance Industry Fee – This annual fee impacts fully insured plans.  The estimated cost of this tax will be $8 billion for 2014 and eventually increase to $14.3 billion by 2018.  The tax is divided among health insurers and will likely be passed on to plan sponsors as an addition to premium.   The Health Insurance Industry Fee has a much greater potential financial impact than either of the other two taxes because it is intended to help fund the cost-generating provisions of the PPACA. The fee will be divided among health insurance carriers based on each carrier’s share of the overall premium base and will only be assessed relative to insured health plans, inclusive of medical, dental, and vision plans. Self-funded health plans and associated stop loss premium will not be included in the premium base. The cost impact of the fee is expected to be in the range of 2 percent to 2.5 percent of premium in 2014, increasing to 3 percent to 4 percent of premium in later years. Insurance companies will likely begin to reflect this additional cost in their premium rates in 2013 and/or 2014. Importantly, this fee does not sunset.
  4. Cadillac Tax – A 40 percent excise tax will be assessed on the cost of coverage for health plans that exceed a certain annual limit ($10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for other than individual coverage) beginning in 2018. Under the current regulations, the cost of health coverage includes employer contributions to HRAs, as well as employer plus employee pre-tax contributions to FSAs and HSAs. Health insurance issuers and sponsors of self-funded group health plans must pay the tax on any dollar amount beyond the caps that is considered “excess” health spending. Note: There are certain adjustments built into the thresholds that may apply by 2018. Also, the thresholds may increase for certain plans pursuant to age and gender adjustments.

These new fees are supposedly intended to raise revenues that will support the individual insurance market, help fund the state exchanges, and assist with conducting research for more effective treatments. However, they will also dramatically impact group health plan premiums and could spur many employers to drop their group health plan sponsorship, pushing more employees into the individual market. In anticipation of what lies ahead, it behooves us to work proactively with employers well before the effective dates so they can plan their finances accordingly rather than be blindsided by unwelcome surprises.

Tags: PPACAhealth care reformemployee benefitshealth care costsACAGroup health plansbenefit communicationbenefit managementcompliance with health care reform

Abusing the Bottom Line

workplace drug abuseState’s drug and alcohol misuse rates highlight the need for and value of good workplace policies

By Lorie Hailey

Prescription drug abuse continues to plague Kentucky, and employers are paying the price in higher workers’ compensation and health insurance costs, reduced productivity and heightened risks to non-abusing employees.

Employers whose workers misuse prescribed drugs also have a greater risk of being sued.

As many as 70 percent of drug and alcohol abusers in America are gainfully employed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Mental Health Services, which uses a formula designed to quantify alcohol and drug “abuse.”

“They are on somebody’s payroll. That tells me that they’re doing a pretty good job of hiding it,” said Gary Moberly of Versailles, retired director of Labor Management and Relations and Mediation in the Kentucky Labor Cabinet. “People who are abusing drugs or alcohol don’t stop what they’re doing because they’re going to work.”

Workplace accident statistics appear to validate Moberly’s observation. Of all workplace fatalities in the United States, 37 percent are traced back to the use or abuse of alcohol and drugs, according to the Labor Department. Substance abusers are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident, and are five times more likely to injure themselves or another worker in an accident.

“Abusers are 10 times more likely to miss work and five times more likely to file a workers’ comp claim,” Moberly said.

Kentucky workers’ compensation claim costs are well above the national average, according to Dave Adkisson, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. He testified during a special session of the General Assembly, which was debating HB1, a measure that allows only doctors to operate pain management clinics and requires physicians to use the state’s electronic prescription drug monitoring system, among other requirements.

HB1 failed to gain passage in the 2012 regular and special legislative sessions.

“A major cost driver to the Kentucky workers’ compensation system continues to be prescription drug costs,” Adkisson said. “Physician in-house dispensing has more than doubled in Kentucky over the last four years in workers’ compensation cases.”

Three of the top five prescription drugs in Kentucky in dollars terms, Adkisson said, are controlled substances. Injured workers are not being rehabilitated and returning to work, he said, but “our workforce is becoming more and more dependent on prescription drugs to manage pain.”

Employees who return to work impaired become a workplace and occupational hazard, according to Adkisson, particularly in environments such as coalmines, warehousing industries and manufacturers.

Productivity loss is $42 billion

Healthcare costs also are climbing. The direct healthcare costs of prescription drug abuse exceed $70 billion a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Workers who abuse substances have healthcare costs that are three times as high as non-abusers, according to the government’s formula. And they are 33 percent less productive, according to the labor department estimates.

“Substance abuse affects the motivation of the worker,” said Debbie Trusty, education director for Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education), which has three offices in Kentucky. “Those folks tend to miss more work than other workers, and they average more sick days than the typical employee.”

In fact, workers who abuse substances are 1.5 times more likely to miss work, according to UNITE, and the toll in lost productivity is $42 billion.

Additional hidden costs, according to the agency, take the form of personnel turnover, poor decisions, damage to equipment, friction among workers, damage to a company’s public image, and diverted supervisory and managerial time.

While state and national leaders look for new ways to keep drugs out of abusers’ hands, business owners can aid the fight against drugs in their workplace and save money by taking advantage of a state drug-free workplace program that can save them at least 5 percent on their workers’ compensation costs.

UNITE offers drug-free workplace training, as well as informational sessions for community members. Moberly, a consultant who assists companies in becoming certified Drug-Free Workplaces in Kentucky, also offers certification training and maintenance. He contracts with the Kentucky League of Cities to assist all of its clients who buy KLC’s workers’ compensation insurance in becoming certified Drug-Free Workplaces.

To become certified and receive the insurance discount, employers must host special training sessions, adopt a drug-free workplace policy, conduct regular drug and alcohol testing, and provide continuing education for employees and supervisors.

The training sessions teach workers and their supervisors about addiction and how to recognize it in others or in themselves. Different types of drugs and the varying symptoms of their use also are discussed, Trusty said.

“We format it (the training) according to a particular business’s workplace policies,” she said.

Certified workplaces must encourage workers to seek help if they think they have a substance abuse problem, Moberly said, and an employee assistance program must be offered.

Trusty, who works out of Prestonsburg, frequently deals with coal mining companies that are trying to lower their risk for accidents as well as their operating costs.

Employing workers who abuse drugs is especially risky for companies whose work requires the use of heavy machinery, she said.

A lot of businesses have zero-tolerance substance abuse policies but will give an employee time off to seek treatment if they are forthcoming about their addiction, she said.

Aside from workers’ compensation insurance savings, it is difficult to quantify the benefits of taking part in the program, Moberly said.

“It’s not perfect, but at least somebody is doing something about the problem,” he said. “Some bad situations have been avoided.”

For example, one of the cities he assists received a complaint that a dump truck driver was driving erratically on a county road, Moberly said. A woman told city officials the driver almost collided with her.

Because of the training and policies in place, the driver was drug tested and found to be under the influence of methamphetamine, Moberly said. The city employee was removed from the job,

“If you prevent one death or one accident,” he said, “then, my goodness, there is no question in my mind that this is a good program.”

How to spot a problem

Employers and human resource managers who suspect an employee is abusing drugs or intoxicated on the job must take action quickly, said Damian Wirth, human resource manager at Franklin (Ky.) Bank and Trust Co.

When supervisors have “reasonable suspicion” an employee is intoxicated, they should make investigating the situation a priority, said Wirth, who serves as public relations director for the Kentucky chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management.

First, he said, consult the company’s policy on drugs and alcohol.

“You’ve got to be proactive in writing policies and having your labor attorney review them,” Wirth said.

A substance abuse policy protects employer and employee alike, and gives supervisors guidelines.

The manager must “document, document, document” the situation, Wirth said, using their own observations and the claims of other workers.

“Don’t just rely on one source,” Wirth said. “Back up claims with credible sources.”

Look for bloodshot eyes and note if the employee has an odor. Notice a change in the worker’s demeanor, and listen for slurred speech. Take note of the employee’s orientation and ability to walk or complete tasks.

“If you have a combination of these items, it is a more reasonable suspicion (that there is an abuse issue),” Wirth said. Managers should never rely on only one warning sign. “With bloodshot eyes, the employee could have allergies,” he explained.

Sometimes, drug abuse is well camouflaged and difficult to notice. Managers must get to know their employees so they can spot trouble more easily.

“Look for inconsistent behavior,” Wirth said.

If a formerly model employee begins calling in sick every Monday, for example, or a worker who always was on time develops a problem with tardiness, it may be a red flag.

Substance abuse is a complex problem, but employers should use common sense when dealing with it.

“Don’t over- or underreact,” he said. “Act with a sense of urgency, but remember to never go on only one observation.”

Chamber offers advice

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is planning workshops in May and June that will offer answers to business owners and human resources managers about substance abuse in the workplace, among other issues.

The 24th Annual Kentucky Human Resources Update, which has a conference planned in Louisville and Lexington on separate dates, includes a session titled “Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Law – Everything You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask.”

It also will provide updates on healthcare reform, significant legal decisions and other issues.

A workers’ compensation conference set for June 19-20 will help human resources managers learn more about problem areas associated with workers’ comp claims, including substance abuse. Visit kychamber.com.

Lorie Hailey is associate editor of The Lane Report. She can be reached at lorie@lanereport.com.