When I began my career as a claims analyst, I participated in an extensive eight-week training. The trainers of this class went through the most basic of principles and taught the black and white rules to adjudicating a disability claim.
I left the class with two huge binders filled with information for me to reference in any given situation. The problem with these binders is that they lacked the marrow that makes each claimant unique and their story authentic to them.
The confidence I had coming out of my training was soon met with fear and doubt in my abilities. As a newbie, I was assigned a mentor. I was blessed to be paired with a man who had compassion for not only his claimants, but also his co-workers.
The greatest lesson I learned from our working relationship was the fact that we don’t know what we don’t know. Admitting this lack of knowledge takes a vulnerability that few are willing to show.
Vulnerability in the workplace can seem like a fast track to ending your career. Why would anyone want to admit that they did not know something or needed help? To get ahead in this world we’re taught that we need to show our strengths and demonstrate our ability to perform at top levels and succeed. Personally, I do not believe that is always the case In fact, the more I allow myself to admit to myself and others that I need help, the more I grow as an employee, and the more my work improves as well.
In my daily job I come in touch with people from all walks of life. They are experiencing some common, but also not so common medical diagnoses. I must rely on the expertise of clinically trained staff to teach me how these impairments are truly affecting my claimants’ emotional and physical lives.
In order to relate to these individuals, who are going through a very difficult time of their lives due to their disabling condition, I need to understand their symptoms and how they affect their day-to-day life. I need to ask questions from our clinical staff and admit that I don’t understand how an illness that might not be seen with the naked eye can hinder a person’s daily abilities to care for themselves.
It might seem obvious that I would not have the medical background to know about every medical condition and would need to go to a subject matter expert for such information. This isn’t a huge stretch in admitting my lack of knowledge. But what about when I go to my fellow claims analysts and ask them for their thoughts?
In my brief experience in the claims world, I have not come in contact with all the possible scenarios for why a person may be unable to work. If I look outside myself and at the people sitting around me, I have countless years of experience in many subjects that I can pull from and use to assist me. However, I need to be vulnerable and allow myself to ask the questions, and maybe even say, “I don’t know what to do here.”
One of the first claims I inherited when I joined my Long Term Disability (LTD) team was that of a bus driver. The claimant had injured their right leg and foot and was unable to sit for long periods of time, or drive. The claimant’s company was trying to accommodate their restrictions and limitations and found them a temporary administrative position in their office with limited hours.
My initial concern was the claimant could lose the LTD benefit by accepting the position. While talking to my mentor about the claim, he suggested we look at the policy. LTD policies can have several additional benefits that can be overlooked if you are not familiar with the policy.
This particular policy had a work incentive benefit. This allowed the claimant to work part-time without the fear of losing all of the benefit. The claimant is required to provide paystubs to determine how their benefit will be affected. In this instance the claimant actually was able to return to work for a few hours a week and receive her LTD benefit each month.
Ways to Embrace Vulnerability
Saying “I need help” or “I don’t know” are not words that flow freely from most people’s lips. I have found through the years that it is amazing how liberating those words can be. In showing your vulnerability and recognizing that you can’t do it alone, you open yourself up to a better relationship with those around you.
Showing your need for others makes them build confidence in themselves, while also growing your connections as a team. Building a strong foundation and relationship with those around you makes the company as a whole stronger and more successful. Over time, you will find that this allows others to feel comfortable being more vulnerable and asking for help as well.
Challenge yourself to turn to your team over the next week. See how simply asking for support can enhance your performance, lead to learning, build team cohesion, and grow your relationships.
- Ask for a second opinion on a claimant to get a new perspective
- Share a memorable case with your team lead and ask if they have any similar experiences you could learn from
- Request help with a task that you find challenging and offer help with a task that you find easy
- Take 5 minutes each day to talk through what you’re working on with a co-worker
- Ask a junior team member about how they would approach a claimant
Though I have only a few years of experience in claims management, I have the benefit of drawing from those around me for the insights, experience, and knowledge that I will also have someday. We all have our strong points: writing a strong decision letter, being empathetic and able to communicate verbally with our claimants, or reading through countless numbers of medical records and understanding the direction of care that the individual will need.
Some days I only need to say my thoughts out loud to a colleague and I find the answer to my own question. We all need a sounding board at times. The key is to not be afraid. We are not in this alone, we have support all around us. We only need to admit that somedays we all need a little help and guidance.