Blogs by ‘Robert Aurbach’

Robert Aurbach | Published: September 12, 2017

The terms of reference for a recent Parliamentary inquiry into workplace bullying reference a Productivity Commission estimate, stating that bullying costs the Australian economy between $6 billion and $36 billion annually. The toll is staggering and begs for a response to the question, “What can be done?”

Readers of this column would be aware that I am no fan of the term “bullying”. It carries the implicit labels of victim and perpetrator, which are disempowering and binary – you either are bullied or you’re not, either the victim or not.

The instances of the legitimate use of...

Robert Aurbach | Published: October 13, 2015
That resilience is learned also fits with our common experience – sometimes we “discover” new ways of coping through experience or training.
So how do we learn to be resilient?  If it’s behaviour, we learn it the same way we learn many other behaviours – through practice.  Think of any complex behaviour: playing a scale on an instrument, kicking a footy, forming words without having to think about how to move our mouths to make the correct sounds, “working the room” at a social function.  We learn by practice.
The Practice Effect is how we learn virtually all complex...
Robert Aurbach | Published: September 29, 2015
The trouble is that most of this advice, regardless of the qualifications of the speaker, seems of limited benefit in the real world.
Academics have done lots of studies, showing lots of correlations. If A happens then B happens too. It’s easy to take the next illogical step and say that A causes B… but of course, that’s not true. Famously, the number of priests and the number of prostitutes in Las Vegas has shown a strong correlation, although people are reluctant to say that one causes the other.
Resilience is correlated with higher self-esteem, better...
Robert Aurbach | Published: April 21, 2015

The "lassiez-faire" style of regulation is based upon trust in the natural relationships of the stakeholders and service providers.

In a "laissez-faire" system, the mutual needs of the parties and market forces in the environment are presumed to balance one another in ways that yield a smoothly functioning system with minimal intervention.

One example of a "laissez-faire" administrative scheme is Tasmania. For the most part, the scheme gets along with minimal resources and staffing by virtue of reasonable trust in the power of the stakeholders and service providers to control...

Robert Aurbach | Published: April 07, 2015

The scenario is familiar. The regulator is dictating procedures, limitations or reporting requirements that are stifling innovation and your effectiveness. Worse, your industry is being blamed for lacklustre results, in an environment where good outcomes are next to impossible to achieve.

Alternatively, the regulator is treading water in an environment that demands action if fair access and opportunity are to be achieved.

You can try to live with it, and play along with a system that seems completely uninformed about the needs and demands of your role, or you can try to...

Robert Aurbach | Published: March 05, 2015

Collaborative regulation, based upon mutual respect between the regulator and members of the regulated industries, is less common than the other styles. 

There are examples in Australia of collaborative processes, such as the revision of the dispute resolution system in Western Australia and improvements in customer service in Queensland.  

Conscious collaboration is a little more common in some of the North American jurisdictions. 

For instance, in the State of New Mexico the issue of access to medical information about the claimant was a political and legislative...

Robert Aurbach | Published: February 24, 2015

"The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about these circumstances."

— Andrew Bernstein

This quote was among several that the resilience coach, Graeme Cowan recently posted. I'm not sure who Andrew Bernstein is but it strikes me as profoundly true and potentially helpful.

Have you ever been in a car, having an animated conversation with a friend and failed to notice that the traffic was barely moving? Have you ever been in a hurry to get somewhere...

Robert Aurbach | Published: February 10, 2015

Some people "get it" better when they see it in print. Some people give more credibility to something that has been published. To date there have been few resources to encourage and empower injured people to take an active role in their own recovery. That "hole" is about to be filled.

I have been fortunate to be a "beta version" reviewer for a new publication that will likely be of value to you and the people you serve. "Living Abled" by Dr Christopher Brigham is the culmination of many years of experience and development by an occupational physician who has struggled with how to...

Robert Aurbach | Published: January 13, 2015

A recent study* confirmed what many of us expected, based upon experience at the coal face.

An injured person's expectations regarding recovery are a far better predictor than anything else for the course of their recovery.

People who expect to do well generally do so, despite other "flags" indicating a poor likelihood of return to work. People with expectations that were not as good had poorer outcomes. Much poorer outcomes.

This is not "just another study". This was a well-designed study by one of the most respected research organisations in the world, studying a...

Robert Aurbach | Published: December 09, 2014

How strange. We have a lot of knowledge about work restrictions with regard to physical injury. Back injuries generally don't like sitting. Shoulder injuries generally don't like overhead lifting. You know the drill.

But when it comes to psychological injury, the understanding of GPs and other health professionals seems to get much more limited. Rest and separation seem to be the only things that get prescribed in most cases. And, there's evidence that this is a prescription for the worsening of the condition in many cases.

Stress, depression, abusive situations and anxiety all...

Robert Aurbach | Published: November 25, 2014

There are many systems for "flagging" people at risk. The intent is to identify people who are predicted to have poor outcomes so that additional resources can be channelled to them, improving the probability of an injured worker's return to life. The intent is good, but, with a few notable exceptions, these flagging systems carry with them dangers that may undo the intended good.

Flagging systems are based on statistical observations about things happening in the injured person's life and their recovery outcomes. When the two things happen together more frequently than pure chance...

Robert Aurbach | Published: October 28, 2014

Workers' compensation is a strange kind of insurance. The employer pays for it, but only gets the indirect benefits of compliance with the law and immunity from many common law actions. It's the injured person who is supposed to get the services and benefits.

So we have to ask "Who does the insurer work for: the employer who pays the premium, or the person who has the injury and is covered by the policy? " To whom does the insurer owe its allegiance?

The people in charge of workers' compensation schemes sometimes seem to get confused about this issue.

The statutory agency's...

Robert Aurbach | Published: October 14, 2014

We see it over and over again. People, and the institutions that they run, resist change. They resist it even when the evidence for change is overwhelming and the benefits are beyond question.

Doctors keep certifying people unfit for work despite the known health benefits of work.

Workers get stuck with the labels that doctors or lawyers have given them.

Policy makers keep trying to control every aspect of the system and are perplexed when the system isn’t individually responsive.

It occurred to me to ask the question “why?” I think there are four answers:


Robert Aurbach | Published: September 16, 2014

I saw an interesting headline a couple days ago in an insurance trade newsletter. It said “2013 Property/Casualty Results Show Net Gain on Underwriting – First Since 2007.” The portion of the insurance industry that writes workers’ compensation insurance made $63 billion in the US last year. But for the first time in six years “underwriting” was a profit item, rather than a loss.

Underwriting is the insurance name for the difference between the premiums they collect and the benefits they pay. Saying they had underwriting losses for the last six years means that the company collected...

Robert Aurbach | Published: September 02, 2014

I have had the privilege of working for over 19 years with the largest indigenous population in the US on their workers’ compensation laws.

Through a series of historical precedents, the indigenous populations of the US have sweeping powers to make many of their own laws for self-governance, and a few tribes have exercised that right with great sophistication. 

The Navajo Nation workers’ compensation scheme is approximately half as expensive as most Australian schemes, pays adequate benefits and has virtually no litigation. In that scheme, people get the best treatment that can...