Column: Risk Management

Hopemongering To Manage Risk

By: | August 31, 2016 • 2 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

I read a book on behavioral risk management a few years back. It discussed human psychology and how as humans we yearn for risk but we also yearn to avert risk when we make decisions.


When we make a decision a lot happens in our mind. We tussle with and negotiate deals with ourselves using basic needs as currency — innate needs like feeling security, potential and aspiration.

We need to feel secure and stable to alleviate fear. We also conversely have a need for potential to meet our need for hope, thrill and variation. Simply put, we need to feel certainty, but uncertainty too. We need low risk and the thrill of high risk to feel alive. We need to feel fear as well as hope.

Anyone who stokes a fear-fire or plays mind games to exploit fear for personal or political gain is no leader at all, but is only leading us down a path toward an unhealthily, unsustainable disequilibrium in our lives.

Just play in your mind how it would feel to bet a crisp $1,000 bill on black on the roulette table. Feeling sick or thrilled by it, or both?

We humans are a real paradox. To achieve quality of life, we can never only do things that prove always safe to alleviate fear. Doing the same low-risk, low-fear things every day would ultimately make one listless, bored, unsatisfied —  somewhat dead.

Fear is an essential protective feeling used to recognize imminent danger so that we can confront or flee, our fight or flight response.

But with feelings of prolonged fear however, we can become consumed by it, paralyzed, frozen. We can start seeing things that are not there. We can start fostering a false sense of reality. Fear like this can become contagious and can spread in our mind like a wildfire. I often think of this mnemonic acronym: F.E.A.R. — False Evidence Appearing Real.

With the ’round the clock news coverage of acts of terror and mass killings, it feels as though fear levels are rising. I am concerned about the effects of this prolonged fear. What is worse, I see this fear being exploited by some very public figures.

Anyone who stokes a fear-fire or plays mind games to exploit fear for personal or political gain is no leader at all, but is only leading us down a path toward an unhealthily, unsustainable disequilibrium in our lives.

Anyone who deliberately promotes fear should be considered a dangerous offender, stealing crucial quality of life. We need leaders who de-escalate fear and try to prevent a disastrous fear inferno.


Risk managing fear involves active hope management. After putting in place reasonable safeguards against real and imminent dangers, we must also be inspired to tap into our individual resolve. We need to quash this excess fear to regain a vital balance. It is a matter of survival.

Hopemongering is not just a new urban term used for “someone who preaches optimism and hope for the world.” It is not just a nice creed and ideology. It is a very powerful risk management technique required for our very survival and fulfillment of life.

Knowing this, as Nelson Mandela said, “may your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]