Hi Everyone!

It’s Hector and hope Spring has arrived in your area. As always, I appreciate hearing from you regarding your credit and collection issues and challenges, from which we can all benefit. 

I heard from one senior credit manager who has a full-time collector calling past due customers daily. The credit manager was asking my opinion about the collector’s need to take a low-grade prescription sedative prior to making calls, since the job can be very stressful. 

I was a little surprised to hear this since starting out one’s day with a sedative to regulate mood control doesn’t at first glance appear to be so healthy. In saying that, it’s important not to be judgmental since many of us usually need at least three cups of espresso level caffein in our coffees just to get going. 

However, contrary to coffee, doctors commonly prescribe sedatives to treat conditions like anxiety and sleep disorders. For the most part, sedatives are a type of controlled prescription medication that slows down your brain activity and is typically taken to make you feel more relaxed. 

The first thing that popped into my mind was, why does this collector need a sedative in the first place? What is it about collections that is causing this level of nervousness and anxiety? As it was explained by the creditor manager, the collection job brings about a lot of stress due to:

  • constantly dealing with broken payment promises
  • grappling with angry, evasive, or deceptive customers
  • lacking sales support to resolve product issues
  • not fulfilling collection deadlines and goals
  • feeling that the job is not personally fulfilling 

Knowing full well that all the above stressors, in part or in full, can wear down anyone of us, I felt there are really two issues here: The first has to do with having the right person for the job and the second has to do with medications and other (legal) drugs in the workplace. 

There’s no question that the collection function within any organization is at times very mentally taxing. All of us in credit have experienced the letdown of a broken payment promise, especially when it came to a large payment. We’ve also dealt with our share of customers who have become aggressive, been evasive, and downright misleading and deceptive.

But every job has its share of unique problems and challenges, and the important thing to recognize is that some employees are a better fit for a given job than others. When it comes to collections with all its challenges, it takes a person who can: 

  • smoothly navigate the maze of human behavior
  • maintain composure with broken promises and other disappointments
  • react to reasons for non-payment calmly and rationally
  • manage many collection activities at the same time
  • embrace and appreciate the importance of the collection function 

So, if the current collector does not have many or all of the latter collection skills, another position where they can adequately use their talents, interests, and contributions should be offered.

Now, let me address the general idea of (legal) drugs in the workplace. 

To avoid misunderstandings, every company should communicate its expectations concerning prescription drug use in the workplace in a drug and alcohol policy within the employee handbook and manual. It should also address the topic at new hire orientation. Drug and alcohol policies and practices should be consistent with federal and state disability and privacy laws and respect each individual’s legal rights. 

As a matter of practice, an employee should not be required to tell his or her supervisor of the specific medications being taken. Rather, employers should require that an employee be able to safely perform the functions of the job with or without prescription medication. 

However, if there is a question at some point in time whether an employee can safely perform their work, it is important not to assume that the cause is due to the prescription medication. If possible, and with the written permission of the employee, a company representative may want to confidentially discuss the situation with the employee and even their physician.  

The health of our employees takes many forms and any one of us may have a medical issue that requires prescription medications to support our ability to properly perform our jobs. When there is a problem, each person’s situation should be evaluated individually, carefully, and sympathetically. 

Hector the Collector is a credit, collection, and human resources advice column by Nancy Seiverd President CMI Credit Mediators Inc. Your thoughts and comments (nseiverd@cmiweb.com) are most welcome!

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