A comment on my most recent article got me to thinking about how the employees of SAIF, the Oregon State Fund for workers’ compensation, really feel about the termination of their CEO, John Plotkin. It was related to the many responses the articles about his termination have generated on this site. That comment said, and I quote:

“A recent comment made by an EC member was overheard, unfortunately I cannot quote as I was not the person who overheard it, but it went something like this; EC and the Board are confident that the ‘Blog’ comments are being made by a small portion of disgruntle [SIC] employees.”

This comment referenced an overheard remark from “leadership” (I use the term loosely) at SAIF, indicating a belief that many of these comments have been generated by just a few individuals. The implication, of course, is that there really is no problem in that state organization; just a few insignificant malcontents.

Certainly it is true that there are repeat players in the comment areas. While we have no idea who these people are, we can see the various IP addresses used to post them. Notably, none appear to come from the SAIF network (I suspect employees fear tracking activity there). They instead are showing through standard ISP networks such as Comcast, AOL and the like. There is no identifiable data to tell us who is who, but we certainly have seen repeat IP addresses in the comments related to this story.

I do not think that tells the entire tale. We have heard that paranoia is running so high with some employees that they are sending their comments to others, unrelated to the company, to avoid any potential identification. It seems they trust this system no more than they trust their employer. Additionally, anyone who runs a group on LinkedIn or any other Discussion Board will tell you that a statistical minority of any representative group actively posts anywhere online. There are far more “lurkers”, no matter what the topic, than there are active posters. This phenomenon was best reflected in a follow up comment to the original, which read:

“What they need to understand, and I’m sure they do, even if they are in denial, is for every post on here, there are dozens who feel the same but never post. I don’t want to confuse BOD and EC with big words, but actuaries call it quantitiative [SIC} statistical analysis. Or in English, the posts on here are representative of a much larger group. The vast majority of people are not inclined to post comments on this blog, or any other. Just as only fraction of SAIF employees signed up for SWOT focus groups, they convey the thoughts of a much larger population.”

So in a way, the original comment was correct. It is a minority. A minority with a message.

I've written previously that our industry in general is not very interactive. While our news center serves over 20,000 article views a day, if we get 5 comments in a week it is cause for celebration. By comparison, the 7 articles on Plotkin over the last month have generated 219 comments. For purposes of comparison, the existing news system, which dates back to 2008 has 14,327 articles (before this one), and only contains 1,524 comments.

In one month these 7 articles have generated 14.4% of all comments within the news and blog area.

I believe those comments are a representation of true sentiments within that organization. The real proof, however, that there is something greatly askew at SAIF, is not contained within the words of the individual commentary; no, it is instead displayed in the reaction to it. The proof to me is all in the “thumbs”.

Our system has the ability for readers to rate comments by clicking on a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” icon related to a specific remark. It is completely anonymous and untraceable, and contains flood protection to prevent users from repeatedly clicking on the icons during a session thereby skewing the results. This feature on our site is rarely if ever used. And I'm talkin' rarely, as in never. Most users do not seem to realize what these tiny icons are for.

The SAIF people certainly do, however.

These comments are receiving “thumbs up” selections at unprecedented levels, with a number of them now in the triple digits. The positive “thumbs up” response to these comments boggles my mind. In my 15 years of managing WorkersCompensation.com, I have never seen anything like it.  We should not ignore what these thumbs are saying.

To me they speak volumes about the way people feel about this particular situation; the fear SAIF employees have of speaking out and the overall failure of leadership at that state agency. It is a veritable earthquake that the executives and board do not yet seem to feel.

The thumbs are telling us something. Will we listen?


For a list of Bob’s other SAIF/Plotkin articles (as well as a couple old AASCIF articles that get picked up in the search), Click here.

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