For the last 5 years I have enjoyed the tremendous honor of serving as president of my homeowners' association. And by tremendous honor, I mean I am the only one stupid enough to take on and maintain that wholly detestable and thankless position. I have served with mostly the same people on the HOA board for just under 7 years; they being equally clueless as to why they should be wasting their time in such an endeavor. We are, collectively, a fairly easy going board, trying to make sure the rules of the community are adhered to while not being the single house version of the condo commando – measuring blades of grass and kicking metaphorical ass. Still, we can never keep everybody happy. This is obvious through an online community discussion area we have, set up through a national website designed to facilitate various neighborhood systems.

I call it the Whiner Website. It is where people who don't do anything go to bitch about the people who do everything; where people who never attend a meeting, never contribute in any way, and never so much as lift a finger in support of their community endlessly kvetch and moan about those of us who do the heavy lifting. It's a shame that the people who know how absolutely everything should be done can't be bothered to actually show up and do it. Instead they just snipe at the ones who make any effort. There is a reason for this.

Complaining is easy. In fact, it requires very little effort at all.

The same phenomenon holds true in many quarters of our society, and is particularly prevalent in workers' comp. I'm not just talking about angry injured workers' here. It runs through virtually every category we have. We have professionals who willingly sit back and criticize all manner of things, but rarely if ever offer any positive contribution to the debate.

The angry injured workers' (AIW's) are probably the easiest to spot with this trend. While many injured workers who have had bad experiences or have been treated unfairly spend time on discussion forums genuinely trying to help others, a select few do nothing but spew hatred and condemnation at virtually everything associated with the industry. Any attempts to discuss or address industry problems is immediately met with anger, condescension and derision. This unrelenting petulance is not just directed at industry officials, but also at other injured workers who either do not agree with their obsequious world view, or who have dared to actually accomplish something in spite of tremendous obstacles. In either case, the story is the same; criticize everything while offering nothing constructive in return. A couple of the more vocal among the group have repeatedly called for “federal intervention”, but as far as detailed solutions, that is as far as it goes. No one wants to spend time on the details.

For instance, even though I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion, just what would that intervention look like? Who should be responsible for it? What would the standards be? How could this be accomplished? These are particulars lacking in the relentless negative assault – but then again, actually helping solve things takes real effort. That is not what these people are interested in. Without details, the call for the feds is just part of the complaint.

As for the professional version of Doug and Wendy Whiner, they are a bit more sedate, but no more helpful in fixing our industry ills. An acronym I truly love, one that I learned some time ago, is CAVE people. CAVE stands for Citizens Against Virtually Everything, and the juxtaposition with the image of an ignorant pre-historic cave dweller fits the narrative perfectly. CAVE people are great critics, and they love to disparage and complain. Not being in favor of anything in particular, they often come up short in the positive suggestion category. It is just not in their nature.

I have active friends in the industry who have encountered this first hand. Sessions or webinars they have conducted have been criticized online by people who weren't even there. Ideas and comments are mocked, but never built upon. Personally I have experienced this, most recently with the efforts in driving a “National Conversation” designed to identify problems in workers' compensation, as well as finding solutions to fix them. While the vast majority of comments and reaction I've received has been extremely supportive, criticism from some has been intense. They did not like the format, or the wrong people were invited. We didn't talk about the right things. All from people who were not even there, and who did not lift a finger in the form of a positive suggestion.

I find it a bit frustrating at times, although I can console myself somewhat with the old adage, “If you aren't being criticized, you aren't doing enough to make a difference”. Still, if you are truly serious about making a difference in anything, be it workers' comp, your homeowners' association or underwater basket weaving, don't just speak up, stand up. Act. Contribute. Get involved. Offer suggestions and work with others to resolve conflicts. Sniping, criticizing and gnashing your teeth will accomplish nothing. Put up or shut up. Shit or get off the pot.

It is rewarding, but I will warn you: It is where the difficult work begins.

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