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Home > Consultation and Training > Trieschman Center for Consultation & Training > Workforce Development Initiative


2001 Finding Better Ways Conference Presentation Recap

Preventing and Managing Behavioral Risk in Today's Workplace

John E. Barnette
Behavioral Health Strategies, LLC
South Charleston, WV

Behavioral Risk Management (BRM) involves identifying the potential behavioral health and behavioral problems of employees and points to effective strategies to prevent and reduce behavioral risk in the workplace. Behavioral risks involve the risks connected with employee behaviors that negatively impact productivity, organizational behaviors that negatively impact productivity, behavioral healthcare episodes, lifestyle behaviors that lead to preventable healthcare conditions, and the costs associated with each (Yandrick, 1996).

The negative impact of employee and organizational behaviors is evidenced by the following statistics:
  • US businesses experience an annual loss of $17 billion due to absenteeism associated with depression.

  • American employers spend an average of 8% of payroll on employee disability.

  • In FY 96, over 15,000 sexual harassment charges were filed resulting in awards totaling $27,800,000.

  • American managers report that they spend 20% of their time resolving employee conflicts.
In addition, USA Today reports that approximately 48% of workers admit to unethical or illegal acts at work. Topping the list of unethical behaviors is cutting corners on quality control, followed by covering up incidents, abusing or lying about sick days, lying to or deceiving customers, and putting inappropriate pressure on others.

This presentation describes the four major categories of behavioral risk in organizations, the 3-step Performance Enhancement Solutions model for dealing with behavioral risk, and the benefits of addressing behavioral risks in a proactive way.

Major Behavioral Risk Categories

There are many factors that may trigger a worker to act unethically or illegally. These include balancing work and family; poor internal communications; poor leadership; long work hours; heavy work loads; lack of management support; need to meet sales, budget or profit goals; little or no recognition of achievements; company politics; personal financial worries and insufficient resources. The Performance Enhancement Solutions (PES) model groups key behavioral risk factors into four categories:
  1. Personal Behaviors
  2. Interpersonal Behaviors
  3. Human Resources Practices
  4. Management & Supervisory Practices
The specific risk factors included in each of the major categories are presented in the following chart:

Risk Categories and Key Risk Factors

  • Work Habits
  • Absenteeism
  • Wellness/Lifestyle Choices
  • Alcohol & Drug Abuse
  • Theft
  • Other Intentional Harm
  • Work & Family Conflict
  • Accidental Injury
  • Job Stress
  • Employee Conflic
  • Workplace Violence
  • Harassment
  • Diversity
  • Recruitment
  • Pre-employment
  • Retention
  • Training & Development
  • Healthcare Benefits
  • Benefits Package
  • Returning to Work
  • Communication
  • Safety in the Workplace
  • Management of Change
  • Performance Review
  • Discipline
  • Effective Supervision
Source: Performance Enhancement Solutions® Model, Behavioral Health Strategies, LLC. South Charleston, WV.

The Performance Enhancement Solutions (PES) Model

The PES model of intervention contains three basic steps: (1) Awareness, (2) Assessment, and (3) Intervention. Step one requires increasing awareness, at all levels within the organization, of the risks present and the negative impact such risks can have when left unattended. This is followed by both formal and informal assessment of the risks. Based on the findings of the assessments and the priorities of the organization, practical interventions are then developed and initiated.

Benefits of Proactive Intervention

The benefits of addressing behavioral risks are evident for both the individual worker and for the organization as a whole. These include, but are not limited to, cost savings, improved morale, higher trust, enhanced communication, improved work performance, reduced stress, a healthy workforce, increased diversity and tolerance, and a better balancing of work and family responsibilities. Such an approach to behavioral risk management is fiscally responsible, ethically sound, and beneficial to both the employee and the organization. Its application provides an opportunity for an organization to reduce cost and improve performance, develop a healthy workforce, reduce stress and improve balance between work and home, improve internal communication and trust, improve morale, and develop diversity and tolerance.


Behavioral Health Strategies. (1998). Introduction to behavioral risk management. South Charleston, WV: Author.

Yandrick, R. (1996). Behavioral risk management: How to avoid preventable losses from mental health problems in the workplace. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Contact Information

John Barnette
Behavioral Health Strategies, LLC
P.O. Box 8125
South Charleston, WV 25303
Phone: 304.744.5834

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