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How to Manage Hypochondriacs


by Glenn Shepard
September 26, 2017
Category: Management


Paris, TX Sept 27

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Unconscious beliefs about the benefits of being sick, like receiving special attention from parents, often come from the childhood experiences of hypochondriacs.
Source: The University of Maryland


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Ever supervised someone who’s a hypochondriac?

If you aren’t sure, it will only take you 3 seconds to find out is somebody is one.

Just make the mistake of asking how they’re doing. Even though it’s a rhetorical question, Hypochondriacs will answer you.

And it’ll usually be something like, “Now that you asked, my hemorrhoids have been acting up.”

Hypochondriacs get attention by eliciting sympathy from others.

People resort to this when they can’t get attention through healthy means, such as being successful, interesting, fun, or just easy to talk to.

You, as an accomplished professional who worked hard to make something of yourself, want to be recognized because of what you’ve done. Hypochondriacs want to be recognized because of what’s been done to them. They suffer from perpetual PMS (“Poor Me Syndrome”).

For the hypochondriac employee, getting you to feel sympathy for them is a means to an end. When we feel sympathy for people, we tend to cut them some slack. And an excuse for slacking off is exactly what your hypochondriac employee is looking for.

Imagine that your hypochondriac employee comes in Monday morning and whines, “I think I’ve got that sinus infection again”. You offer to let him take an unpaid sick day and go home, But he responds, “No, I ain’t that sick. I can stay at work.”

In law enforcement, they call that a clue.

If he were really sick, home alone is exactly where he’d want to be. But when you’re a hypochondriac, home alone is the last place you want to be because you need an audience to whine to.

When he says, “I can stay at work but I’m not feeling so good”, what he’s really saying is “Don’t hold me accountable for doing 100% of my job today, but I still want 100% of my paycheck next Friday”. These people will nickel and dime you to death on lost productivity.

The key to changing this is to reverse what psychologists call “Cognitive Association”. In his twisted way of thinking, he believes that if he whines to you enough about a sickness he doesn’t really have, you’ll give him less work to do.

Simply reverse the cognitive association.

Instead of giving him less work to do, give him more. The more he whines, pile it on higher and deeper. What you’re (metaphorically) saying is, “If you’re too sick to do your job, shut up, stop whining, and go home until you get better. If you’re not too sick to do your job, then shut up, stop whining, and pull your own weight and earn your paycheck like everyone else in this organization.”

You don’t have to be a psychologist to be a good manager. Just be clear on one simple principle with everyone… If people are getting paid 100% of their salary to do a job, they will be expected to give 100% of their best effort to do that job.

To Your Success,

Glenn Shepard

 If a hypochondriac can’t think of a human’s pain and suffering to exploit to their benefit, they’ll turn their pets into hypochondriacs. You’ll see this with the employee who has to take their dog to the veterinarian every other week. I call this “Munchausen’s Syndrome by Puppy”. (Not an official medical term.)


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