In the initial phase of the joint negotiations on an employee’s return-to-work solutions the physician opens the discussion by asking the employee to talk about their situation. Since the employer is present at the encounter, the participants are supposed to comply with the protection of privacy in working life. Thus, the extent to which issues concerning the employee’s medical history are discussed becomes relevant. In this paper we investigate how occupational health physicians invite employees to talk about their situation at the beginning of the joint negotiations, and how the employees respond to these invitations.
Twelve video-recorded occupational health negotiations were analyzed by conversation analysis.
Physicians’ opening questions inviting employees to talk about how they perceived their work ability were answered with descriptions that focused on return-to-work solutions. Physicians’ opening questions inviting employees to say how they saw their current condition, or leaving the employee to decide what to talk about, guided the employees to describe their medical history.
Physicians can guide the discussion towards either return-to-work solutions or the employee’s medical history through the design of their question.