September 10, 2012
I learned some new things about interviewing and hiring individuals with disabilties recently at a luncheon talk led by Nicole Bourgeois of the Champions Career Centre.
If you use the PULSE Frame to carefully structure your interview and maintain your detachment you will be well on your way to best practices for hiring for abilities within disabilities. Here is a brief summary of what I learned:
A disability is a barrier to somebody’s capacity in some aspect of their everyday life. Coping mechanisms for many mean there are no barriers and their condition may not be disabling.
It is important to understand essential requirements of the job being offered and ensure the requirements are valid and fair. The Bona fide occupational requirement recognizes that, in certain circumstances, a limitation on individual rights may be reasonable and justifiable. Examples of this include a minimum level of fitness for firefighters, and acceptable vision for bus drivers. You can read more here: http://www.albertahumanrights.ab.ca.
When interviewing, ensure interview locations are accessible and prepare in advance to provide special support. Ask questions that are job related. It is wise to take a page from a mediator’s playbook and ask the same questions of each interviewee, maintaining impartiality and focusing on specific job-related skills. DO ask “Part of this job requires lifting and moving 25 pound boxes around the warehouse. Are you comfortable doing this?” or “This job requires taking minutes at meetings. What is your experience in taking minutes?”
If you would like to learn more about Champions Career Centre in Calgary and how they can help you develop a retention plan and ensure you have the right person, in the right place at the right job visit www.championscareercentre.org or phone Nicole Bourgeois at 403 232 0757.
March 27, 2012
We were very fortunate to welcome Al Brown on Friday (March 23) for our most recent Workplace Fairness Luncheon. Al is the Labour Relations Officer for the SAIT Faculty Association. Al addressed the topic of the union and Workplace Fairness. He brings to the table a wealth of experience, and broad knowledge of the Alberta Labour Relations Code.
I asked Al what he considered the most important learning the non-union employer can gain from the union, and he suggested that it is the concept of fairness. Unions will step in to fill the breach when there is a perception of unfairness in a workplace.
The role of the union rep is one of witness, ensuring the worker is treated with fairness and fully understands the case and the circumstances. At SAIT, there is an opportunity for circumstances to be resolved at an informal meeting before the grievance process is initiated. This requires a good working relationship between the union and Human Resources. Open and honest communication about the circumstances will ensure that the appropriate process is followed.
The union will not always pursue the grievance. The union may settle or drop grievances even if the affected employee disagrees. The duty of fair representation ensures that the decision to drop a grievance will not be arbitrary or wrongful. The union must carefully consider the significance of the case and its consequences for the union and the employee.
Strict timelines govern the filing process, as it moves from initiation through three steps. At SAIT, a grievance must be filed with the Director of Human Resources within 10 days of the date of the alleged occurrence. The timeline may range from 5 to 15 days, depending on the collective agreement.
There are 3 possible levels in the grievance procedure. In the final arbitration, at level 3, the proof is reasonableness, not beyond a shadow of a doubt. Between Level 2 and 3, parties may go to non-binding mediation to settle the dispute.
Our lunch participants were very interested to learn more about the union’s role. Most work in a non-union environment. Those who do work in a unionized environment may wish to refer to Blaine Donais’s book Engaging Unionized Employees: Employee Morale and Productivity. The book is based on the very pragmatic view that the key to engaging unionized employees is to involve their unions in the process of engagement, and it provides specific tools and steps for doing just that.
Our next workplace Fairness Luncheon will be held on April 27. Join us, and stay tuned for information on our topic and speaker.
January 26, 2012
Dr. Valerie Pruegger
Workplace Fairness Thought Community Luncheon, January 20, 2012
Dr. Pruegger began her talk on Friday with a provocative statement: "Diversity is not new. What's new is inclusion." Organizations are reacting to the pressure for inclusion in a variety of ways, which Pruegger described with 'D's: Deny, Derail, Divert, Delay, Diminish, Dire Predictions, Dismiss. Where do you believe your organization falls? What perceived, or actual, barriers do you face? Some of these barriers are hidden. Do you have hidden barriers?
If you are facing barriers to inclusion, Pruegger offered some very practical strategies for upping your game:
Be subversive. In my own line of work, I am realizing that we need to couch our message for change with an agenda and language which meet the needs of our client, even if it is not our first choice. Once the door opens with their language, we can begin to introduce our own message.
Be aware of the political, economic, and social situation. Timing is critical.
Every effort counts. It is easy to become discouraged. It helps to be reminded that the small steps are often as important as the large ones.
Focus on structural change. You can change behaviour but not attitude. Once you have established change with behaviour, attitude often follows.
Recognize that all people are leaders, and ensure you have at least one influential leader on board.
Find the hook. People are motivated by self-interest.
Safety is key.
These tactics are universally applicable. Attendees of our lunch appreciated Valerie Pruegger's practical, applicable takeaways.
Valerie Pruegger, Ph.D.
Intercultural Interactions Inc.
Calgary AB, T2X 3P4
Join the dialogue today at our Workplace Fairness Alberta Discussion group. http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Workplace-Fairness-Alberta-3717361?goback=%2Egmp_3717361%2Egsm_3717361_1_*2_*2_*2_lna_MANAGER_*2
What systems have you successfully implemented within your organization to encourage inclusion? What barriers have you faced? How did you break them down?
Stay tuned for news on future Workplace Fairness Thought Community luncheons. We will meet on the following dates:
Tuesday February 21
Friday March 23
Friday April 27
Tuesday May 22
Tuesday June 26
For further information about Workplace Fairness Alberta, you are welcome to contact:
Michelle Phaneuf (phaneuf[at]workplacefairness.ca) or Marjorie Munroe (munroe[at]workplacefairness.ca), Co-Directors, Workplace Fairness Alberta.
December 22, 2011
The table figures significantly in the festive season. Families gather, and the food that surrounds them says a lot about their world view and their culture. This week for my birthday and six of us sat to a meal of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. There, I have given myself away. I enjoy cooking Thai and Indian, and my husband is from Jamaica, where rice and peas are king, but for me, there is little more satisfying than a Yorkshire pudding soaking in gravy.
As the table at the holidays becomes a symbol for who you are so the boardroom table represents the culture of your workplace. When you look around your boardroom table what do you see? I have been fortunate in the past few weeks to be working with an organization where the diversity around the boardroom table is celebrated, but it is not without its challenges. There is a drive there to create and define a workplace where people of many backgrounds and cultures can meet to share their technical expertise in an environment which is welcoming and inclusive. And they are working to define that culture in a way which ensures all workplace participants have equal access to career growth, promotion and fair and accessible channels for resolving disputes. When defining a culture of inclusivity becomes a struggle, language is often the hot point which characterizes that struggle.
As with the food at my birthday table, language defines who we are and is in many ways is the ultimate expression of our culture. Do you have a workplace culture where you can put language on the boardroom table for discussion? Have you ever refused a highly qualified job applicant a second interview because of concerns about language? Were you comfortable telling them why? Are you worried that raising the spectre of language will bring accusations of discrimination? Are the diverse languages spoken openly in your workplace a source of curiosity? Or is there a fear that they threaten the culture of inclusion which you strive for?
Holding occasional office multicultural potlucks is not enough. If you truly want to encourage an open, honest, productive and diverse workplace culture, language needs to be on the table for discussion. Engaging all employees in a discussion about language in the workplace will ensure that you can reach a specific plan which ensures clear communication, an inclusive internal environment, and fosters robust social networks which benefit everyone.
November 08, 2011
In his book Workplaces That Work, Blaine Donais describes in detail a Workplace Fairness Assessment and measures the impact against a variety of proposed options for addressing workplace fairness using two case studies: one in a union, and one in a non-union environment. In my many conversations about Workplace Fairness the conversation often turns to workplace culture. From Workplaces that Work, here is a definition of workplace culture, and how its assessment is important to and fits in with the Workplace Fairness Assessment.
What is the workplace culture checklist? A cultural assessment uncovers and quantifies the assumptions about “the way we do things around here” or the “way of life” within a workplace. Workplace culture has many elements including
· Power relationships
· Conflict management processes
· Dispute resolution systems
How does it fit into the workplace fairness assessment? The Workplace Fairness Assessment starts with a cultural assessment. The purpose of the Workplace Culture Checklist and the Conflict Checklist is to answer the question “How does your workplace work?” A thorough understanding requires extensive research. When completed, the Workplace Culture Checklist will be a comprehensive report with appendices for organizational charts and supporting documents. It starts with understanding published documents, and requires interviews with workplace participants from different work sites and management representatives.
Why is it important? The Workplace Culture Checklist will define the situational determinants that influence criteria for effective conflict systems. Additionally, the Workplace Culture Checklist will help to identify subcultures which are often hidden. A thorough understanding of culture will ensure good decisions about establishing, evaluating or replacing workplace fairness systems.
Understanding workplace culture is also a good basis for preventative medicine. A workplace culture assessment and harassment training are ways to address bullying in the workplace before it starts. Management must have the tools to identify when “joking around” is taken too far. (Kennedy, 2011)
What are the possible measurable outcomes? Once the criterion has been established through thorough research and detailed information gathering about the workplace culture and sources of conflict, options may be considered for improving workplace fairness. An example of possible options in a non-union workplace include:
· Peer Mediation
· Peer Review Panel
· Open Door Policy
· Training and education
· Ombuds Office
· Open Door Policy
· Personality and Group Dynamics Testing
· Workplace Regulations
These options will be evaluated against measurable outcomes which include:
· Legal costs
· Employee absences
· Health costs
· Manager time (managing conflict, addressing concerns)
· HR time,
· Restructuring costs
· Sabotage, theft and damage costs
What is required for a cultural change to work? Doing a Workplace Fairness Assessment and successfully implementing new or revised options for resolving conflict requires participation and engagement from workplace members at all levels of the organization from frontline staff to senior management. The long term success depends upon ongoing monitoring and needs assessments.
The system must be flexible and responsive to changes within the organization. It is an organic evolving system. Confidentiality throughout the development process and afterwards during monitoring is key. Workplace participants must have a venue for sharing feedback with systems mentors and/or the Workplace Fairness Champion.
Marketing is also important. Awareness about the process and the Workplace Fairness system will ensure an increased benefit for both the staff and the employer. Providing incentives to motivate behavioural change will also increase the likelihood of success.
So, the Workplace Culture Checklist, in conjunction with the Workplace Conflict Checklist, is an integral part of assessing, implementing, or revising a Workplace Fairness System. It will define the existing situation in detail and provide a basis for good decision-making.
Marjorie Munroe and Michelle Phaneuf, Co-Directors of Workplace Fairness Alberta are certified by Blaine Donais and available to do this assessment. www.workplacefairness.ca
Donais, B. (2006). Workplaces that Work: A Guide to Conflict Management in Union and Non-Union Work Environments. Aurora ON: Canada Law Book.
Kennedy, J. (2011, Sept 21). Fasken Martineau Canada: The HR Space: Adding Insult to Injury: What Constitutes Harassment in the Workplace? Retrieved Nov 3, 2011, from www.mondaq.com.
October 27, 2011
Keep calm and carry on.
One of the leading questions from my class this week was: how do you stay calm? And how do you not get emotionally involved in conflict? I usually respond that this is a journey for many of us. It certainly has been for me. I know that when I perceive a threat I run, or freeze in the moment and am never quite sure what to say. I find it very difficult to engage when emotions are running high. The key is full body listening, and a desire to change, or to at least engage in conversation.
I will never forget my first conflict resolution class. It was quite a revelation to discover that conflict could be good. I still remember that sense of disbelief and awe that anyone could feel that way.
My initial light-bulb moment led to a journey in confidence and skill-building. It has been valuable to me to intellectualize it. I was relieved to learn about the hard-wired physiology of fight and flight. Once I could describe my reactions biologically and normalize them, I was free to get practical.
I offer my students the analogy of a stake in the sand. I remember planting that stake as a child and measuring the creeping or receding tide. Our path to better communication in conflict is like that. We have to take small manageable steps and measure them against a marker. It is a skill-building journey that, like that of the tide, creeps further up the beach as we practice, and then gently recedes again when emotions are running or we are not deliberately working at it.
The practical skills that are most important to me now prepare me to listen without being defensive. I have moved that stake in the sand a long way up the beach. And preparing myself to listen means that I also have the skills to keep calm and carry on.
I set a time for important conversations, and do not let myself get dragged in on the spot.
I walk to clear my mind, and enter a room in advance so I can sit at the blank table and lay my hands palm down in a meditative posture, allowing my busy thoughts to run away through my hands into the table.
I know and remind myself constantly that listening is a job. It is a job you can only do well when you do not have anything else to do.
I write a list of things that are important to me, or that I have to learn, decide on, or do, before the conversation begins. Setting them aside gives me the freedom to listen to another side and ideas while knowing my own thoughts are safe.
I convince myself to be open new stories. Once I have written my thoughts down, I have to remind myself that I may change my mind or alter my thinking. I have a judging hat which I can remove only with difficulty. When I feel judgmental, I deliberately tell myself to be curious. What motivates this person to act or behave this way? Why am I reacting so strongly to it?
Listening acutely and with full body attention is an act of suspension for me, because the act of allowing myself to fully take in what I am hearing and empathize with the speaker, forces my own thoughts into suspension. I think it helps to visualize full detachment from your thinking. Maybe thoughts are tidied into a tethered hot air balloon which is allowed to float up into the sky. You can retrieve them easily, but they are out of reach.
Full body listening is hard work. It can be exhausting. But once someone feels heard, understood and acknowledged, they will be ready to hear your side, and you can bring that tethered hot air balloon of thoughts back to earth, and sort through the pieces that are most relevant and appropriate to share. You have won yourself a hearing.
September 22, 2011
Thank you to all who came to meet and hear Blaine Donais at our most recent Workplace Fairness Luncheon on September 9. Blaine spoke to the science of Workplace Fairness. I wanted to share his Head Down Theory with you because it really resonates with me, and every time I hear him speak about it, I understand it a little more fully.
The Head Down Theory goes to the culture of engagement. Why do people stay, and in fact push for deeper engagement? Why do they leave? Blaine reached his conclusions after extensive study and research in the US and in Canada.
There are four quadrants to describe behaviour in an unfair workplace. The distribution of people within the quadrants reflect the workplace culture. A quick survey of your own organization, or in fact department, may reveal much about the culture of your own workplace.
Those with high confidence in their skills, and high loyalty to their organization, will challenge for positive change. Unfortunately in many organizations those challenges are perceived as negative influence, and are not encouraged.
Those with high confidence in their skills, and low loyalty to their organization will walk away and find more work.
Those with high loyalty to their organization, and low confidence in their own skills will assimilate. In an organization with a dysfunctional or unfair culture, those in this quadrant will assimilate possibly perceiving it as the only way to advance or to stay employed.
Finally, there are those who have low loyalty to their organization, and low confidence in their own skills. Those in this quadrant will internally exit, with the unenviable result for the organization of increased presenteeism, increased absenteeism, and low engagement.
The majority of employees in most organizations rest in the Head Down zone in the middle, where they focus on the job to be done and possibly, their own survival. They are not loyal or stupid enough to challenge, and not desperate enough for an internal, or an external exit. This is a place of passive disengagement.
How does your department plot? Where do you sit?
For further reading, see "The Head Down Theory: Understanding and Mitigating the Cost of Unfairness in the Workplace" wfiJOUNRAL, Fall 2010 page 47. Other publications from Blaine Donais include Workplaces That Work (2006, Canada Law Book). Visit www.workplacefairness.ca to purchase and for further information.
August 10, 2011
One day, manager Dean invites new worker Melinda into his office to discuss comments he has received about her from her co-worker. He opens his conversation warmly. “Hi. I have been really happy about your work – it is timely and accurate, and I think you are a real asset to this team Melinda. ”And follows with “but I would like to talk with you about your relationship with the others on the team. Some things have come up.” Melinda is taken aback. “What? What sort of things? What’s this about?” Dean is forced to continue, defensively. “Well, I’d like to be very honest with you. Each person’s contribution to the team is important. Some people think that you are interfering with their work and publically coming down on them about their performance.”
Where did this conversation go wrong? How can a Workplace Fairness Assessment help both Dean and Melinda understand their situation better, and learn to assess and improve the tools they have to address workplace culture, communication and conflicts?
The Workplace Fairness Assessment is a series of questions asked of key stakeholders and interpreted by a trained Workplace Fairness Analyst. Categorized by workplace culture, workplace conflict, and conflict management, the analyst asks a series of questions designed to paint a picture of the effectiveness of existing conflict management systems within an organization.
The data is analyzed and evaluated through four measures: justice, efficiency, engagement, and resources. Like four legs of a balanced stool, healthy systems score equally well on all four measures.
Once the data is tabulated, organizations have concrete data they can compare with others of like industry sector and size. Melinda and other employees can seek information about standards, and be reassured that they are working for an organization that has the systems in place to address their concerns in a fair, economical, and effective way.
The Workplace Fairness Assessment provides Dean with clear insight into how to best use his limited resources to improve workplace conflict. With his new knowledge of the background, the full organizational cultural context, existing resources available and an assessment of costs, Dean has the tools and the knowledge to assess the impact and efficacy of (for example) hiring a neutral facilitator to bring his entire team together to discuss their situation. He can confidently take the first step to build trust between members and move towards resolving this conflict and mitigating future conflict.
How do you see a Workplace Fairness Assessment helping your organization?
What first steps would you like to take to address and mitigate current and future workplace conflicts within your team?
How thoroughly do you understand what means are available to all your employees for resolving workplace disputes and interpersonal issues?
Join the discussion. Your comments are valuable.
August 07, 2011
Workplace Fairness Thought Community Luncheon - Tuesday - July 26, 2011, Calgary
Our topic for the second Workplace Fairness Thought Community Luncheon was around training: Is your money on communications/interpersonal skills/conflict resolution well spent? We asked:
How can we measure or determine if money spent on communications/interpersonal skills/conflict resolution is worthwhile?
How is your organization set up to support the transfer of this learning into future established work habits?
How else can you foster the improvement of interpersonal communication within your organization?
We had an interesting group of people, including conflict resolution practitioners, coaches and trainers with a wide range of experience in the public and private sector, in union, non-union, and uniformed environments.
Once again, we found ourselves circling around the question of evidence of workplace fairness. Can you measure it? How do you know your investment in training is well spent if you cannot measure workplace fairness? You may be able to measure productivity, and sick days; it is difficult to measure emotion. If a team defines the measure of success for a new initiative, for example training, before it occurs they will have a clearer understanding of achievements.
Workplace Fairness is also all about perceptions and strives to be an objective measure of a subjective issue or experience. Managers who “wear” all the challenges and do not empower employees to solve their own problems may foster a perception of unfairness. Employees must also have some accountability in how they exercise their own communication and conflict resolution skills. Transparency in the organization is also critical –which employees receive training and why?
We also discussed the perception of lack of control over the conflict management (or grievance) process. When the process cannot be changed how can people feel in control to manage their conflict? This perception of helplessness in apparent in many organizations and creates tension and discord that overflows into other issues.
The culture and values of the organization regarding conflict management quickly filter down and become apparent to all employees. If managing conflict is not important to senior staff why should it be important to other employees? Organizations need to strive to create a safe environment where everyone’s opinions are valued and respected and discussed productively.
There is evidence of workplace fairness in an organization when employees feel heard and acknowledged, know they can make a contribution, and have managers who empower them to contribute to their own solutions to challenges. Transparency is key. Employees will believe they are being treated fairly when they know not only what decisions are being made, but understand the whys of the decision as well.
Michelle Phaneuf, and Marjorie Munroe, Alberta Workplace Fairness Directors
Today we hosted the first Workplace Fairness Alberta Forum. The opportunity was to discuss what is workplace fairness, and explore how workplace reviews can enhance or build workplace fairness. We had a range of perspectives and experiences in the group. Through speaking of experiences of being treated unfairly in the workplace, a number of themes emerged.
People believe they are being treated fairly in the workplace when:
- · they know they have the same opportunities as their peers;
- · they have clarity on expectations, roles and protocols in their jobs;
- · they are listened to openly, and are able to share their experiences and concerns;
- · they are treated as an individual, and their individual needs are met;
- · they are confident that their manager is looking out for them;
- · there is friendliness and a positive working environment;
- · they receive relevant and appropriate feedback;
- · there is transparency.
Our guest, ombuds and consultant Margery Knorr, shared her experiences doing workplace harassment investigations and reviews. I think many were surprised to learn that more than 95% of the grievances or complaints brought forward as harassment and discrimination are unfounded when measured against human rights legislation.
So we asked the question: how does the process of the workplace review help further workplace fairness when the allegations are unfounded and the parties are left either to regroup and go back to working together or, to go off on a leave of absence or quit?
Margery pointed out that the great value of the workplace review is that it asks questions, and in asking questions and talking to many members of an organization, a cultural snapshot of the organization emerges which serves to unveil hidden assumptions. As indicated by the study and practice of Appreciative Inquiry, asking questions leads to change.
When assumptions are revealed, and when people are transparent with their motives, concerns, and objectives, listen openly to others and treat people according to their individual needs and circumstances, workplace fairness will be enhanced.
Stay tuned to learn about our next Workplace Fairness Forum event. Comments and observations are welcome.