Archives for October 2015

Managing Under the Microscope: The Next Tsunami of Environmental Disasters in the Workplace

 The Next Tsunami of Environmental Disasters in the WorkplaceThere is a new wave of environmental disasters that are just beginning to splash onto our daily news feeds. Workplace cultures are the next targets that will be publicly examined and debated in excruciating detail – just ask the CBC, Amazon, or the Lance Armstrong “company machine.” All the dirty laundry of inappropriate behaviours and unacceptable people practices are flooding out in the wash, and every detail is being hung out on the public line to view. However, that’s just the trickle before the tsunami wave that will expose these environmental toxins that currently live in some form or another in vast numbers of organizations.

The human toll is difficult to tabulate, as the toxic waste manifests itself in polluted work environments and it lives and breeds where inefficient business practices, ineffective managers and bad employee attitudes are allowed to roam and run free. Where these toxins live and breed is a force to be reckoned with and containing or eliminating the poison is tricky business. However, not addressing this in a proactive manner has now become very risky business. Like the killer-force of the tsunami, it can destroy carefully crafted and nurtured company brands and can stop business dead in its wake.

Under the Microscope – Macro Management

Perhaps it’s the anti-bullying campaign that is bringing these issues to light, or we are finally connecting the dots to the skyrocketing claims of workplace stress. Unfortunately these toxins don’t just end in the workplace, they continue to multiply and seep into our homes, families, and communities. The result is a reactionary health care cost of monumental proportions that none of us can afford to pay.

Creating a Mentoring Culture for Organizational Success

Creating a Mentoring Culture for Organizational SuccessMentoring is a management practice that can assist organizations in building a desired corporate culture, while enabling the careers of those who are already motivated to pursue one. It is an efficient and effective method of shortening the learning curve of new executives and providing more knowledgeable employees with broader perspectives. New executives with a mentor have a sounding board, as well as the benefit of their mentor’s experience as they navigate through situations that may be unfamiliar to them. Based upon a foundation of trust, the relationship of mentees with experienced executives can offer a safe place to try out ideas, skills, and roles with minimal risk, while focusing on their individual development needs.

In this article, I will discuss the impact a mentoring culture can make in an organization, how mentoring differs from coaching, the value of a structured approach to mentoring and the steps to set up a mentoring program.

Successful Mentorships

Mentoring is defined as a professional and confidential relationship between two individuals that assists one of them in developing “business strategies” and acquiring new “technical” knowledge and skills. One mentee concluded, after a year-long mentoring relationship in a structured program I designed for a large public sector organization,1 that: “It is an evolutionary process, where mentors become a resource for someone enabling an exchange of ideas and experiences. Avoid matching of those who have known each other a long time… the forging of the relationship is a valuable part of the process.”

Professional Commitment Guilt and the 24 Hour a Day Workplace

Professional Commitment Guilt and the 24 Hour a Day WorkplaceTwenty years ago we used to call him or her a “workaholic.”  This is someone who compulsively works long and hard hours, not being able to leave the work at work, but instead fixates over uncompleted tasks throughout the evening.  Today it would be difficult to find a professional that does not fit into this category.  Some might blame technology for this world pandemic of workaholism.  Our work is simply a click away – waiting for us – tempting us to answer that one last email, or complete that one last task.

However, increased access to the workplace from home is only part of underlying cause.  Just as important is the culture of professionalism that has developed in the last 50 years.  This culture places expectations upon people who act in a professional capacity to put their best foot forward at work.1  This has led to many positive work dynamics such as proactive decision-making, and team-based approaches that focus on taking responsibility for outcomes and upholding corporate values.

Despite all of its positive attributes, professional commitment, also contains a dark side – something we call “professional commitment guilt.”  We define professional commitment guilt as “negative self-identification resulting from increasingly unrealistic work demands associated with modern workplaces that impact upon work-life balance.”

This phenomenon is most clearly visible in workplaces where professionals are unionized.  These professionals often have formally defined hours of work – in some cases even lighter formal workloads than the average workplaces in Canada.  Many of these professionals are entitled to a 35 – 37.5 hour work week.

Despite the entitlement to a balanced work week, many unionized professionals have reported excessive work demands and expectations that have led them to forgo their entitlements in order to fulfill their obligations.2  This increased expectation is the result of the changing nature of work and access to the tools of work on a 24 hour a day basis.  Twenty years ago, to fulfill the requirements of work it was necessary to attend the workplace.  If there were computer programs, they could only be housed in large computers at the workplace.  And there was no such thing as remote access.  Now the workplace is accessible to professionals virtually 24 hours a day via email, texting, VPN and other remote access technology.  Expectations related to response time have changed drastically over the last few years.

This has created a culture of immediacy and urgency in the workplace.  Professionals are responding to questions at all hours of the day and night, because that is their growing expectation of themselves.  Failure to respond immediately becomes interpreted as failing to respond in a timely manner – something that most regard as unprofessional.

The dangerous intermingling of professional commitment guilt with external pressures to be accessible on an ongoing basis through the 24 hour day has led to significant challenges for modern workplaces and professions.

Consequences of Poor Work-Life Balance

In our observations concerning various workplaces across the country, the concept of “professional commitment guilt” results in making personal sacrifices that often lead to diminished life satisfaction.  According to a recent study3 a large majority of the respondents (77%) agree that they are under pressure to fulfill other’s expectations.  This has led to the following results:

High levels of stress and anxiety

The majority (78%) of the respondents agree that they experience high levels of stress and anxiety due to poor work-life balance.  Many experience frustration and guilt in compromising on the time to be spent with family.

Disharmony at home

Sixty-eight percent of the respondents agree that the consequence of poor work-life balance is disharmony at home.

Job burnout

The majority of the respondents fall in the age bracket of 35 to 55 years of age, with more than 10 years of work experience. Therefore, they are likely to be in the middle management cadre, having to lead teams and fulfill higher level responsibilities. At this stage of their lives, they are also likely to be engaged in the upbringing of teenage children and caring for elderly dependents. All this exerts tremendous strain.  A large majority of the respondents agree that one of the consequences of poor work-life balance is job burnout. The analysis clearly indicates that excess work and the resultant imbalance leads to job burnout.

So What Can We Do to Moderate the Impact of Technology and Professional Commitment Guilt on our Lives?

Here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” for employers who are concerned about the work-life balance of their professional employees.

Don’t Limit Access to Technology

As employers this intermingling creates many complications in our desire to have happy, healthy, productive employees.  Access to technology may have a positive impact upon work-life balance if used responsibly.  It allows for more flexible working arrangements that may account for child and elder care responsibilities.  So limiting access to the technology itself is not the answer.  This can have a positive impact on work-life balance if expectations are properly managed.

Set Reasonable Work Expectations and Rewards for Performance

While we all want increased productivity from our staff, there is a point of diminishing returns, and in fact negative consequences, from having increasingly unrealistic expectations.  Make sure that the work productivity expectations are clearly communicated.

Create Meaningful Rewards that Encourage Work-Life Balance

Up to this point, many employers have directly or indirectly been promoting professional commitment guilt by rewarding those who sacrifice work-life balance for productivity.  Different metrics for success will have to be developed and encouraged if employers wish to help employees moderate the exigencies of professional commitment guilt.  It is not enough to set expectations – these must be fortified with appropriate rewards.

Involve Professionals in the Setting of Work Expectations and Rewards

Make sure that the employees themselves have significant input into the setting of those expectations.  Often employers do not fully appreciate the demands associated with the particular specialties that professionals have.  So open and clear communications about the nature of the work and specific resource requirements is essential.

Understand and Look for Professional Commitment Guilt

An employer that takes work-life balance seriously will seek to understand that professional commitment guilt may lead workers to take on more than is healthy for them.  Individuals often do not understand what is happening to them, as they go to extremes to please their employer.  Education is key.  Make sure that professionals are made aware of the symptoms of professional commitment guilt, so that they can recognize the trap they are falling into.


Professional commitment forms the foundation of most workplaces.  Our greatest challenge is in distinguishing between commitment and guilt. Those employers who understand and account for the difference will have healthier, happier, more engaged and more productive professionals.


About the Authors

Blaine DonaisBlaine Donais (B.A., LL.B., LL.M., RPDR, C. Med.) is President and Founder of the Workplace Fairness Institute. Blaine is a labour lawyer and an expert in labour/management facilitations, mediation, and investigation. He teaches human resources professionals, labour leaders and others in areas such as human rights, labour and employment law, human resources, collective bargaining and conflict resolution.  Blaine is author of Workplaces That Work: A Guide to Conflict Management in Union and Non-Union Work Environments (Carswell, 2006), and of Engaging Unionized Employees (Carswell, 2010) and The Art and Science of Workplace Mediation (Carswell, 2014). Blaine is an Adjunct Professor of Workplace Conflict Management, and Advanced Mediation Academic Director at York University. He also teaches at the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto and at Royal Roads University.


Joel MoodyDr. Joel Moody (MD, PhD, MPH) is the Director of Safety, Risk, Policy and Innovation with the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA).  He leads a diverse group of scientists, engineers and analysts that provide leadership in regulatory best practice, compliance, public risk, and harm reduction related to electrical safety.  Prior to joining ESA in 2011, Joel used his experience and expertise in applying clinical and epidemiological principles to investigate and design prevention activities for environmental and occupational health, and chronic disease at local, national, and international levels.  Joel holds a Ph. D. from the University of Toronto, a Doctor of Medicine from George Washington University, a Master of Public Health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Duke University.


1 van Rensburg, F. J. (2010). What is Professional Commitments? Retrieved October 7, 2015, from

2 Based on various surveys conducted by the Society of Energy Professionals between 1995-2015. Unpublished.

3 Subramanian, R. (2014). Work-life Balance. HRM Review (Sept 2014). The ICFAI University Press.

2015 W. D. Wood Lecture to be Delivered by Peter Edwards

The W. D. Wood Visiting Lectureship was designed to bring to Queen’s University distinguished individuals who have made an important contribution to industrial relations in Canada or other countries.

We are pleased to announce that this year’s W. D. Wood lecturer will be Mr. Peter Edwards, Vice-President Human Resources and Labour Relations at Canadian Pacific. Peter holds an undergraduate degree and Master of Industrial Relations (MIR) degree from Queen’s University. He is also a speaker at the Queen’s IRC Labour Relations Foundations program.

The W. Donald Wood Lecture in Industrial Relations was established by friends of Dr. W. Donald Wood to honour his outstanding contribution to Canadian industrial relations. Dr. Wood was the director of Queen’s Industrial Relations Centre (Queen’s IRC) from 1960 to 1985, and the first director of the School of Industrial Relations, established in 1983.

This lecture is sponsored by Queen’s IRC and the MIR program at Queen’s University.

W. D. Wood Lecture Details

When: Friday, November 6th, 2015

Time: 2:00 pm

Where: Wallace Hall, Queen’s University

Topic: A Futurist’s Look at IR/HR – Why it’s Time to Start Over

Delivered by: Peter Edwards

About Peter Edwards

Peter EdwardsPeter Edwards was appointed Vice-President Human Resources and Labour Relations at Canadian Pacific in August 2010, and is responsible for the integrated function across North America.

Prior to joining Canadian Pacific in 2009 as Vice-President Human Resources, Peter held senior positions at Labatt Breweries / Interbrew, and Canadian National Railway. During this time, culture change and the high performance organization were part of Peter’s mandate. From working on critically praised books on managing a changing railway (How We Work and Why, and Change, Leadership, Mud, and Why) to establishing individual employee performance scorecards for every one of the 18,500 unionized employees, Peter uses the gamut of OD, HR and LR to continuously reinvent the organizations.

In 2008, Wiley Publishing released a book co-authored by Peter, called Switchpoints: Culture Change on the Fast Track. The book was a Canadian bestseller, reaching the top ten business books in Canada in the Globe and Mail.

Peter holds an undergraduate degree and Master of Industrial Relations degree from Queen’s University.  Peter is the first Don Wood lecturer to be a graduate of the MIR program that Dr. Wood established. This fall marks the 30th anniversary of Peter’s graduation from this program.

Previous W. D. Wood Lecturers

The list of previous recipients of the W. D. Wood Visiting Lectureship in Industrial Relations can be found at:

About Dr. W. Donald Wood

Dr. W. Donald WoodKnown as “Canada’s Dean of Industrial Relations,” Dr. Wood was well-known and much appreciated for his work in bringing together academics and practitioners and closing the gap between the academic world and the professional practice of industrial relations (IR). This reflects the dual focus of his own experience. After serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, Dr. Wood studied economics at McMaster and Queen’s Universities and then at Princeton University, where he was awarded a scholarship and completed a Ph.D. thesis on white-collar unionism. He subsequently gained practical experience as Director of Employee Relations Research at Imperial Oil for five years.

Dr. Wood came to Queen’s University as a professor of economics and served as Director of the Queen’s IRC from 1960 to 1985. During this period, Dr. Wood built a world-renowned research and training institution, one that thrived while other industrial relations centres in Canada folded. He pioneered his continuing education program for human resources managers on employee-employer relationships. He helped shape public policy through his research and publications program, informing debate on key issues such as wage price controls in 1975 and surveying developments and trends in the IR field, and his participation on many federal and provincial task forces. He also assembled a remarkable IR library.

As Founding Director of the School of Industrial Relations at Queen’s University from 1983 to 1985, he created and guided the early development of the new multi-disciplinary Master of Industrial Relations program, which continues as one of Canada’s most respected programs in this field. Following his retirement in 1985, Dr. Wood ran the IRC’s Continuing Education Program for five years, and led training seminars well into the 1990s. His talent for bringing together leading authorities from industry, unions, government, universities and consulting firms for programs enriched the education of IR students across Canada, and internationally. It continues to inspire those involved in IR education and research today.



HR Secrets of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies

HR Secrets of Canada’s Fastest Growing CompaniesWe surveyed the Profit 500, an annual listing of the 500 fastest growing companies in Canada, to find out about their HR practices. We asked questions (see Appendix) surrounding their strategic capabilities, organizational development activities, change management processes, training opportunities, performance management systems, leadership development programs, and the use of HR technology.

Overall Findings

Overall, the top HR challenges faced by the Profit 500 include (1) finding key talent, (2) managing and feeding talent pipelines, (3) appropriately leveraging HR metrics to inform decision making, and (4) choosing and incorporating the right HR technology.

1. Finding (and Keeping) Key Talent

It may seem paradoxical that finding and keeping key talent is an issue, given the unemployment rates of recent years. However, increased hiring is leading to increased competition, leaving many organizations on the Profit 500 to discover new methods of attracting and retaining the talent they need. According to the survey, a little over 60% of the Profit 500 are looking for innovative ways to increase their ability to fill performance gaps, including the ability to analyze and select for the skills they require. This has led the Profit 500 to consider where and when employees work and how to engage them most effectively.

Business Intelligence, Big Data, and HR

Business Intelligence, Big Data and HROur people are our most important asset, or so we hear, so data about those people – workers, or employees, if you prefer – should be central to our organization’s total data set! To understand where HR data fits, you first have to understand your organization’s overall data management strategy. How is data collected, organized, and managed?  And how do you analyze that data to obtain information?

“Business Intelligence”, the idea of transforming raw data into useful and actionable information, has become an oft-discussed concept. It allows management to gain historical insight and to produce predictive analytics for competitive advantage. And Business Intelligence arises directly from “Big Data”, the process of bringing together raw data from multiple data sources into a single analytical tool. That tool can be used by management to produce Business Intelligence.

The next time that you use Google, or some other search engine, do a search for some unusual item; something that you haven’t searched for before. Then spend some time on sites that you visit often.

You will notice that ads related to the unusual item will pop up beside your search results for the more common items. That is Big Data at work in a marketing context. Google has picked up your first search and is now displaying pages that its algorithm predicts will be of interest to you based on that search.  And Google (and other providers) charge advertisers for this. It is the core of their economic model.

A Closer Look at Resistance to Change

Three Categories of ResistanceIntroductory Case Study: Transition to a Flexible Work Environment

In 2001, all non-computer products and services of the Ottawa branch of Hewlett-Packard were grouped into a new company called “Agilant” and moved out of the existing branch office. The remaining one hundred employees at the Ottawa branch office were solely responsible for the sales and servicing of Hewlett-Packard’s latest computer systems and software programs. At the same time, those at the Ottawa branch embarked upon a change initiative called “New Generation Workplace” (NGW), whose objectives were to reduce fixed office space costs by significantly reducing the number of desks and at the same time to move from a traditional to a flexible work environment. These changes had been mandated by headquarters in the United States. After these two changes, the size of the physical office was reduced by 35 percent and employees were encouraged to spend less time in the office by working from home.

Effective in March 2001, the majority of employees in the sales, servicing and marketing departments were no longer entitled to a designated desk space. In exchange, they were offered a choice between two drawers or space in a filing cabinet. A reduced number of workstations were made available by a reservation for a period of one to three days at a time. When they had not reserved a desk, employees were expected to work from home or out of a client’s office.

Initially, this initiative was met with skepticism. As one employee said: “We’ve lost the privilege of calling a certain desk our own, but the whole project hasn’t changed things all that much. I’m not sure if they’ll be getting rid of more desks in the future or not. For the time being, for all the hype there are still just as many people in the office as ever.” Sales members whose quotas were dependent upon team performance were also skeptical of the new approach. One sales employee stated: “By nature, sales people require high affiliation, so it won’t work.”

>> This paper is one chapter from Dr. Carol A. Beatty’s e-book, The Easy, Hard & Tough Work of Managing Change. The complete e-book is now available on our website at no charge: Download


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.