Research and Resources
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I work as a conflict resolution practitioner and “workplace conflict capacity-builder”. I am a strong advocate of workplace community building and I consider myself and to be a multi-partial (rather than impartial) support to all members of my institution. I am also a leader in a department of gifted and diverse human beings. I know that when tough issues arise, a foundation of community will support sustainable resolutions and lasting collaborations. In our current political and pandemic culture, I have been thinking about how our workplace communities can be compromised because of distance and differences.
Workplace investigators and human resource professionals should be cautious of relying on the body language of a witness to evaluate their credibility during an investigation. Fact-finding investigations, especially in cases of harassment, at times turn into an evaluation of one person’s version of events versus another’s, or as some call it, the “he said, she said” dilemma. In these cases, assessing the credibility of the two parties may be the easiest way the investigator can come to any defensible determination relative to credibility.
There are many unanswered questions about Canadian workplaces as we look toward reopening offices. The well-established principles and guidelines that employers, unions and employees have followed for many years will certainly help navigate this process. That said, this pandemic takes us into new and uniquely uncharted waters that may well shift some or all of these principles as we move forward. This article will look at the frameworks in place today, as well as best practices for boldly going where few workplaces have gone before.
During one of our Strategies for Workplace Conflicts programs, a participant commented that she told her staff that she didn’t “DO emotion!” I really appreciated her forthright statement which led to a valuable discussion about the place of emotion in the workplace. How do we handle the expression of emotion? Are emotions welcome or not? How do we handle an emotional outburst in a meeting or deal with strong negative emotions between two co-workers in conflict? How do we deal with our own emotions?
It is normal for participants in a workplace investigation to feel some anxiety, but too much worrying can create barriers to obtaining critical information, which is a challenge for investigators looking to build complete and thorough reports. Ensuring participants fully understand the process and their role in it can help alleviate unnecessary anxiety during the investigation. With a greater understanding of the process, participants can feel empowered to speak confidently in the interview and provide the investigator with the necessary information.
Workplace investigations have become commonplace across Canada. Many Canadian jurisdictions require that employers implement workplace harassment and discrimination policies, which often include mandatory investigation provisions. Whether or not investigations are legally mandated, it is sound practice for an employer to conduct an investigation when there may be potential workplace harassment, human rights violations, breach of company policy, criminal activity, security breaches, legal action, or media scrutiny.
Conflict is tough for most of us. According to many physiologists, we tend to tap into several simple strategies when faced with conflict: fight, flight, or freeze. As a result, we likely aren't reducing unnecessary conflicts, and effectively dealing with necessary conflicts in productive ways. So many opportunities are lost because we aren’t engaging well. Being effective at conflict, both in a proactive and reactive way, demands that we work at it as an ongoing and everyday activity. In essence, it is a lifestyle choice in how we talk, problem solve, inquire with others, and arrange our processes and teams.
Building relationships in the workplace is hard – and it takes work. It’s even more difficult when you work in a unionized organization which has traditionally adversarial relationships. But these days, organizations like the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) are stepping away from the attitude that, as a union, you have to be in ‘fight mode’ all the time. They are working towards accomplishing more for their members by trying to have better relationships with management. This is where the Queen’s IRC Relationship Management in a Union Environment program comes in.
Just as leadership styles and organizational work have evolved, so have perspectives on performance evaluation. Traditional performance evaluation is hierarchical, control-oriented, and focused on individual ranking and grading. Present-day performance evaluation is relational, facilitative, and focused on development and problem-solving (Leadership, R. Lussier, et al). In Ontario, teacher performance appraisal requirements and processes are legislated. While the legislation is founded on a more traditional “three strikes you are out” mandate, the philosophy and practices are more contemporary.
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Our research includes a variety of activities that complement our programming. Through surveys, interviews, and articles, we aim to communicate trends in the HR and LR fields.
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