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Banning Office Bullies

 Sep 30, 2019 11:00 AM
by Debra Yearwood

Organizational culture plays a critical role in determining productivity, creativity, engagement and other factors of success. When bullies find fertile ground at work, it can spell disaster for an organization’s short and long term goals. In addition to the legal ramifications of bullying at work, the level of disruption it causes not only undermines performance but can actually encourage good employees to leave or it can sabotage their good work. 

Given the cost of bullying, why are bullies allowed to work, let alone, lead organizations? 

Unrecognized: The first challenge is recognizing that bullying is happening. In competitive organizations, employees are often encouraged to use highly disruptive or even combative tactics. Being cut-throat is not just tolerated, but rewarded. In that type of work environment, it is easy to slip over the line and allow aggression to leak into the day to day operations of an organization. At this point, it becomes a destructive behaviour.

Bullies are also often unaware of their own impact on colleagues. Harassing comments can be interpreted as “jokes” or good-natured kidding around. As we often see in our work, ageist comments are regularly used and viewed as acceptable despite their damaging impact. This is why self-awareness and understanding others are the cornerstones of successful professional and personal development. They allow the individual to check unwanted behaviour before it becomes a problem.

To avoid unintended (or unrecognized bullying), identify bullying behaviour and implement a zero-tolerance policy.  Provide examples of what bullying behaviour looks like and be clear on what the consequences will be if the behaviour takes place.  Make sure you follow through and that alternative behaviours are suggested. For some insight into examples of bullying behaviour, take a look at the sample list provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety provided HERE.

Favouritism: Treating everyone fairly seems like an obvious requirement of workplaces, but sometimes a structural hierarchy can lead to preferential treatment that extends into social spaces. Challenges can erupt when you have unbalanced job designs that result in workload issues or role conflict. This can not only result in giving the preferred employees a disproportionate sense of entitlement but in some cases can result in abuse of other employees creating an unhealthy internal competition. 

Conflict Avoidance: When bullying behaviour does happen, ignoring it will effectively reinforce the behaviour. Don’t delay when issues emerge. Address bullying behaviours as soon as possible to avoid future incidents. For tips on how to manage these conversations, check out our article, Tackling Tough Talks

Anxiety: How do you talk about yourself?  If you use negative or self-deprecating language to reference yourself or your work, you could be setting the tone for how colleagues or employers engage with you. Some research shows that anxiety, self-doubt, depression and even shyness can result in more frequent incidences of bullying. 

Unfortunately approaches for reducing bullying have had inconclusive results. The most significant workplace success has been in increasing awareness of bullying behaviours. The moral of the story is: it’s better to establish an environment that prohibits bullying before it starts!

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Employers, Entrepreneurs, Human Resources  

Unrecognized Potential

 Sep 23, 2019 10:00 AM
by Helen Spence

Increasingly, I am reading articles about our extended lifespans and how these will impact economies around the world. By 2050, there will be more people over the age of 65 than any other age group. Authors who tout a pessimistic perspective and emphasize how damaging the grey tsunami will be are mistaken; they have been proven wrong, time and time again. In fact, living longer has opened up what is commonly referred to as the Longevity Market.

Stria News, a media platform for the longevity market, refers to the longevity economy as “working toward a society that values, supports and serves older people.” In other words, anything that supports the 50+ population is part of this economy. It encompasses absolutely every sector and every service area from housing and learning to fashion and financial services.

On August 23rd Chris Farrell author of  the Purpose and a Paycheck:  Finding Meaning, Money and Happiness in the Second Half of Life wrote that “the American economy would expand by over $815 billion if the U.S. increased its employment of the 55-to-64-year age group to New Zealand’s level according to PwC’s Golden Age Index.” This prompted me to take a look at the PwC Age Index which, among other OECD comparisons, compares how Canada fares when it comes to the employment of its older workers. Naively, I thought we would be close to the top of the chart, but Canada ranks 18th out of 36 OECD countries. Nothing really to be all that proud about.

Increasing older worker employment rates in OECD countries to the level of New Zealand (the top score in this index at 78%) has the potential of increasing GDP to 3.5 trillion. In other words, if more countries embraced new and more flexible structural and policy factors such as flexible pensions, varied working patterns and schedules, benefits for caregiving, a higher retirement age and more retraining or upskilling of older employees, our world would enjoy much healthier economies.

Canada is facing a shortage of skilled labour in the coming decades. This shortage could be minimized if, and that’s a big if, the value and potential of our ageing population were acknowledged instead of diminished and disrespected.  Our world is getting older and we can benefit from the experiences of countries who have been managing older populations longer than we have. We have an opportunity to do better, we just have to learn from those older than us.

Ageism, Employers, Entrepreneurs  

Back to School - 4 Ways to Access Affordable Professional Development

 Sep 3, 2019 12:00 PM
by Debra Yearwood

For North Americans, September is back to school season. Ads for school supplies dominate television and internet sites and despite our age of technology, stores are still filled with books, binders and other traditional classroom tools. Thinking about learning, however, shouldn’t be limited to “students”. Regular professional development is good for employers, employees and customers. 

Continuing professional development ensures that employees keep apace with evolving methodologies, standards and knowledge. It can also mean that employees are continuing to contribute to their teams and business by introducing more effective approaches and depending on the nature of your business, perhaps more safety.

One of the limiting factors around maintaining regular professional development is cost.  The cost of courses, the cost of time and perhaps the cost of travel. While not every opportunity can come at a lower price, you can find ways to mitigate costs and stay informed and up to date. Consider the following ideas when the budget is low or it’s not a big-ticket year. 

Free Lunch and Learns:  Numerous tech and other entrepreneurial hubs across the country offer courses at lunchtime. In Ottawa, Invest Ottawa schedules numerous free or reasonably priced educational courses at their facility every month.  You can check out their calendar HERE. They also promote activities provided by others on their site so it’s a great one-stop-shop.

Bring in Professionals: If the cost of taking your staff to conferences is too high, then bring in professionals to deliver workshops. Using your own site or organizing your own rental space can offer a much cheaper alternative while still providing high-quality content. Look to professional associations for ideas on what to offer and don’t forget to check out Top Sixty services HERE https://www.topsixtyoversixty.com/Programs.

Do it for Yourself: Don’t overlook homegrown talent. If you have employees who have knowledge that would be worth sharing, then consider creating a lunch and learn series where individual or paired employees teach their colleagues. Keep in mind that not everyone will be comfortable presenting; make sure that employees have the support they need to make the experience a positive one for everyone.

Online Courses: Online courses offer a flexible and cost-effective way to continue learning. There are numerous courses offered on a range of topics by recognized universities directly or through sites like Udemy or OntarioLearn. Some courses even offer certification. There are also many online courses offered privately by subject experts on platforms like ThinkifIc or Teachable. You can also consider creating online courses from your lunch and learns that will allow everyone to access or revisit content at their leisure. Remember that people have different learning styles and not all online courses will offer the flexibility some people need to learn effectively.

Below is a list of some of the sites to check out for online learning opportunities. Money doesn’t have to be the reason why professional development is halted. It may simply require initiative and curiosity.

Learn at these sites:

  • Udemy https://www.udemy.com/
  • EdX https://www.edx.org/ 
  • Coursera https://www.coursera.org/
  • OntarioLearn https://www.ontariolearn.com/

Create courses at these sites

  • Teachable https://teachable.com/
  • Thinkific https://www.thinkific.com/
  • WizIQ https://www.wiziq.com/
  • Ruzuku https://www.ruzuku.com/

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Employers, Entrepreneurs, Human Resources  


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