10 Best Practices in the Workplace Restoration Process

A workplace harassment investigation can be a traumatic event which affects not only those directly involved, but often causes extensive collateral damage.  A healing process which helps staff feel heard and acknowledged is a very important step for re-establishing or rebuilding workplace norms.

Restoring norms following a harassment investigation is an important step.

Restoring norms following an harassment investigation is an important step.

Following a discussion about the role the of the investigation and the purpose and goals of the Workplace Restoration, participants at a recent Workplace Fairness lunch identified 10 best practices.  Whether an investigation is founded or unfounded these are important steps:

  1. Facilitate, when appropriate, a confidential written agreement between the complainant and the respondent that is separate from performance measures.
  2. Provide regular and ongoing feedback to all staff.
  3. Ensure leadership is visible and committed to “say” and “do” accountability.
  4. Support leadership to share and acknowledge ownership of contributing factors.
  5. Follow up with the team and others affected to develop a plan and strategy with common goals and processes for the group.
  6. Facilitate a safe dialogue to re-establish the norms of respect and dignity by asking questions, creating a common language, and ensure the experience is normalized for all affected.
  7. Provide skill-building support for supervisors and those involved through training and 1-on-1 coaching, focusing on listening skills and “I language”.
  8. Maintain a forward-looking aspect to the restoration process.
  9. Appoint a new neutral facilitator who was not involved in the investigation and ensure impartiality in all follow-up dialogue.
  10. Ensure a restorative and healing process which allows all to be acknowledged for their experiences.

We would love your comments! Do you have anything to add? join the discussion below.

Diversity & Inclusion: tear down the myths and discover your value proposition

I learned yesterday that I have been perpetuating some myths when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and I have a hunch you have too.  On Monday, I was lucky to participate in the first Calgary Diversity and Inclusion Un-Conference, hosted by the CIDI (Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion).  And I learned a few things.

Apple and pear diversity... (la diversité des pommes et des poires)

For example, why do you think we not getting any traction in Canada with women in senior executive roles?  It isn’t, as I have naively thought, because women are making lifestyle choices.   Barbara Annis has done the research.  She was the plenary speaker on Monday morning, and you can learn more about her compelling research in her new book, Gender Intelligence.

And how do you influence change in your organization when you have limited apparent influence and authority? Sergeant Bill Dodd, from the Calgary Police Service shared his insights.  He has been successful strategically bringing in other perspectives through community boards.  I learned from him that you need deliberate, strategic feedback loops from your community.  And I also learned from Sergeant Dodd that one person can really  make a difference, and come away with some great stories too.

I have also been challenged by Zakeana Reid to challenge my unconscious and my own implicit biases. You can do the same at Project Implicit.

Were you at the CIDI Un-Conference? What did you learn? I would love to hear from you.

Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace. It starts with the conversation.

What is harassment?

What is harassment?

Dr. Kelly Williams-Whitt, U Lethbridge professor of labour relations and human resources management, expert in disability management in the workplace, arbitrator, mediator, president of the Canadians Industrial Relations Association, asked us from the head of the table at a Workplace Fairness lunch.  20 blank faces looked back.  This was a well-informed and experienced group, taken aback at first by a speaker who threw the conversation right at them.

The hesitation was only momentary; the audience caught the ball and was rewarded with another question:

Can harassment exist without intention?

Well, now you want to know the answers, don’t you?

Before making decisions the ancients would go to Delphi to consult the oracle. Who is your oracle when it comes to harassment in the workplace?

Dr. Williams-Whitt wrote a case study (from the fictional Fort McMurray U) which was used in a mock arbitration performed in front of a live audience.  One arbitrator ruled yes, there was harassment in the fictional case; one ruled no.  Our audience, reading the same case study, threw back some questions of their own: Where is the line between what lawyers like to call inappropriate behaviour, and harassment?  It is the age old answer: it depends.  It may depend on

a. The context in which it occurred and the culture of the workplace
b. The nature and severity of the harassing behavior
c. Persistence in the face of the knowledge that that the behavior is unacceptable/unwelcome
d. The relationship between the parties, etc.

Would a reasonable person, confronted with the behaviour in question, feel uncomfortable or intimidated?  The law will always take it back to the reasonable person standard.  I also remind myself when confronted with a harassment allegation that this is the complainant’s truth, and both sides of the complaint deserve respect, consideration and fair process.

If a complaint is filed, what are the available avenues for resolution?

Dr. Williams-Whitt pointed to 3, and a half:

1 – Human Rights.  The purpose of the code of human rights is preventing discrimination whether intentional or not, and based on 13 protected grounds relating to personal characteristics of the individual or group (for example race, colour, physical/mental disability, sex, creed or religion, to name a few).   A claim must be related to one of these grounds to be filed in this venue.

Here is a link to a long list of practical resources from the Federal Treasury Board.  And to learn more about the Alberta Human Rights commission, visit here.

2— Collective Agreement.  In a unionized environment, a harassment complaint will be evaluated against language in the collective agreement and will go to resolution through channels defined by the collective agreement, usually culminating in arbitration.

3 – Occupational Health & Safety.  Now interestingly, as Dr. Williams-Whitt pointed out, there are not many investigations or cases under OHS legislation that deal with psychological safety.  Although, OHS legislation in Alberta (and other provinces) requires that employers provide a workplace that is both physically and psychologically safe.  OHS has historically dealt most frequently with workplace accidents or violence, and they have their hands full there.

Here is information about bullying as defined by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.  To read more about the voluntary Standards of Psychological Health and Safety in the workplace, go here.

And a half – court.  Not many employees will pursue their claim in court.

What can you do to be proactive in the workplace and minimize your risks?

Based on the conversation Friday, I have created a checklist for the organization.  Each item on this list deserves due attention.

  • Policies and procedures (comprehensive? current?)
  • Training (Adequate? Available? With follow-up?)
  • Risk assessment (What the psychological risk factors in your organization?)
  • Reporting systems (Maintaining privacy? Safe? With proper records? Accessible? Fair?)
  • Conflict resolution channels (Accessible? Fair? Cost effective? Just?)
  • Investigation expertise (Proper systems in place? Training?)

We wrapped up with a few comments about the role of investigation and the investigator.  I will summarize a few key points here:

  • The investigator’s role is to collect the data, not to make decisions
  • The investigator’s role is to distinguish fact from opinion
  • There are levels of investigation – it may be more appropriate at times to do an informal inquiry before escalating to a full investigation.
  • Privacy of those involved in the investigation is important, but confidentiality cannot be assured. Information from the investigation will be shared, but only with those who need to know about it to address the situation appropriately.

Did you know that the Workplace Fairness Assessment can help you to evaluate your conflict management system? It will address in detail the items from the checklist above.

AND further, if you are wondering if you have appropriate safe channels for employees to bring forward concerns, and have them addressed before they escalate, maybe it’s time to think about the Workplace Fairness Ombuds office?

A cultural shift at ATB Financial creates new language

The shift to Workplace 2.0 at ATB Financial began with a conversation around culture and a vision board exercise with executives.  Magazines and artwork were used to create pictures to represent their vision of the office in 2020.  From this the ATB Workplace 2.0 team picked out themes and began facilitating conversations with others in the organization. They developed working teams made up of employees in different areas to meet and discuss a new office environment. The outcome of these conversations was a list of concerns, hopes and beliefs that employees brought forward.  How could they ever meet these differing and often opposing needs?

Positive workplace culture and flexibility lie hand in hand.

A visioning exercise with senior executives at ATB Financial has lead to a cultural shift and Workplace 2.0.

ATB partnered with Better Workplaces and Workshift – Calgary Economic Development to see how they could build a flexible workplace.  ATB employees now work from home, work remotely in branch’s boardroom space or ‘Now” spaces, fit their 40 hour work week into slices they require and rely on ‘benching’ spaces to collaborate with colleagues.   All employees were issued a laptop, had the option of keeping their office at work or having an office at home or using ATB buildings in different throughout the city for meeting clients or collaborating.

This significant shift in culture and work environment has created a new language within ATB.  When the team noticed that there was negative water-cooler talk around who was not in the office or who was working on weekends they brought awareness to the issue with the term ‘sludging’.  An awareness campaign developed at reducing ‘sludging’ was undertaken.  ‘Benching’ was another new word developed to signify the most popular new office arrangement of a long empty bench top table with chairs all around.  Employees loved this new work area and gathered around with their laptops and other colleagues to collaborate and hold meetings.

After a year or so, the U of C came into the picture to undertake a study to assess the outcome of the new office initiative.  They worked with managers who assessed the performance of their teams before and after.  They found an increase in productivity along with an increase in employee engagement, job satisfaction, and work-life balance.  Other outcomes from Workplace 2.

  •  Retention has increased
  •  Real Estate (office) costs have decreased by 51%
  •  Recruiting has become easier
  •  Commuting time was reduced substantially
  •  On-going Changes in compensation to reflect new working reality

The Workplace 2.0 initiative was successful due to the support of the ATB president and other top executives.  Their goal is to continue to be fluid and flexible to meet their employee needs into the future.

Thanks to Michelle Phaneuf for this guest post.

Mediation can help open the window and shed light on difficult issues

Crucial Conversations. Difficult Conversations. Dreaded Conversations. Whatever we call them, there comes a time in the workplace when emotions run high and the going gets tough, and despite all the training and all the practice, conversations break down before they get to where they need to go. In the workplace, when it comes to issues around diversity, around mental health, illness and bereavement for example, emotions, fear of doing more harm, or fear of invading privacy and fear of lack of skills in dealing with the outcome may prevent the conversation from even beginning. Unfortunately, often in these situations, a crisis will ensue before a productive action step is taken.

My colleague Michelle Phaneuf and I collaborated with Morgan Craig-Broadwith of the Canadian Mental Health Association (Calgary Chapter) to demonstrate in front of a live audience a workplace mediation around a mental health issue.  In our simulated workplace environment, a Vice President has offered the opportunity to two vital workplace players to settle their differences with the help of a mediator. Performance has suffered, communication has broken down, rumours are circulating — in short the entire workplace is impacted by the behaviour of two key people.

Mount Royal University Continuing Studies videotaped the session, and we will post that when it is edited and polished.

Bratislava_window_by_C_Munroe

A mediator can help open the window and shed light on difficult issues, empowering people to reach a resolution before a crisis.

The audience asked some good questions.

When is it appropriate to call a mediator? In the workplace, it can be particularly helpful to call a mediator when poor or no communication between two people in an interdependent working relationship has an impact on others around them and work productivity.

How often is a mediation successful?  The earlier the intervention, the  more likely the success.  Mediation is most successful when the process is voluntary; when the participants have the skills and wherewithal to speak and advocate for themselves; and are well informed about their rights. Mediation can be  mandated by an employer, and still a mediator can invite people to participate.  In fact, when mandated into a room, people have an opportunity to save face with colleagues.

What role does the mediator have to hold people to account who choose not to participate? The mediator’s role is only to facilitate the process, and to ask the difficult questions, not to provide or suggest solutions. A combination of conflict coaching and mediation ensures that participants have the opportunity to explore all their options both inside and outside the mediation process.

What information from the mediation does the mediator share with their client? At a minimum, the mediator will share information about the process and the timing.  The mediator will discuss information to be shared with the participants, and together they will agree on wording and who, if anyone, will receive the information.

What is the benefit of having two mediators? Two mediators have a greater opportunity to work together to hear all concerns. It is particularly helpful to hire two facilitators when dealing with a group larger than two.

Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace starts with the conversation. #workplaceMH

Learn about workplace mediation and how it is used to address workplace mental health issues. Space is limited. Register now!

When: Tuesday, Feb 4, 2014
Time: 7:30 am to 10:30 am (breakfast included)
Where: Kahanoff Centre (2nd floor, 105 – 12th Avenue SE), Room 201

Join Michelle Phaneuf (Reaching Enduring Agreements), Marjorie Munroe (Pulse Institute) and Morgan Craig-Broadwith (Workplace Mental Health, Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region) at a simulated mediation breakfast for Calgary employers and employees.

Mediation is a very private endeavour, only including those directly involved with the issue. Therefor, it is no surprise many employers and employees do not understand the mediation process.

Follow the conversation #workplaceMH

Due to the success and demand of last year’s event, the 2014 Mediation Breakfast we have increased the time of the event to allow for a more in depth question and answer period following the simulated mediation.

Participants will leave with an improved understanding of workplace mediation and how it can be utilized to address a workplace mental health issue.

Space is limited. Register now!

Effective Case Management for Abilities Builds Workplace Fairness

Effective Case Management builds Workplace Fairness

The case manager invests in relationships to build trust.

Joanne McCusker shared stories and experiences with us about her work as an occupational health nurse with CalFrac Well Services with our Workplace Fairness lunch group.  I loved her opening theme – that she is all about prevention and appropriate protocol. Yes! That goes to Workplace Fairness.

Joanne shared the timeline and the tasks and protocols for medical leaves and the return to work. Here are my takeaways:

  1. Determine the appropriate route early in the process.  We discussed two examples – one is the leave request which stems from an interpersonal problem.  The interpersonal problem can be a real barrier to a return to health if it is not addressed through the appropriate channels.   Another example is the concurrence of disciplinary issues.  There must be two distinct streams to handle discipline and health.
  2. Invest in relationships with the staff member and the employer to build trust.  This means also that the case manager must really be on it, having the conversations with the doctors as required and open honest conversations and regular follow ups with the staff and the manager.
  3. Doctor’s notes are particularly important for longer term leaves, say after 3 or 4 days, and should address fitness to work.  The doctor’s note which addresses functional limitations will enable the caregiver to assess the treatment and help the negotiation with the return to work in practical, meaningful way.
  4. A good return-to-work meeting will address:
  • A clear plan with goals and timelines
  • A schedule o f updates for recovery and re-integration
  • Confidentiality and a communications plan for co-workers and others
  • Potential interpersonal conflicts
  • Human Rights issues