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Three Gifts to Give Yourself This Valentine’s Day
Written by: Janet Hueglin Hartwick
Valentine’s Day is a time to show the person you care for that they matter to you– by giving presents, saying something thoughtful or spending quality time together. But what about at work? What happens when the person you report to stops showing you that your work is valued? Unanswered emails, postponed meetings, rushed conversations become the norm and you’re expected to be a “professional” and roll with it. That’s fine for a while, but what about when you find it too difficult? Keep reading to discover three gifts you can give yourself to fall back in love with your job. But first, let’s take a look at why everyone (including your boss) needs to know they are valued at work.
It’s Not Wrong to Want to Belong
Professionals do a great job of telling themselves what they don’t need. “I don’t need face time with my boss”, “I don’t need to hear I did a good job” and “I don’t need to be put on a special project.” Here’s the thing: your brain needs these and more. “Human beings are fundamentally and pervasively motivated by a need to belong, that is, by a strong desire to form and maintain enduring interpersonal attachments.”[i] Whether we like it or not, knowing we belong is vital to our mental wellness and our ability to perform at work. “The need to belong is not a new idea…what is new, however, is the existence of a large body of empirical evidence with which to evaluate that hypothesis. If psychology has erred with regard to the need to belong…the error has not been to deny the existence of such a motive so much as to underappreciate it.”[ii] Professionals may act like they’re superman but it’s just not true.
When we go without proof we are valued at work for an extended period of time it can impact us greatly.
Three Tips to Love Your Job Again
If you are getting by without being told you belong, you have my sincere sympathies. It is a hard place to be but there are things you can do to make this time a bit easier.
- Go on that work trip you are always “too busy” to take. Many leaders that I work with pass on opportunities to travel because they don’t have the time. “There is a conference I have always wanted to attend because it has all of the industry innovators in one place. I’d love to go. Well, maybe next year.” Why not make this the year and send the message to your brain that you’re going to attend the conference because you belong there? Professional development budgets are created to be spent. There is no reward in not investing in yourself. If you have the ability to take a legitimate work trip that will offer a tangible benefit to you and your team, get going.
- Ask for what you really want. One of the best ways to know you are valued is when you receive a reward. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big gesture like “we’ve decided to give you a 20 per cent bonus” or small one like “great job on that project, can I take you out for lunch?” The real gift is social proof that you belong. So, why not make it happen for yourself. If your leader missed the chance to acknowledge an amazing performance, make a legitimate business case that outlines what you would like to see happen. Would you like to recommend a new policy that you think is overdue? Write your own, covering all of your bases and doing some research, and perhaps it will get adopted. Being offered what you want is ideal but getting it for yourself can still be pretty terrific.
- Write yourself a work valentine. This sounds hokey but stick with me. It’s not often that you have the opportunity to slow down and take stock of your accomplishments. Sure, you may complete a performance evaluation, but I’m talking about a personal reflection on the value you contribute. This can include situations that challenge your resiliency – dealing with cranky colleagues, creating the same reports over and over or working without a leader in place. Take a few minutes to write down what you are most proud to have accomplished in the past year. It’s not the same as having it told to you but you deserve to have these positive thoughts be front and centre…even if you’re the one who put them there.
Everyone needs to know they are valued. Promote your own mental fitness and take care of yourself (body and brain) this Valentine’s Day.
Six steps for the best practice method for HR professionals
People who have experienced psychological trauma are present in every workplace. Some people have experienced developmental trauma in their childhood, some (such as first responders) have experienced it daily as a part of their work, and some have experienced it as part of a work-related accident or assault.
Conducting effective trauma-informed workplace investigations involves recognizing the signs of trauma and responding effectively so that the investigation can proceed successfully and efficiently. Those involved, including both HR professionals and investigators, need to know how trauma can affect complainants, respondents, and witnesses. Effectively integrating trauma into an investigation means not only recognizing it but anticipating it and building a trauma-informed best practice policy and procedure.
This brief article outlines the various aspects of psychological trauma and its interface with workplace misconduct allegations and makes suggestions for HR professionals about the factors they need to take into account when building their Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
What is Trauma?
The American Psychological Association defines "trauma" as a person's emotional response to an extremely adverse or disturbing event. This trauma definition can refer to a person’s emotional reaction to a very upsetting event, such as being involved in an accident or repeatedly witnessing horrifying experiences, or to something more extreme such as sexual assault. Essentially, it is when a person experiences an event that leaves them feeling emotionally overwhelmed.
All encounters are experienced subjectively, and all humans process a disturbing event differently because we interpret them through our individual life experiences. As such, people will react quite differently to the same event, depending on their experiences. For example, one person who was repeatedly bullied in school may respond differently to an aggressive interaction in the workplace than a person who did not experience schoolyard bullying. Thus, trauma may be best thought of as the specific experience of the person in question, not the details of the event itself.
Trauma can be experienced by all concerned including the complainant, the respondent and witnesses. Trauma will not always be experienced by individuals who are placed in similar situations. One person will experience an event or series of events differently from another. Science has created a better understanding of how trauma occurs and what places a person at risk, but more work needs to be done to understand the risks involved in trauma. Its existence is far from automatic.
Trauma reactions fall across a broad spectrum, and health professionals have developed different categories to differentiate between different types of trauma. While the guidelines have changed over time, and there still is some debate, science has increased our knowledge of psychological trauma. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), there are many possible trauma-related diagnoses such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). While these are some of the current official diagnoses of the American Psychiatric Association related to trauma, others have suggested additional, unofficial frameworks to help understand this multifaceted problem including Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) and Developmental Trauma.
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
ASD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. It's natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation, and the "fight-or-flight" stress response is a typical, adaptive reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after a potentially traumatizing event, although most people recover naturally from initial symptoms. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with ASD. People who have PTSD experience longer-term symptoms that last over one month.
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be experienced by those who experience multiple traumatic events that go on for extended periods of time, such as soldiers, paramedics, police officers, or firefighters who are repeatedly exposed to continuous disturbing events such as death, bloodshed or viewing of disturbing images such as child pornography in their work. As such, they accumulate stress in the workplace.
Developmental Trauma is a result of a child experiencing adverse childhood events (ACE) such as abuse and neglect. These experiences interfere with the child’s neurological and psychological development and result in adult health difficulties including physical health problems and mental health problems including depression and anxiety. Recent findings emphasize the role of childhood adversity on interpersonal functioning in adulthood and indicate that emotional regulation and dysregulation (i.e., the initiation, inhibition or modulation of one’s emotional state and behaviour) play a critical role in adult behaviour.
Understanding how trauma shows up in the workplace is vital because trauma, regardless of the type, affects how people live their lives, interact with others, and cope with stress. Symptoms of trauma show up in the workplace but may manifest more severely during an investigation. Acute stress, which is often experienced in an inquiry, can trigger the emergence of trauma symptoms.
When Does Trauma Show Up during an investigation?
Before an event occurs: Trauma may show up in the normal behaviour of an employee. Trauma may affect a person’s regular behaviour at work and may or may not be involved in the alleged misconduct.
During an event: Trauma may show up when the behaviour of others or a situation triggers a traumatic experience in the complainant. Trauma may show up when a person experiences an extremely negative or disturbing event. A respondent’s behaviour may be trauma-related to the alleged actions involved in a complaint. Finally, a witness may be traumatized or have old trauma triggered when witnessing an event.
After an event: The stress of an investigation can be so significant for an individual that they can become “re-traumatized." Re-traumatization is a conscious or unconscious reminder of past trauma that results in a re-experiencing of the initial trauma event. It can be triggered by a situation, an attitude or expression, or by certain environments that replicate the dynamics (loss of power/control/safety) of the original trauma.
How does trauma affect an investigation?
There are two ways that trauma can affect an investigation.
First, trauma may affect a person’s behaviour or how they react to and deal with all the issues surrounding a complaint and an investigation. A person experiencing trauma may experience a myriad of reactions including emotional reactions of fear, anxiety, and anger, physical reactions such as stomach upsets, headaches, and sleeping problems, psychological reactions such as being vigilant to danger or focusing on seemingly incidental details of events, and behavioural reactions such as withdrawing both mentally and physically. They may be quite emotional and react to situations in ways that may surprise an HR professional, as the response may be different than what the HR professional expects.
Second, trauma affects memory and can affect the accuracy of investigative data, which typically comes from a person’s memory. As a traumatized person may only have fragmented memories or may have memory gaps and inconsistencies in what they do remember, their recall of events may be affected.
During the investigative process, HR professionals are often focused on gathering the facts, but they need to consider that trauma may impact both the behaviours surrounding the incident and the individual recall of events. The astute HR professional recognizes that the reactions and responses they may expect in others may be entirely different than what traumatized people involved in the investigation consider essential.
6 steps to a good trauma-informed HR practice regarding complaints and investigations
Always use a trauma-informed approach. A trauma-informed approach to the investigation process involves the:
- Realization about the widespread impact of trauma and understanding of its potential impact in the workplace,
- Recognition of the signs and symptoms of trauma in complainants, clients, families, staff, and others involved,
- Response by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices,
- Resistance of re-traumatization
- Acknowledgement that you may not know if a person has trauma and you always need to respect their privacy.
A trauma-informed approach reflects adherence to six fundamental principles rather than a prescribed set of practices or procedures all done in the context of a complaint and an investigation.
- Trustworthiness and Transparency
- Peer support
- Collaboration and mutuality
- Empowerment, voice and choice
- Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues
When you first learn of a problem. Consider that acute stress or trauma may be critical and be sure to use a combination of the following:
- Use approaches that make all parties feel safe and supported. Respect all concerned and communicate your respect for them.
- Ensure that your processes are transparent and that your policies and procedures build trust.
- Give people choices in the process (e.g., where to meet, where to sit) as options will work against retraumatizing the person.
- Ensure that you work collaboratively with the individuals while you are following your standard operating procedures. Allow individuals to maintain their own power. Working together will allow others to reduce stress and improve memory.
Conducting a preliminary examination of the complaint. At this early stage, the HR professional needs to gather information to determine if a formal investigation is required. At this stage, you are likely thinking about whether an investigation should take place, its scope, and the best process for the investigation. You aren’t formally investigating at this point.
- Be careful you don’t retraumatize the person or shame them accidentally. For example, asking them why they didn’t act during an assault may cause the person to feel blamed for the incident. Instead of asking questions that way, ask information-gathering questions such as “What was your thought process?” or “How did you react?”
- Instead of saying “Start at the beginning.” recognize that a traumatized person may struggle with sequential, linear memory and say “Tell me what you remember.”
- Resist asking, "What happened next?" and try to use a question like "What were your thoughts during the event?” Alternatively, "What was the hardest part of the experience for you?"
Choosing How to Do an Investigation. After meeting with the person (using a trauma-informed approach) and then meeting with an internal HR team, the HR professional needs to determine if an internal or external investigation is required. Consider if the allegations are serious and whether your team has the necessary resources and expertise to conduct the investigation. Are your staff able to perform a trauma-informed, unbiased investigation?
If you choose an external investigator, ensure that they have the necessary training and expertise to conduct a trauma-informed investigation.
Closing Your Initial Conversation. Just talking about traumatic experiences can trigger emotional reactions in all parties concerned, including nightmares or intrusive thoughts. During the final parts of your discussion with the person, make sure to advise them that they may have an emotional reaction after the conversation. Demonstrate your empathy and provide the person with resources to help them, if needed, such as your EAP program or local mental health resources such as a crisis line.
Conducting an Investigation. While the entire process of conducting a full trauma-informed investigation is beyond the scope of this article, it is important for investigators to be trained and experienced in appropriate interview methods.
Methods such as Cognitive Interviewing or Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI) to help acquire accurate data to establish the facts of the situation and to protect the people involved are recommended. Studies show that using effective interviewing methods such as these significantly increases the amount of information an investigator can gather. The book Investigative Interviewing by Eric Shepherd and Andy Griffiths is a comprehensive resource.
When addressing a complaint in the workplace and before beginning an investigation, HR professionals should develop policies and procedures that involve a trauma-informed approach in order to both enhance the psychological health and safety of the workplace and to gather accurate information in the context of the complaint. Improving the knowledge and skills of HR professionals will go a long way to create effective and efficient methods to investigate workplace complaints.
For further conversations, please contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharing parental leave between parents to result in longer leave benefits
In the 2018 Federal Budget the Government of Canada announced the creation of the new Parental Sharing Benefit for parental leave. The government’s stated rationale for the new benefit is to break down barriers to gender equality by giving mothers and fathers greater flexibility to decide when to return to work from parental leave.
The Parental Sharing Benefit will be integrated into the existing maternity and parental leave benefit framework, which was recently changed at the beginning of last year with the introduction of the option to receive extended parental leave benefits.
To access the Parental Sharing Benefit each parent must take at least five weeks of parental leave. By doing so, they are granted additional weeks of parental leave:
- If the family has opted for the standard parental leave (35 weeks), then the parental leave is extended to 40 weeks shared between the parents, or
- If the family has opted for extended parental leave (61 weeks), then the parental leave is additionally extended to 69 weeks shared between the parents.
The additional weeks of leave granted through the Parental Sharing Benefit will be available only if the child is born or adopted after March 17, 2019.
Extended parental leave benefits introduced last year
The additional weeks comes on the heels of the introduction of the option to access extended parental leave benefits up to an additional 26 weeks, instead of the standard 35 weeks, but at a lower benefit rate during the entire duration of the parental leave. The extended parental leave benefit has been in place now for just over a year, and organizations may only now be seeing employees taking advantage of the extended leave.
Complicating matters, some provinces have not yet amended their labour legislation to align job protection with the extensions to parental leave. Alberta and Ontario are both in alignment with the federal benefit changes, but some other provinces are not.
Impact on organizations
These changes to parental leave may have a significant impact on how companies manage their human resources, the policies to top up parental leave, and manage the hiring of employees to backfill maternity/parental leave users. CPHR Alberta has partnered with Dr. Rachael Pettigrew, Assistant Professor at Mount Royal University, to engage our members in her research to understand how these legislative changes to parental leave may impact employers' policies and practices.
Dr. Pettigrew is seeking HR professionals to participate in a 10 minute phone interview concerning their organizations policies and practices related to maternity and parental leave. If you are interested in participating or learning more, please click here to provide your contact information.
Written by: Ann Lyons
Employee recognition, when done well, puts a smile on an employee’s face, leads to deeper engagement and to greater productivity. As employee recognition is one of the first steps to delivering employee engagement, here are five pillars on which employee recognition programmes are built to succeed.
Senior management expect to be able to measure whether a change they make to a process benefits the organisation. The same logic applies to employee recognition. When HR have to convince senior management of the benefits of an employee recognition programme, they need to prepare a solid business case, which provides solid ROI measurements when paired with data on employee engagement.
Building and sustaining a culture of recognition not only requires senior management buy-in, it also requires the support of line managers. Consider making employee recognition part of the line managers’ KPI’s. Provide them with the recognition tools and necessary training to make recognition a daily occurrence in your organisation.
Invest in a recognition tool that is capable of delivering on your employee recognition objectives. Think in terms of Social Recognition tools that deliver immediate recognition and are highly engaging for employees to use.
Linking recognition to core values and behaviours that support company goals and ensuring that recognition is visible and transparent are essential features of a recognition programme.
Employee recognition programmes often do not perform as well as expected because there is no one to champion them. The champions are your ambassadors: they need to be put in place before a new programme is rolled out. They will drive the initiative, selling it to others by leading engagement from the front. How can you identify your ambassadors?
They are the individuals who already model the sort of behaviour you want to inspire and encourage in others. They model the desired cultural tone of your organisation.
Any employee recognition initiative will benefit by first discovering your ambassadors, developing them and then planting them at all-levels within your organisation.
How do you know when an employee recognition programme is working? This requires clear objectives to be set and measured. Start by understanding the power of recognition and its potential to impact change in your organisation.
Metrics take employee recognition to the next stage. Social recognition tools are one of the best ways to measure employee recognition and the resulting engagement levels. Such tools allow you to measure real-time engagement across the workforce and to monitor the cultural markers that are important to your organisation. These metrics can also help organisations to identify areas for improvement and to develop strategies.
Communicate and celebrate individual and company achievements and goals. Develop a communication strategy and publish news, updates, and profiles on a constant basis. Use rich media - videos and photos - to create a central source for all things culture.
High-performing organisations are continually looking for new ways to improve their corporate culture and demonstrate to employees that they are valued as employees and as individuals. Reflecting on these four pillars of employee recognition encourages debate around what types of recognition really works and can help deliver happy, engaged and productive employees.
A roadmap for HR professionals to manage the interface among the areas of mental health, privacy, human rights, OHS, employers’ policies, and misconduct.
Written by: Michael Timms
In talking with business leaders about implementing a world class people development process in their companies, one often hears: “We just don’t have the budget for that sort of program.” Or, “We’re a very low-tech company. We’re not sophisticated enough to have world class anything.” Many business leaders and HR professionals believe that creating a world class people development process in their organization is beyond their reach.
If thoughts like those have ever crossed your mind, then perhaps you haven’t heard about what’s going on at Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation. ABCRC is an Alberta-based company with locations in Calgary and Edmonton employing about 170 employees. ABCRC collects beverage containers from over 220 bottle depots across Alberta and then compacts, bails, and sells them to recyclers across North America. That might not sound as sexy as a high-tech start-up, but their mission is no less inspiring. Their goal is to keep Alberta beautiful by promoting environmentally sustainable measures.
“Sustainability is not simply an ‘environmental’ thing” stated ABCRC’s president, Guy West. He believes that “thinking sustainably is a business imperative and should be a core executive competence. It means being proactive to create long-term success.”
The long-term perspective shared by ABCRC’s management team is what motivated them in 2017 to make a dramatic shift in how they develop their people to create an internal pipeline of leadership talent.
Preparing The Management Team
In May, 2017, ABCRC partnered with Avail Leadership, a leadership development firm that specializes in teaching executives how to develop other leaders within their organization. Through a series of workshops, ABCRC’s management team learned how world class people development works and what they needed to do to weave people development into the culture of their organization. They discovered that the key to turning their organization in to a people development machine was not to create some complicated, expensive training program, but rather to proactively design development opportunities into every-day work.
Establishing the Process
STEP 1 – DEFINE PROMOTION CRITERIA
The first step ABCRC took to create an internal pipeline of talent was to define consistent criteria for promotion within the company. Through a series of focus groups, managers and non-managers identified the most important leadership behaviours that produce superior business outcomes at ABCRC, such as higher employee engagement, improved efficiencies, and higher trust among stakeholders. They call the behaviours that lead to these outcomes their “Cornerstones of Leadership.”
All promotion decisions are now based primarily on how well employees demonstrate these Cornerstones of Leadership, rather than primarily on technical competence or tenure which are the most common promotion criteria in most organizations, and which are comparatively poor predictors of leadership success.
STEP 2 – IMPLEMENT CAREER DEVELOPMENT DISCUSSIONS
The second step was to establish effective career development discussions. This involved separating career development discussions from the performance review. Performance discussions are backwards looking. Career development is forward looking. They are distinctly different discussions and should be treated as such. If career development was going to be a priority at ABCRC, senior managers knew they needed to deliberately create a separate time to hold these important discussions with staff.
Establishing effective career development discussions with staff also included training managers to be “career coaches”. Managers first learned how to assist employees in their career planning and development by focusing on their strengths, rather than the traditional weakness-based development that tends to dominate career development discussions at most organizations. Managers also received tools to help employees plan and navigate their career, working with them to think of creative development activities that would go far beyond simply “take a course.”
STEP 3 – ESTABLISH A PEOPLE COMMITTEE
Employees who indicate a desire to advance their career at ABCRC, and who demonstrate the Cornerstones of Leadership, are considered for inclusion in ABCRC’s formal succession plan. Several senior managers, including ABCRC’s president, formed a special committee to review nominations of employees to be included in the company’s succession plan. The committee then brainstormed creative development activities that would fast-track the development of these employees, whom they refer to as “Cornerstone Employees.” ABCRC’s People Committee meets several times a year to review nominations and to put additional thought into the development plans of Cornerstone Employees.
Building On The Foundation
ABCRC’s new people development process is truly world class in its scope and focus. It not only feeds their succession planning process, it also benefits all employees who want to broaden their skillset or deepen their expertise.
The greatest shift in ABCRC’s people development efforts was a shift from the traditional ‘training’ mindset that most organizations associate with people development, to an experiential learning mindset—learning by doing. Following that change in mindset, the program has continued to evolve to facilitate experiential learning. Under the direction of ABCRC’s president and with input from others, ABCRC has established ten working committees with a dual purpose:
- address important business initiatives such as collective bargaining, moving to a new facility, safety, and an ERP implementation;
- help multiple people acquire the skills and experience they need to lead these types of initiatives in the future.
The great Roman leader Julius Caesar may have coined the proverb: “Experience is the greatest teacher”, but ABCRC operationalized it. “We knew that forming these working committees would provide fantastic development opportunities for our staff,” said Mike Battista, ABCRC’s HR Manager, “but I don’t think we fully anticipated the positive effect it would have on employee engagement”. To highlight his point, Battista shared the following comments from employees.
“I feel strongly that the committee approach was very effective. The members of this team were very well selected as everyone brings a specialty and a perspective that provided great value.”
“Excellent questions were asked and answered throughout the planning process and everyone was engaged.”
“I feel valued as an employee to be part of this committee because I was engaged and asked for my suggestions. Moreover, it allowed me work with co-workers from other departments which made me learn more about team-work and appreciate the views that other staff members have.”
Leading from the Top
The key to ABCRC’s success is that people development and succession planning was not dumped on HR’s plate. ABRCR’s president, Guy West, recognized that people development needed to be a top strategic priority if ABCRC was going to continue to be a leader in Canada’s recycling industry. From there, the senior management team took ownership for implementing the process and became the company’s first career coaches.
ABCRC’s HR Manager, Mike Battista, helps facilitate the process with a light touch. HR may help clear obstacles and track progress against established metrics to ensure the program is staying on course, but the driving force behind people development at ABCRC is the commitment of the entire senior management team to put their people first.