Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Toxic Bullying & Harassment Work Environments in the Canadian government

Public service harassment investigations only 'scratch the surface,' say experts

Public service work environment has become 'toxic,' says whistleblower advocate

Waubgeshig Rice.  (Feb. 27, 2017). CBC News. Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/public-service-workplace-bullying-1.3998012.

Two recent investigations by the office of the integrity commissioner into bullying and harassment at federal government agencies only hint at the growing problem of inappropriate workplace behaviour within the public service, experts say.

In mid-February, integrity commissioner Joe Friday released a report detailing abusive behaviour by an executive at the Public Health Agency of Canada, or PHAC, toward staff.

Last week, his office published another report showing how the president and the vice-president of human resources at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, or CFIA, failed to properly investigate harassment complaints against a senior executive there.
In the PHAC case, the executive is still employed by another federal government department. Sources tell CBC that department is Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. 

In the other investigation, the president of CFIA at the time has since retired, while the vice-president of human resources was subsequently promoted to vice-president of operations within the same agency.

"The first thing that comes to mind is this is really just scratching the surface of the problem," said whistleblower protection advocate David Hutton, who believes these cases not only highlight the issue of workplace bullying and harassment within the public service, but also the ineffectiveness of the integrity commissioner's office in prompting any real action to curb this kind of behaviour.

"Harassment is a tool of choice for keeping employees in line, for punishing whistleblowers, so rising levels of harassment are of very serious concern to me," said Hutton. "And I think they can be taken basically as a measure of how toxic the public service work environment has become."

'It's a much bigger problem'

According to the 2014 public service employee survey, nearly one in five public servants claimed to be victims of harassment on the job. Hutton said that's considerable.

"So the integrity commissioner picking out a couple of cases to expose — it's laughable, really. It's a much bigger problem, I think, than from just reading a couple of case reports," he said.

"It is not surprising … however, the government needs to address this problem because of the impact on the health of employees and the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization," said Ruth McKay, an associate professor with the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University. "It costs more to clean up the mess after a bully has been free to roam than to address the issue in a preventative way."

McKay, whose research focuses on workplace bullying, sees structural changes within the public service as a major reason why negative behaviour is on the rise.

A 'decline in management competency'

"We are reducing the hierarchy," she said. "This means that people in supervisory positions have less recognized authority. As a result, people in supervisory positions struggle to assert authority and sometimes use bullying tactics to manage people in place of what used to be deference to authority."

And when government departments try to do more with less, staff are left overworked, and they "are also held to sometimes unreasonable standards to complete work they do not have the resources for," McKay added.

While these recent investigations are now public, the office of the integrity commissioner didn't name the executives at the centre of complaints in either case, Hutton said. He believes by protecting the identities of those individuals, the process can result in an "inward-looking" bureaucracy that only serves the needs of its senior people.

"To me it's a very strong indicator of a decline in management competency, and a decline in the focus on the public interest, which is what the public service is supposed to be all about," he said.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Letter to the Editor: WorkSafe BC Failing Bullied Workers

WorkSafe gives little aid for bullied workers

Re: “WorkSafe B.C. serious about mental health,” letter, Jan. 8.
Times Colonist (February 22, 2017). Retrieved from: http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/letters/worksafe-gives-little-aid-for-bullied-workers-1.10222335
In his response to a letter about bullying in the workplace, Scott McCloy, director of community relations for WorkSafe B.C., does not state that all bullying/harassment must occur in one calendar year to be relevant to a worker’s case. He does not state WorkSafe will not even read your report if it falls outside of the one-year mandate.
During my eight-year employment, I wrote WorkSafe to ask for help. The safety inspector spent one hour on site and never discussed bullying/harassment, no one from WorkSafe ever followed up and I never saw him again.
WorkSafe is now forcing me to to appeal yet again in an attempt to have my whole file read.
WorkSafe will tell you to get help at the worker’s advisor’s office, but if you fall outside the one-year mandate, you are not entitled to help. WorkSafe will tell you to seek assistance from your union, but if you are dealing with WorkSafe, the steelworkers will refuse to answer even a simple question, leaving stressed-out, scared workers on their own to deal with the multitude of issues in the system.
WorkSafe is not just allowing workers to slip through the cracks, it is creating chasms and then blaming workers who do not know they exist.
I will be wearing a pink shirt for Pink Shirt Day today. Would WorkSafe like to borrow one?
Jackie Kirnbauer
Port Hardy
© Copyright Times Colonist.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Quebec Law Enforcement Whistleblowers on Internal Corruption Allegedly Targeted from Within by Montreal Police Department

Montreal police accused of fabricating evidence to silence whistleblowers

Chief Philippe Pichet calls in Quebec provincial police to investigate allegations

Montreal's police chief has asked Quebec provincial police to look into allegations that internal affairs investigators fabricated evidence to keep officers quiet about corruption within the force.

Philippe Pichet said he asked Sûreté du Quebec counterpart Martin Prudhomme to conduct an independent investigation following a report Tuesday night on the French-language network TVA.

The former officers told TVA they were whistleblowers who were targeted by internal affairs only after they had threatened to go public with their own allegations of corruption within the force.

Pichet said Wednesday morning he was troubled by the allegations and would take steps to "shine a light" on the situation. 

The allegations are the latest in a series of troubling reports about the police force, including revelations last fall involving the surveillance of journalists.
Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said the allegations required "an immediate response."

"This is exactly what had to be done and we will see the result of that investigation," he told reporters.

Mayor Denis Coderre echoed that view on Twitter, saying the report was "troubling" and praising Pichet for acting quickly.

Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée said the government should oversee the situation, rather than have one police chief call another to request an investigation. 

Tables turned on veteran cops 

In this case, Jimmy Cacchione and Giovanni Di Feo were police officers for decades, often working undercover while targeting Hells Angels and the Mafia.

The officers told TVA that in 2012, they launched their own investigation about possible corruption within the force, looking at officers possibly receiving money from the Mafia.

By 2013, they had prepared a letter to send to the public security and the media outlining what they had learned.

They were called in to police headquarters and expected they would be given a chance to explain.  
Instead, they were suspended and told they themselves were being investigated. 

Cacchione and Di Feo were never charged, and disciplinary complaints against them were dropped as part of a confidential agreement with the force that included their agreement to resign in 2014.

"We're two whistleblowers who tried to inform high-ranking officers about longstanding corruption within the force," Cacchione told TVA.

"It's unacceptable to qualify us as bad guys after all our service."

Officers allege errors, fabrications

Cacchione and Di Feo said once they saw copies of the allegations by internal affairs, they found several errors.

For example, Di Feo said one internal affairs report said he was the godfather to the son of Luigi Coretti, a businessman accused of fraud.

Di Feo pointed out that Coretti has no children. He told TVA it was just one of many errors made by internal affairs investigators.

Cacchione said: "We have the fabrication of allegations. Once they've fabricated the allegations, they launch investigations with the goal of muzzling people who have things to say."

A third officer, Roger Larriviere, told TVA a similar story. He said he was targeted by internal affairs after raising his concerns about problems within the force to then Chief Marc Parent in 2014.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Canadian Workplace Bullying and Harassment Statistics and Research

Workplace violence prevention: Get the stats

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). Retrieved from: http://psacunion.ca/workplace-violence-prevention-get-stats

Workplace bullying

A 2012 Workplace Bullying survey of 552 full-time employed Canadians found the following:
  • 45% of respondents said they were bullied. Sources of bullying were: 24% coworker, 23% immediate boss, 17% higher manager, 17% external to company (e.g. customers)
  • Only one-third of workers reported the bullying to HR.
  • One-third of bullied workers said it caused them health problems.
  • 26% of bullied workers stopped the bullying by quitting their jobs.

Workplace harassment

  • A 2014 Queens University poll found that 23% of Canadians have experienced workplace harassment.
  • A 2014 Angus Reid survey reported than one quarter (28%) of Canadians have experienced sexual harassment in their place of work or at a work-related function (43% women and 12% men).

Physical violence in the workplace

In 2007, Statistics Canada released a report called Criminal Victimization in the Workplace. Highlights from the report include the following:
  • Nearly one-fifth of all incidents of violent victimization, including physical assault, sexual assault and robbery, occurred in the victim's workplace
  • 71% of the workplace violent incidents were classified as physical assaults.
  • Men and women were equally likely to have reported experiencing workplace violence.
  • 27% of incidents involving male victims resulted in injuries, compared with 17% of those involving female victims.
Other Canadian Research

Workplace Bullying and Harassment: Costly Conduct
Hudson, D. ( 2015). Queen’s University: Industrial Relations Centre (IRC) Faculty of Arts & Science. Retrieved from: http://irc.queensu.ca/sites/default/files/articles/workplace-bullying-and-harassment-costly-conduct-by-deborah-hudson.pdf.

Workplace Bullying in Canada

40% of Canadians bullied at work, expert says

Former Canada Border Service Agency manager in Windsor claims he was bullied

Bullying does not just happen on the playground. Experts say it's a real problem in the workplace, too.
Jacqueline Power, an assistant professor of management at the University of Windsor's Odette School of Business, has spent years researching bullies in the workplace. She says 40 per cent of Canadians has experienced one or more acts of workplace bullying at least once a week for the last six months.
Power said workplace bullying includes withholding information from a person, excluding staff from meetings, threats and intimidation.
Power called it "a serious problem."
"It leads to higher turnover and higher rates of sickness," she said. "It reduces people’s levels of self confidence."
Power said workplace bullying is "virtually never reported" to management.
"It’s partly because when people do report bullying in the workplace, they don’t get much support," Power said.
She said human resources departments and management don't often respond seriously to the allegations.
"I understand why people don't do it, because basically the strategy is to wear you down and eventually you'll walk away from it," said Jim Johnston, a former Canada Border Services Agency manager who says he is a victim of workplace bullying.
Johnston says he filed grievances and complained directly to the public safety minister's office. All to no avail, according to Johnston.

Conflicting advice

Power's two biggest pieces of advice run counter to what is often told to children who are victims of bullying.
"The No. 1 piece of advice is to stand up to bullies. But research tells us that’s the very worst thing you can do. If you stand up to a bully, their behaviour escalates," Power said. "Your best bet is to quit your job. If you absolutely can’t do that, be passive. If you actively work (against) a bully ... it will get worse."
Johnston did just about that. He retired early when alleged bullying became too much for the former Canadian Border Services Agency to handle.
"I was forced to retire," Johnston said. "The harassment was so bad that I couldn't take it anymore."
Johnston’s attempt at conciliation with the CBSA failed last month. He now intends to take his case to a human rights tribunal.
None of his claims have been proven and the CBSA has repeatedly denied the accusations.
Power said workplace bullying is following a legal path similar to sexual harassment.
Two years ago Bill 168 was introduced to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act with respect to violence in the workplace. The change makes it easier for people to have their complaints heard and addressed.
Power said change starts gradually and it will likely take lawsuits to force human resources departments to make changes to policy.
Johnston said he would like some financial compensation for what he calls forced retirement, which he says led to a reduced pension.
"What's frustrating for me," Johnston said, "is that people now are not putting in harassment complaints because they are saying, ‘I don't want to see what happened to Johnston happen to me.’"

Workplace bullying stats:

In 1999, the International Labour Organization declared workplace harassment and violence one of the most serious problems facing the workforce in the new millennium. At the time, 75 per cent surveyed said they were bullied at work.
The Canadian Safety Council reports that 75 per cent of victims of bullying leave their jobs and that workplace is four times more common than sexual harassment or workplace discrimination.
Source: CBC News.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Bullying in the workplace: How to recognize and address it

Bullying in the workplace: How to recognize and address it
By Becky Parker, WDAZ-TV (Grand Forks, North Dakota), Oct. 22, 2015. Retrieved from Workplace Bullying Institute: 
Bullying is an issue people may think is reserved for the schoolyard, or even cyberspace.
But adult bullying in the workplace can have devastating effects on people’s lives.
Forty-five-percent say they’ve been bullied at some point during their career, and another 25% say they’ve witnessed workplace bullying.
We spoke to North Dakota State University professor and researcher Pam Lutgen-Sandvik, who has been studying workplace bullying for nearly 15 years. [Note: Dr. Lutgen-Sandvik is a WBI friend & colleague; her research is featured prominently in the WBI training for professionals, Workplace Bullying University.]
She defines bullying as persistent, hostile, aggressive behavior that can be verbal or non-verbal.
Research shows adult bullying can lead to depression, eating disorders, sleeping disorders, PTSD and physical ailments.
It also increases the person’s stress levels and degrades their mental health by making them feel crazy, scared, and anxious.
“It also bleeds into families. When you’re bullied and abused at work you go home and sometimes there’s displaced aggression when you’re screaming at your family members, sort of that, ‘kick-the-dog’ kind of thing. We do know for sure it reduces people’s satisfaction with their personal lives,” says Lutgen-Sandvik.
Here’s what she says you should do if you are being bullied at work:
• Give it a name – define it as workplace bullying.
• Remember that it’s not your fault – bullies often make the victim feel crazy.
• Get some social support – like a counselor – as bullying can degrade your mental health.
• Take some time off from work to regroup and figure out how to address the problem.
“Trying to make sense of it and figure out what you’re going to do is really difficult when you’re in the environment and you’re constantly bombarded with this aggression and hostility. If it’s possible, take some time off of work so you can kind of get your bearings and figure out, ‘am I going to stay? If I’m not going to stay, what am I going to do here?'”
Many people in a bullying situation at work might want to fight back, but that can be risky.
Often, bullying situations at work involve an element of power. In the U.S., it’s usually a manager, but can also be a peer.
If you do choose to fight back, Lutgen-Sandvik says the best way is to talk to someone who has power over the bully.
Bring specific examples of bullying, have other co-workers to back you up, and have a clear goal in mind.
Lutgen-Sandvik says it is not a good idea to confront the bully directly.
“They will escalate the abuse worse than it ever was before, and drive the people out of the workplace because now they’ve become serious threats to the perpetrator. So, directly confronting the perpetrator, it’s really a very, I would say, dangerous thing to do.”

Overview of WorkSafe BC Bullying and Harassment Legislation, Regulations & Policies

WorkSafe BC (Sep 27, 2013).
On November 1, 2013, the new WorkSafeBC's Occupational Health and Safety Workplace Bullying and Harassment Policies took effect: 
All employers in British Columbia are required to develop and implement policies and procedures for reporting and investigating incidents workplace harassment and bullying, and will be required to provide relevant training to all employees. 
  • Bullying and harassment in the workplace may involve a spectrum of behaviours.
  • Workplace bullying and harassment can take many forms, including verbal aggression, personal attacks, and other intimidating or humiliating behaviours.
  • If workplace bullying and harassment is not addressed, it can lead to lost productivity, anxiety, and sometimes even suicidal thoughts or actions.

WorkSafeBC’s OHS policies use the phrase “bullying and harassment”as a single term which: 

(a) includes any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidatedbut 

(b) excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment. 

Examples of behaviour or comments that might constitute bullying and harassment include verbal aggression or insults, calling someone derogatory names, harmful hazing or initiation practices, vandalizing personal belongings, and spreading malicious rumours. 


Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Regulation

Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Policies