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Cultural Transformation at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The sexual harassment issues with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been well documented. However, in the face of the settlement they’ve made to close the class-action lawsuit against them, I wonder how much the RCMP will truly transform its culture to correct the faults that led to this situation in the first place. As I’ve written in my new book (out in January!), sexual harassment in the workplace is often the result of power-dynamic bullying and can often result in retaliation against the employee being harassed. Complete cultural change is needed to root out a harassing culture as extensive as the one at the RCMP – as over 500 current and former employees were part of the sexual harassment lawsuit. While a formal apology to the victims is a good first step, we have yet to see the substantive details for the organizational makeover needed at the RCMP. Read more at The Globe and Mail.

Image: RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson, left, answers a question during a news conference, as plaintiffs Janet Merlo, centr, and Linda Davidson look on in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016.
Credit: Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS via Globe & Mail.

Actions Speak Louder than Words in Forming Workplace Culture

This article is dead on. Many business leaders think they can lead their companies with words rather than actions – but actions, even the small ones, speak a lot louder than any promises made about customer or employee satisfaction. When a company utilizes ticker-timer on call length, as cited in this NYT article, it has a more substantive impact on the psychology of a workplace than anything the CEO might say about taking the time to truly service clients. These kinds of decisions the things that indicate what an organization truly values – and when what a company’s stated goals are different from the ones in practice, it’s a recipe for potential disaster. And, it now looks like former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf is learning that lesson the hard way. 

Photo: John Stumpf testifying before the House Financial Services Committee. Credit: Al Drogo via NYT.

Trump 2005 vs. Today's Workplace


I feel as though a lot has already been said about Donald Trump’s 2005 comments on women, and about his response during last night’s debate. However, one element of this story that I think needs to be emphasized is the fact that the demeaning, horrible comments he made happened in the workplace. He was on that bus to film a segment for NBC to promote The Apprentice, as was Billy Bush. The woman they’re speaking about, Arianne Zucker, is there for work as well. When Trump gets off the bus and grabs the visibly uncomfortable Zucker for a hug-and-kiss greeting – that’s what an inappropriate workplace interaction looks like. Some might call the Trump tape a severe case of workplace sexism, but truly, it’s the sort of thing scores of women have to deal with at work on a daily basis. It’s sickening, yes, but what should be more sickening is the fact that this type of lewd objectification of women is not uncommon in the workplace. It goes without saying that this type of comment should disqualify Trump from the US Presidency, and that women, as Lindy West wrote in the NYT, should grab Republicans “where it hurts” – the ballots. 

Image: Ruth Fremson for NYT via NYT

Narcissism Doesn't Help You Retain Employees

This is something that managers should keep in mind. The emotionally intelligent boss will retain top talent, not only through the ability to predict issues before they start, but by being able to inspire the kind of confidence needed to ensure employee retention. Avoiding the flip side of that coin – narcissism – is essential to developing a workplace that is not characterized by high turnover. Just as narcissists tend to have “a lot more churn in their friendships” according to this article, businesses run by narcissists tend to have a lot more “churn” within their office. While oftentimes a person’s temperament is not truly a choice between emotional intelligence and narcissism, having self-awareness about this divide in business can be invaluable in building a workplace oriented for employee longevity. Read more about narcissism and emotional intelligence at the Los Angeles Times

Image: Roberto Parada / For The Times via The LA Times

A Book Every American Should Read Before Election Day!

A new biography of Hitler portrays him as a clownish, perpetually deceitful narcissist that was consistently underestimated by moderates within his government that hoped to moderate him. This new book also draws Hitler as an astute manipulator, able to utilize slick propaganda and grassroots frustration against elite classes to mobilize a huge swath of Germany’s lower-middle-class voters. Sound familiar to anyone? The parallels with Donald Trump are impossible to ignore, and the longer people continue to underestimate him, the more dangerous he becomes. This biography is obviously a must-read for everyone who is still uncertain about their vote on November 8th. Check out the NYT Book Review of Hitler: Ascent 1889 - 1939 by Volker Ullrich for more info.

Images via Bigstock and WikimediaCommons

Post-Industrial Workplace Cultures

There’s a lot of authenticity to this story of a man’s journey through post-industrial America. The reality isn’t those stories of “making your own way;” for the majority of working people, the narrative is filled with tales of coping with big-picture changes in today’s workplace. More respect for the reality of the situation might result in more respect for America’s working class, which has been failed again and again by society at large, in large part contributing to the frustration with authority we’ve seen in modern civic life. You can read this great piece by David Brooks in The New York Times.

Image credit: Luke Sharrett for NYT

Conflating "Happiness" and "Engagement" at Work


I think this article from The Globe and Mail about why it’s okay not to be “happy” at work totally misses the point. Being “happy” at work means different things depending on the work environment itself – it’s not all about being “content” and demanding spiritual and aspirational fulfillment, as this article seems to suggest. For the vast majority of working people today, being “happy” at work means nothing more than operating in a workplace where they’re not being abused or harassed, not living under the threat of layoffs, not being compelled to work unethically (as we’ve recently seen at Wells Fargo), and where they’re not being assessed by a system that’s prone to racial or gendered biases. Many of today’s unengaged workers would be “happy” for a fair shake and a job that values them as people. Conflating psychologically healthy workplaces with lofty and/or unrealistic notions of office “happiness” is not particularly helpful for many of today’s businesses. You can read the article I'm responding to at The Globe and Mail.

The Plague of Ageism


Ageism in the workplace is something I’ve written about extensively. I wanted to highlight a letter to the editor of the New York Times on a recent piece they published on the subject. I completely agree with this letter’s characterization of ageism in the workplace as a “plague.” In the piece this letter responds to, I was startled to learn that data shows age 32 is when women start experiencing ageism in the workplace. This is a widespread, systemic problem that’s only going to get worse if we don’t address it head-on. Any stereotypes about “older workers” don’t really hold up when you look at the data – so why do so many employers scorn the prospect of hiring older employees? You can read that letter to the editor here.

Main Image: Ping Zhu via NYT


The Dangers of Start-Up Culture

The idea of taking a new job at a fresh Silicon Valley start-up can be appealing for many people, especially to the generation that’s just now entering the work force. However, horror stories, like the one provided by WrkRiot, urge me to encourage everyone looking to make it big with a start-up to do their due diligence before signing up. WrkRiot, as The New York Times reports, is a drastic example of a start-up gone wrong. The company aimed to be the new, but ended up losing enough money that the business had to borrow money from employees to provide paychecks. While WrkRiot provides a pretty severe example of Silicon Valley failure, it’s my understanding that this kind of failure is not entirely uncommon in start-up culture. Just like with any organization, it’s important to make sure you do your homework before joining a company, even one that’s quite new, to make sure you’re not stepping into a rat’s nest. 

Image: Penny Kim, a former WrkRiot employee who helped to bring many of the company's issues to light. Credit: Anthony Chiang via NYT

The Disjointed Culture at Work at the Vatican

In my book, I’ve cited the Vatican as an example of a Disjointed Culture – that is, a hierarchical, bureaucratic culture characterized by an oftentimes willful lack of oversight. This story about the Secretariat of the Economy for the Vatican, Cardinal Pell, is really evocative of this. Given widespread authority to revamp the Catholic Church’s finances, his powers have been slowly pared down as special interests within the Church have regained influence. While there’s certainly more to this story, it seems like the Cardinal’s efforts at reform audits are being blocked now, despite the initial power he was given. In this interview, Pell states that his setbacks can be attributed to “people wanting to retain their turf, their traditional role,” and were therefore adverse to changes of any kind. This quote fits perfectly within my observations of Disjointed Cultures in the workplace – there’s an attitude of covering things up, rather than airing dirty laundry and instituting more comprehensive oversight policies. The full story is at The Wall Street Journal.