Queen's University IRC

Research Briefs – April 2018

Queen's University IRC - Research Briefs

   Bringing Practitioner-Focused Research to People Management Practitioners

Apr 2018   



In This Issue…

  1. Workplace Bullying and Harassment: Costly Conduct
  2. Designing for Collaboration
  3. Flashback Feature:
    An Evaluation of Employee Involvement Initiatives in Canada
   Queen's University Campus 

Workplace Bullying and Harassment: Costly Conduct
Deborah Hudson, Lawyer, Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti LLP

As media scrutiny over schoolyard and cyberbullying pervade the news, allegations of workplace harassment and bullying are on the rise. Media reports reveal the deleterious and even deadly impact that bullying can have on children in our communities. Unfortunately for employers, adults in our workplaces sometimes engage in similar transgressions. While the popularization of the terms "bullying" and "harassment" has both educated and empowered employees to assert the right to a respectful workplace, it has conversely sometimes resulted in overuse of the terms and meritless complaints in relation to reasonable management measures. Employers are left with the difficult task of managing all competing interests to ensure a safe, respectful and productive work environment.

One Canadian professor previously estimated that a whopping 40% of Canadians experienced one or more acts of workplace bullying at least once a week.(1) Although it is difficult to determine exactly how much harassment and bullying actually occurs in Canadian workplaces, we can be certain of the impact of such conduct. Workplace bullying and harassment create a toxic work environment resulting in many negative effects which may include: decreasing productivity, increasing employees' use of sick days, damaging employee morale and causing attrition of good employees. It can also result in significant legal liabilities. Considering all of these potential impacts, the tangible and intangible costs of workplace harassment and bullying can be high. This should be reason enough to motivate employers to expeditiously address such issues; however, for those not motivated by practical business measures or healthy employee relations, we should also consider the expansion of Canadian laws to protect workers from harassment and bullying, and the significant liabilities that can arise when such issues are not properly addressed.

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Designing for Collaboration
Brenda Barker Scott, Queen's IRC Facilitator

Collaboration is emerging as a core organizational competence, and indeed an imperative, in today's interconnected work context. Despite the need, collaborative results often fall short of the intended ideals. A large body of research suggests that while collaboration may be necessary, it is not easy (Bryson, Crosby & Stone, Rhoten, 2003; 2006; Suddaby, Hardy, & Huy, 2011). Failed collaborative efforts have led academics to point to the many sources of collaborative inertia; organizational elements that act as barriers to collaboration. What if, instead of attempting to overcome elements of inertia, we shift our efforts to designing holistic systems that enable collaboration? Below, I argue that collaboration is a design challenge. To enable more fruitful collaboration in our organizations, we need to design for it.

If we are going to design our organizations to support collaboration, we need to know what it is. The term 'collaboration' has been adopted widely and used ubiquitously to describe multiple types of interactive forms, from simple communication, to cooperation, to full-fledged co-creation (Aboelela, Larson, Bakken, Carrasquillo, Formicola, Glied, Haas & Gebbie, 2007). Today, most academics agree that collaboration is more than communication or cooperation; it requires mutuality amongst the players, as well as joint engagement in a dynamic and evolving process, directed toward the achievement of a shared goal (Bedwell, Wildman, DiazGranados, Salzar, Kramer, and Salas, 2012). Often, deep learning exchanges amongst the players are required to facilitate the sharing and leveraging of expertise required to create novel insights (Pennington, 2008). Collaborative efforts can focus around a wide variety of outcomes including problem solving, innovation, process improvement, or enhanced quality. Those participating can take many forms including teams, networks, communities, alliances, and partnerships. Whatever the focus, collaborative efforts aim to achieve outcomes that cannot be achieved by the parties working on their own; an outcome referred to as collaborative advantage (Huxham & Vangen, 2005; Moss Kanter, 1994).

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Flashback Feature:
An Evaluation of Employee Involvement Initiatives in Canada
Laurie P. Richer

Traditionally, workers have had either no say or an indirect say (i.e., through their representatives) in matters which concern their work environment. But social values concerning the workplace are changing with regard to the view that workers have a right to participate in decisions which affect them in their jobs. Workers themselves, as they are becoming more educated and capable of taking on more responsibility, are demanding more input. Moreover, management is realizing that greater employee involvement in the production process could result in the improvements in productivity and quality needed to be able to compete on an international level.

Initiatives which allow for employee involvement in organizational decision-making, however, have developed slowly in Canada. The adoption rate in the United States appears to be much higher. Further, programs are not always successful. The attrition rate has been estimated to be as high as 40% (Rankin, 1986).

The objective of this paper is to examine the progress of employee involvement initiatives in Canada in order that these developments be understood. In particular, two questions regarding firm-level activity were posed: what are the conditions under which employee involvement initiatives can be successful; and why might these conditions not be met? To proceed, six case studies of companies which have experimented with employee involvement were analyzed and several hypotheses were developed inductively about the conditions necessary for the success of a program.

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