Queen's University IRC

Research Briefs – February 2018

Queen's University IRC - Research Briefs

   Bringing Practitioner-Focused Research to People Management Practitioners

Feb 2018   



In This Issue…

  1. Workplace Harassment After #MeToo
  2. Network Mapping as a Tool for Uncovering Hidden Organizational Talent and Leadership
  3. Flashback Feature:
    Participation that Matters: Creating Shifts that Enable Individual and Organizational Change
   Queen's University Campus 

Workplace Harassment After #MeToo
Deborah Hudson, Lawyer, Turnpenney Milne LLP, 2018

On October 5, 2017, the New York Times published an article detailing serious sexual harassment allegations against famous Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Three days later, his company’s Board of Directors terminated his employment effective immediately. In this context, actress Alyssa Milano took to Twitter, encouraging all women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to change their status to “Me Too” (a hashtag originally coined by activist Tarana Burke) in order to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Since then, “Me Too” hashtags spread virally across the world’s social media accounts, having reportedly been posted or commented on millions of times. The women who came forward about sexual harassment allegations were referred to as “silence breakers”, and Time Magazine named these “silence breakers” its “2017 Person of the Year”. This movement led to an outpouring of new allegations against various male celebrities and public figures on an ongoing basis. What followed was the rapid downfall of many of those accused, leading to prompt resignations and terminations from their respective roles.

Meanwhile in Canada, two high profile politicians recently resigned promptly after public allegations of sexual harassment and/or misconduct were made. Amidst the #metoo movement, the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre reported an increase in calls. It appears many employers experienced a similar spike in sexual harassment related complaints, likely due to heightened awareness of the issues and women encouraged to speak out by those who already had. Workplace sexual harassment is a complicated subject. It involves far more than inappropriate comments or unwanted sexual advances. Sometimes consensual relationships can be considered sexual harassment when a significant power imbalance exists. Consensual relationships gone sour can turn into sexual harassment if reprisals or unwanted advances occur after the relationship ends. Joking co-workers and jock culture may create a toxic working environment for those exposed to it. Complainants may not wish to come forward due to fear of losing their jobs. Not all complaints are meritorious, leaving some respondents wrongly accused, stigmatized and/or wrongfully dismissed. When receiving a sexual harassment complaint, employers have an obligation to inquire most often by way of an investigation. Third-party or external investigators may be most appropriate in sensitive situations. Given the complexity of sexual harassment issues, findings and fault may not always be clear cut. In some cases, employers should terminate the respondent. In other cases, substantiated findings may not warrant termination, but instead discipline and training. The workplace culture must be considered and may require change, and every circumstance must be considered based on its own facts.

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Network Mapping as a Tool for Uncovering Hidden Organizational Talent and Leadership
Penny Scott, Network Engagement Practitioner, Health Nexus, 2016

Many factors influence the way we experience our work today, regardless of the sector or industry in which we work. Funding pressures, constant organizational restructuring, demographic shifts and technology are fundamentally reorganizing our workplaces. In our attempts to address these changes through our traditional organizational structures we often encounter decision making bottlenecks and critical communication gaps that can affect our ability to achieve our business goals. Identifying expertise, talent and leadership amongst staff becomes crucial to succession planning initiatives to support this new work reality.

One way around this is to move from the traditional hierarchical organization chart to a more fluid and adaptive set of relationships and connections that more accurately reflect how our organizations work. This article will focus on the practice of social network mapping within organizations to deliberately leverage and engage these intra-organizational sets of informal connections that are less “hard-wired” than formal organizational working relationships.

Although it is often used when organizations are planning for a large change initiative, network mapping can also be used to quickly identify and visually map internal linkages that have been established informally across organizations. In particular, the article will highlight the applications of the tool to identify hidden talent and leadership within the organization to support succession planning initiatives and diagnose internal communication and decision making blockages.

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Flashback Feature:
Participation that Matters: Creating Shifts that Enable Individual and Organizational Change
Brenda Barker Scott, Queen's IRC Facilitator, 2009

To lay the groundwork for true and effective participation among stakeholders, change agents must create an environment that enables high quality conversations and learning interactions, and that engenders strong positive emotions.

A few years ago, under the direction of a new facility manager, the Human Resources Director of a large Canadian oil refinery approached me to complete a whole-systems operational assessment. I advised an alternative approach, suggesting that I facilitate the work of a steering team that would guide this critical effort and design its own set of interventions. While the HR Director was intrigued by the approach, she declined, saying that she had “no time” as the new facility manager wanted the recommendations yesterday. I gave her the names of several consulting firms and the assessment was duly completed. Two years later she called me and reported that none of the consultant’s recommendations had been implemented. I asked why, and her answer confirmed a deep truth about enabling change. In essence, she said that because senior managers and key staff were not involved, they did not support the recommendations. Sadly, they had a strategy with no people committed or energized to make it happen.

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