Queen's University IRC

Research Briefs – March 2020

Queen's University IRC - Research Briefs

   Bringing Practitioner-Focused Research to People Management Practitioners

March 2020   



In This Issue…

  1. Fireable Offences Without Defences
  2. Strategy or Culture? What’s Your Leadership Challenge?
  3. Building Trust and Increasing Employee Engagement in the Workplace
Queen's University Campus   

Fireable Offences Without Defences
Deborah Hudson, Queen's IRC Facilitator

Termination for ‘just cause’ (and without notice) is often described as the capital punishment of employment law. Consequently, employers face a significant burden when trying to prove just cause at law. Arguing just cause for dismissal may be difficult, but not impossible, especially in circumstances involving dishonesty or lack of trust. Nevertheless, employers should always exercise caution when making just cause allegations, because a legally unsubstantiated just cause termination can be costly. If an arbitrator overturns an employer’s termination decision in a unionized environment, this can result in a decision that reinstates that grievor and provides him or her with significant back pay. Non-unionized employees will generally not be entitled to reinstatement, although, unsubstantiated just cause allegations can be equally expensive. Canadian courts have often awarded significant additional bad faith and/or punitive damages in cases where employers create economic hardship by erroneously asserting just cause and failing to pay an employee’s notice entitlements.

Considering the difficulty in proving just cause, along with the potential monetary consequences for improperly alleging just cause, employers should engage in sufficient procedural steps prior to asserting just cause for termination. Such steps would likely include engaging in a thorough and fair investigative process and/or providing employees with warnings in relation to misconduct.

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Strategy or Culture? What’s Your Leadership Challenge?
Romi Boucher and Kate Sikerbol

Change was in the wind. As is true for many industries, the insurance industry was facing significant change. Making the shift from a regulated to a deregulated industry seemed a daunting challenge for the 100 year old RockSolid Insurance Company.

The question for the executive team was how to craft a strategy and initiate change in ways that would enable the company to compete successfully into the future. Despite facing potentially massive disruption, one department, the Tax Department, decided to use this as an opportunity to reflect on their values, strategic goals, and departmental culture. In this article we present a case study and share some thoughts on one of the toughest challenges leaders face, the interplay between successful strategy implementation, and shifting organizational culture.

Leaders are typically quite adept at crafting strategy because of the direct relationship between strategy and results. Strategy provides direction, clarity, and focus for collective action and decision making. Strategy connects people and what they do in their day to day work with the organization’s purpose and broader impact in the world. Without a strategy that is clear, relevant, and valid, it can be difficult to motivate and mobilize people to work toward and achieve, concrete goals.

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Building Trust and Increasing Employee Engagement in the Workplace
How HR Business Partners and Managers Can Work Together for Success
Sandi Cardillo, Queen’s IRC Facilitator

Ben was concerned. Emma, a manager new to his group, had just received her employee engagement scores. They were not good. Emma had been a rock star in her previous individual contributor role. She was seen as talent for the future in the organization. As her HR Business Partner, Ben had watched her struggle as a first-time manager. Now, it appeared that her employee team was willing to put those struggles on paper in the form of not so good engagement scores. This had always been a good team. But their responses were a strong signal to Ben that something was not right.

“Emma, let’s talk about what these employee engagement scores might mean,” Ben said.

“I know, Ben,” she replied. “I am trying so hard to get this managing thing right. I am not happy with the responses and how the group sees me right now. This is such a good team. The one that really bothers me is the feedback from the ‘do you trust your manager?’ question. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty trust worthy person, so this one really bothers me. I can’t seem to find a way to earn my team’s confidence and trust.”

“Emma,” he replied, “I’ve been doing a lot of studying on how managers build trust on their teams since we started this whole employee engagement initiative. We are trying to understand how what we do in HR helps build trust in the organization. Would you consider studying with me? I really want to help you. We can learn together”. “Ben, that would be great,” Emma replied. “Let’s do it!”

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