Blunders managers often encounter when attempting to resolve workplace disputes

In today’s workplace employee conflicts may and do happen. Sometimes they begin as simple matters which escalate into significant issues in the workplace causing lower performance and productivity resulting in lack of communication, misunderstanding of the intent, personality clashes or different perceptions and values.  


It is vital to deal with employee conflict, whether minor or significant, in a timely fashion to preserve a positive, healthy work environment and to evade any increase or collateral damage among work teams and others departments. 


We are finding that managers often do not respond accordingly to the issues of conflict in the workplace. In many cases, it is for lack of experience, fear of retaliation against them, insufficient training and lack of confidence. Sometimes they find it easier to avoid and ignore then tackle the sensitive issues.   


When issues are not dealt with quickly and efficiently in the workplace, they tend to fester and develop in magnitude. When an employer has contacted me, the situation usually has been growing underground, so to speak, for some months before it explodes in either the HR office or before the managers. Typically, at this point, the problem is more complicated, involves more staff and takes more effort and time to resolve. At times it may even undermine the staff’s confidence in the manager’s ability to manage. 


Some common behaviours of supervisors and managers which may have a negative impact on the managing of workplace disputes effectively would be ignoring the situation until it is about to “burst”.  


When managers disregard challenging situations, when they do come to the surface, they require immediate and urgent action usually at a very inconvenient time to resolve. Some managers tend to overlook an awkward situation altogether until the case is ready to blow up. Then they need to take immediate action to try to deal with it, and this almost always occurs at an inconvenient time, like on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend. Putting your management head in the sand will not make the problem go away, it will only make it worst. Taking action early in the workplace dispute development is usually the best solution, with the most excellent chance of success. 


Not dealing with a conflict that is escalating quickly, many managers found themselves frustrated and overwhelmed which could add fuel to the case, potentially affecting the decision-making process and the capability to contain and resolve the situation comprehensively.


Another mistake a manager may make is letting the office politics interfere with resolving the conflict. When office politics interfere with the steps of the solution, staff in the workplace goes camping. Taking sides of either the complainant or the respondent. The team that tries to remain neutral (sitting on the fence) only suffer the ongoing bickering of the two parties.


The way that employees perceive situations in the workplace are essential to resolving the conflicts in the actions to be taken. A biased move (recognized or not) on the managers part may result in more battles and create permanent barriers in the workplace.  


The objective of workplace dispute resolution in the first place is to come to an agreement or solution that is practical and realistic for all parties. So it may mean there is a requirement for conciliation to move forward to resolution by the manager.  


Taking a page out of Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” book and initially “seek to understand then be understood”.  


Sitting down with the employees, listening actively to what they are disturbed about, gathering all the information from both sides and only then attempting to craft a clear picture of what is going on, why and what the options might be regarding resolving or improving things for those caught up in the conflict.  


The bottom line is that disputes and conflict in the workplace are not stoppable. Anticipating how to approach these workplace situations beforehand, may put you in a position to be ready to take action when they occur.


Monika B. Jensen PhD
TEL: 905-683-9953

FAX: 905-683-9912




Four Budget Visuals That Help You Tell Your Story

Whether you have new council members, a new ratepayers’ group or increasing cost pressures, communicating financial information effectively can make the difference between adopting a budget in three meetings or three months. 

It can be tough though; people collapse municipal services and property taxes with other agency’s services and taxes, and services are easy to take for granted.

This budget season, let pictures do the work. Here are four images you can add to your budget presentation to help tell your story about why costs are increasing and how public money is spent.

1. Capital Has Changed

Why the increasing focus on capital? Local governments own most of the public infrastructure in Canada now – that means covering lifecycle costs, asset management, preventative maintenance and more. Try using this graphic depicting the transfer of assets to local governments to illuminate newer financial responsibilities.  

2. Project Commitments: Funded and Approved

Looking for a way to connect council-approved projects with annual funding?

Senior Management Team, meet the iceberg. It’s a graphic metaphor one Canadian city manager used to describe the growing number of projects council approved, announced without a funding plan, (also known as projects that were ‘below the [funding] line’) and deferred. The image highlights which projects the council-directed tax increase pushes forward to future years and the risk that political talk does not match budget walk.


3.  Demonstrate Value Through Better Billing

Are there special programs or project costs council wants to highlight? Separating an infrastructure levy from the operating levy on the tax bill can be an effective way to highlight costs. The City of Mississauga’s bill identifies three such levies for the City of Mississauga highlights three special levies: The Emerald Ash Borer Management Program (a tree pest), Capital Infrastructure and Debt Repayment and the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus.  

4.  Municipal Services are Bodily Services

Tired of comparing the cost of services to the cost of a cup of coffee to communicate that municipal services are good value for money? Try this instead: The services we provide are important because they support everyone’s bodily functions. Every shower, flush, cereal box and bike ride involves local services.


This budget cycle, give elected representatives the gift that keeps on giving: a metaphor about how far municipal tax dollars go with an hourly reminder from their own body.  

Enter your email here to get these images sent to you in a PowerPoint slide deck.

What other budget metaphors, pictures and visuals have you come across that help communicate specific program costs or macro/micro capital shifts?


Emily Harris has worked in municipal finance policy as an academic at Carleton University, as the Manager of Policy at the Municipal Finance Officers’ Association, as a Management and Policy Consultant in the Toronto City Manager’s Office, as a Financial Analyst in the City of Toronto’s budget division and as a private consultant, completing projects for Local Authority Services (LAS) and the Ontario Government ministries of finance and municipal affairs. As Director of The Policy Shop, she specializes in financial policy updates for local governments and can be contacted at

Technology in Hiring Is Growing. Where Should You Invest?

At some point in time, technology has disrupted every industry including recruitment. With more touchpoints across a multitude of platforms, companies are using technology to build a compelling employer brand, support the candidate experience and analyze their hiring team’s success.

In fact, an HR Service Delivery Survey reported that technology plays a key role in hiring in 92 percent of large companies, 77 percent of medium companies and 54 percent of small organizations.

A few of the most popular platforms include:

  • Assessments. According to Harvard Business Review, 76 percent of organizations with more than 100 employees rely on assessment tools. These tools, like our Emergenetics Selection Program (ESP), test for a variety of workplace tendencies. Some of the most common are cognitive ability, work ethic, motivation and personality.
  • Video interviewing. Between 40 – 60 percent of companies use live or recorded video interviewing for hiring, which can improve the candidate experience by making it easier to interview. When candidates record interviews, it can save the hiring teams’ time by allowing them to review on their schedules, and it can save money, particularly if the company pays for candidate travel expenses.
  • Applicant tracking systems. There has been significant growth in applicant tracking systems with 26 percent of companies using them to assess hiring metrics and manage candidate recruiting, hiring and onboarding.
  • Social recruiting. Social media allows employers to showcase their brand and help HR teams find talent. Nearly 60 percent of employers have used social media to successfully hire candidates.
  • Resume screening technology. This technology reviews resumes for keywords deemed relevant to an open position. When a company receives a large number of applicants, resume screening can make a recruiter’s life much easier.
  • Mobile recruiting. 70 percent of people use their cell phones to look for jobs, so mobile job boards and applications are extremely important.

This list may cause an HR professional’s head to spin, especially when you consider that there are hundreds of providers for these technologies – and the list is growing.

Still, when incorporated properly, hiring technology can streamline and standardize the hiring process, reduce reliance on “gut” instincts, provide relevant statistics to demonstrate success and help hire the right people.

Technology isn’t going away, so the best thing to do is embrace it. The question is: How do you prioritize an ever-growing list of technologies?

These are our tips for recruiters and HR professionals:

1. Have a clear understanding of your goals and measurements.
To choose the right technologies for your needs, start by identifying objectives as an HR team and as a company. Once a team is clear on what they want to accomplish and how to evaluate success, they can determine which technologies will get them there – and identify a list of relevant requirements to assess the tools against.

2. Determine where you have hiring process breakdowns.
Figuring out where to begin can be difficult. Start by assessing issues in the existing hiring process. Does the difficulty lie in finding qualified candidates or in the application? Social recruiting could help in finding qualified candidates while a streamlined applicant tracking system may make sense in smoothing out the application process. Or, is the challenge in resume reviews or assessing soft skills? Resume screening can help tackle the candidate resume review process and a hiring tool like ESP can help in streamlining the review process and assessing soft skills.

Once problem areas are identified, it is easier for teams to prioritize technologies that address these concerns.

3. Learn what technologies can do.
How many of us have purchased a tool and used it for one thing – only to realize two years later that they have features that would have accomplish other goals as well? As an example, some of our clients think specifically about ESP as a hiring tool when in fact it can be used to support career pathing and onboarding in addition to assessing motivations, aptitudes and work ethic. Take the time to truly understand the tool, and stay current on its features and those of its competitors

4. Don’t forget the human element.
Remember that technology is part of the hiring process – not the whole process. Sometimes, when we meet with managers who are interested in our hiring assessment, they ask if ESP will give them a yes/no answer on a hiring decision. This is something we don’t offer, as we believe you need to be wary of using technology for a yes/no decision.

If you have a candidate with a 90 percent job fit versus one with 79 percent, you should interview both applicants to understand the differences between them. It may be that the 10 percent misalignment of your 90 percent job fit candidate relates to factors that would significantly impact the candidate’s success, while the 21 percent of misalignment for the other applicant is due to less problematic factors.

Tools like ESP can help you combine the benefits of technology with the human element. ESP highlights the areas of misalignment from candidates, so talent acquisition teams can pay particular attention to potential challenges for the new hire, tailoring interview questions and digging into the results of the assessment. Rather than make a yes/no decision based solely on ESP results, the results can be used to determine if these issues would have a material impact on job fit.

Always remember that technology is not a substitute for human interaction in the hiring process. It should be used to support human interaction.

When you consider these four factors, you will be well on your way to finding the right technologies to support your organization’s needs and integrating these programs so that your recruiting process runs smoothly, attracts the right candidates and helps you successfully hire them.

If, in the process of following steps 1 – 4, you have any questions about how ESP could support your company’s needs, please contact me at

Kelly Fullerton
Director of ESP
Emergenetics International


Ontario Municipalities Have Elected Their New Councils…Now What?

Cities, towns and municipalities across the province went to the polls on October 22, 2018, to elect their new leaders. This year’s election was full of changes, technical glitches, some big upsets, and some heartwarming stories. Let’s take a quick look back, as well as a glance at what we can expect for the next 4 years.


The newly elected candidates will begin their term of office on December 1, 2018, with most municipalities holding an official swearing-in ceremony on or around that date. Family, friends, local dignitaries and the outgoing council are generally invited to celebrate the newly elected members and welcome them to the chambers. The newly elected council will serve until November 14, 2022.

Any candidate who filed a nomination for the 2018 election must also file a complete and accurate financial statement to their municipality’s clerk by 2 PM on March 29, 2019. Your bookkeeper or accountant may file on your behalf but it must be done by this deadline.

November 15, 2022, is also an important date as all candidates and newly elected members must retain their campaign financial records until the next council takes office.


The 2018 municipal brought about many changes to the voting process, most notable being the introduction of online voting. Nearly half of the province’s 444 municipalities offered e-voting this year, with 51 of the participating communities reporting issues. These technical glitches saw voting deadlines extended anywhere from a few hours to a full day. All of the municipalities who experienced problems were using the same voting systems company who experienced broadband issues with their server.


For the first time in Canadian history, the City of London conducted its municipal election by ranked ballot. As opposed to the usual first-past-the-post system, in which voters choose only one mayoral candidate and one council candidate, with a ranked ballot system, voters have the ability to rank three mayoral and council candidates by preference – the most preferred candidate is marked as the first choice, the least preferred the third choice. The experience of ranked ballots in some U.S. cities has seen increased voter turnout and diversity on city council. At the recent Western University Local Government Interrupted Conference, the City Clerk reported that while there was definitely a learning curve for both staff and voters, the use of ranked ballots has been deemed a success for the city.


The City of Oshawa elected former regional and city councillor, Dan Carter, as Mayor. Carter believes that his challenging past has prepared him for the next four years. Carter has openly shared his past battles with alcohol, drug addiction and homelessness. He has also dealt with mental health issues, survived a childhood sexual assault and was illiterate until his early 30s.

The longest serving Mayor in the province, Gord Krantz, was re-elected for his 21st term in the City of Milton, extending his career to 42 years. Krantz is currently 81 years old and has held the position since 1980.

One of the province’s biggest upsets was in Brampton, as former Ontario PC Party leader Patrick Brown was elected Mayor. 2018 was a whirlwind year for Brown as he was forced to resign from the party. He then made a short-lived run for the leadership of the Ontario Conservatives then as Chair of Peel Region before deciding to run for Mayor in his newly adopted City of Brampton. Brown won the seat in a tight race against popular incumbent mayor Linda Jeffrey.

Whether you live in a big city or a small rural community, many of our newly elected leaders are facing the same issues. Affordable housing, infrastructure concerns, the legalization of cannabis and tackling the opiate crisis are all high priorities for councils across the province.


muniSERV is Canada’s leading online solution for helping municipalities and professionals connect.  We help municipalities save time and money searching for the professionals they need while offering professionals and municipal service providers the opportunity to showcase their profile and services to get found and grow their business.


Coaching Head Check: Do You See Eagles or Turkeys?

Expectations in coaching leadership

A leader’s coaching skills are vital today. Millennials especially want direct feedback and supportive guidance. Leaders aspiring to build coaching skills need to do a “check up from the neck up.” Am I in a growth or fixed mindset about the people I am coaching?

Ineffective managers ask, “How am I expected to soar with the eagles when I’m surrounded by a bunch of turkeys?” Effective leaders with growth mindsets see people as they could be — eagles in training. Managers with fixed mindsets simply see them as turkeys. They’re both right. Research shows managers and leaders often get what they expect.

In his Harvard Business Review classic “Pygmalion in Management,” J. Sterling Livingston draws from the ancient Greek myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor who carved a statue of a beautiful woman that came to life. George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion (which was the basis for “My Fair Lady”) used a similar theme. In the play, Eliza Doolittle explains, “The difference between a flower girl and a lady is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.” Livingston presents a number of his own studies, as well as other research, to prove that “If a manager’s expectations are high, productivity is likely to be excellent. If his expectations are low, productivity is likely to be poor.”

“The Pygmalion Effect” was uncovered years ago by psychologist Robert Rosenthal at Harvard University. He told a group of students that high or low intelligence was bred into laboratory rats through genetic manipulation. One group of students were given the “bright” rats. The other group of students drew the short straw and got stuck with the “dunce” rats. When tested in their ability to navigate a maze, the bright rats dramatically outperformed the dunce rats. What the students didn’t know was that there was no difference in the rats’ intelligence levels. Both groups of rats were the same. The only variable was the expectations of the students handling the rats.

Educational research supports the theory that we get what we expect from people. In his book, Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, Robert Tauber, a professor of education at The Behrend College of the Pennsylvania State University at Erie, compiled over 700 doctoral dissertations and countless journal articles on stereotyping, perception of social differences, race, gender, ethnicity, body features, age, socioeconomic levels, special needs, and other personal and situational factors showing, “What we expect, all too often, is exactly what we get.”

A study by David Upton of Harvard Business School on the billions of dollars invested to increase manufacturing flexibility concluded, “Plants that managers think are flexible tend to get a lot of practice and get better at it. It’s a self-fulfilling belief. We’ve found that flexibility is determined much more by the people in the plants, their industry experience, and the practice they get, than by the use of a certain type of technology.”

It’s a vital head check for would-be coaches — behaviors reflect what he or she sees. Whether the leader thinks they can or thinks they can’t, they’re often right. They become what we expect.

Succession Planning: From Piecemeal Programs to Integrated Strategy

Succession planning steps

Studies show a growing sense of urgency for succession planning. One survey found 92% of respondents felt it was risky not to have a succession plan for key employees but only 25% of companies feel they’ve identified adequate successor candidates and less than half have a process for developing candidates. Other research shows 70% of executives think their organization lacks adequate bench strength while nearly 75% of senior managers will retire by 2020. An HR software study reported that over 90% of millennials say working at a company with a clear succession plan would “improve” their level of engagement. Another report found that promoting internal leaders has a success rate of 70-80% while the rate for external leadership hires drops to 50% — about the same as flipping a coin.

Many organizations recognize the critical need for succession planning. But the way they’re approaching this talent development challenge is with piecemeal programs. Too often internal support specialists such as HR, OD, or Talent Management professionals manage the program. They focus on tools like the 9 box grid, competency models, and organization charts. These tools are highly useful. But they’re severely limited when they’re bolted on the side of the senior leadership team’s crazy-busy agenda.

In high-performing organizations, tools and approaches like succession planning are owned and driven by the senior leadership team. They understand that implementation of their strategies and plans are highly dependent on culture development. Talent and leadership development are a vital strategic issue as vigorously managed as sales, marketing, operations, or finance.

Executives often check out (and start checking their email) when a deck of slides is read to them on succession planning tools, models, and processes. But if the senior leadership team is engaged in rich discussions on what their succession issues are and how to address them, they’ll quickly shift from passive approvers of their support staff’s plans to active leaders and drivers of the process. This becomes even more effective when senior leaders link succession planning to their strategy and culture.

Here are key steps for bringing a senior leadership team into alignment in moving succession planning from bolt-on programs to a built-in strategic process:

  1. Establish foundational frameworks for leadership/culture development grounded in research.  Examples: Excellence/culture models, Performance Balance, or 5 Steps to High-Performance Culture.
  2. Agree on a shared vision of your desired culture.
  3. Set/refresh the three or four core values anchoring your desired culture.
  4. Define the behaviors that model each core value and the negative behaviors that create eye-rolling “yeah, right” reactions to each core value. The clearest signal of an organizations lived (versus espoused) values is who gets promoted for what behaviors.
  5. Use a safe and anonymous process to identify moose-on-the-table (or elephants in the room) and what must be dealt with to move toward your desired culture.
  6. Agree on three or four Strategic Imperatives to address your “moose issues” and build an implementation plan for your desired culture. Set up teams for each Strategic Imperative with ownership/accountability, charter/mandate, and timelines.
  7. Decide on core succession planning tools such as 9 box framework, a competency model for hiring, promoting, and development, high potential programs, software, talent pools, etc.

What’s critical to this approach is managing group dynamics, meeting flow, and discussion process. A skilled, external facilitator with a toolkit of group processes, exercises, and applications has a huge impact on the success of planning sessions like this.

In their Harvard Business Review article, “Developing Your Leadership Pipeline,” Jay Conger and Robert Fulmer report that high-performing organizations marry succession planning with leadership development. “At the foundation of a shift toward succession management is a belief that leadership talent directly affects organizational performance. This belief sets up a mandate for the organization: attracting and retaining talented leaders.”

The Importance of Emergency Planning for Municipalities

Does your municipality have an effective and well-planned out strategy to put in place in the event of an emergency or natural disaster?

Risks and threats to Canadians and Canada itself are becoming ever more complex due to the glut of natural hazards affecting our country, and the proliferation of transnational threats arising from the consequences of terrorism, international disease outbreaks, global climate change and cyber attacks. In the increasingly interconnected world of today, emergencies can quickly worsen in severity and scope, jump across jurisdictional lines, take on international proportions and result in catastrophic human and economic losses.

In order to better understand what we mean when we talk about an “Emergency” in the context of this article, we have provided some important definitions for you below:

  1. Emergency refers to an anticipated or real event, or an unpredicted mixture of circumstances which necessitate the prompt action or immediate coordination of action as mandated or renewed by the Lieutenant-Governor, a cabinet minister, or an emergency management council or committee.
  2. Emergency Management is the commonly used term for the processes and systems for mitigating, responding to, preparing for, and recovering from disasters and emergencies.
  3. Emergency Management Plan is a living and breathing document. It requires foresight and imagination to predict the risks a municipality faces, and to implement the countermeasures that will help mitigate the damage in these situations. It documents procedures, resources, people, communications and organizational structures required to alleviate the impact of an emergency.

Why is Planning for an Emergency Crucial for Every Municipality?

Emergency plans are crucial, not only for dealing with the aftermath of a disaster, but also to ensure business continuity during the crisis, and map out reconstruction and recovery effectively. Dealing with unexpected crises is a social process that necessitates broad public support for the spearheading of initiatives and participation by a wide range of first responders, experts and citizens. Furthermore, it needs to be tenable in the light of obstacles posed by climate change, population growth and wealth imbalances.

It can be said that, in essence, emergency planning is simply common sense. Yet the ever increasing complexity of disasters has necessitated a thorough professionalization of the field. This is most notable when we consider the increasing role of emergency response in information and communications technology. Disaster planning experts are also resource managers, and moving forward, they will need to deal with difficult and complex transfers of material and human resources.

In a globalized world that is accelerating physically, socially, and economically, the challenge of properly managing emergencies depends on proper planning and foresight, and the skills necessary to connect miscellaneous elements of the emergency response into cohesive strategies.

New bill clarifies roles and plans for municipal emergencies in Alberta

The Government of Alberta has introduced legislation to help define roles and responsibilities for decision-makers when disaster strikes. The proposed changes were tabled by Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson, and will include minimum emergency management training for individuals, more specifically, elected officials.

The changes are primarily response to a number of recent catastrophic events in Alberta, including the 2013 Calgary,  Alberta floods and the Fort McMurray, Alberta wildfire in 2016 that forced tens of thousands of people from their homes.

Under the new legislation, municipal officials would remain the final decision-makers during a natural disaster, providing the province has not declared a state of emergency. Perhaps most importantly, the bill will state that anyone who refuses to evacuate an area in an emergency must take responsibility and liability for their actions and may even be fined $10,000.

Transitional Solutions Inc. (TSI) is a consulting firm dedicated to assisting municipalities in transition.  With the organization’s more than 10 years of serving municipalities, combined with its team of senior-level consultants who have extensive experience in administration, governance, human resources, emergency management, engagement, and more, TSI has established themselves as a leader in working with municipalities of all sizes.

Boost Customer Service with a Culture That Serves the Servers

Boosting Customer SErvice

With years of travel I’ve experienced the full range of frontline servers. Some are warm, friendly, and genuinely want to help. They seem to have bounced out of bed that morning thinking “how can I brighten our customers’ day?” Others are sour and surly. For them, customer service is an oxymoron and a huge pain in the paycheck.

A minority of servers are born to serve or born to snarl. It’s the large group in the middle that makes or breaks an organization’s service levels. They could go in either direction. Their customer service efforts reflect the service levels they’re getting from the organization.

IBM draws a direct link between employee engagement and customer service. Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Diane Gherson, said, “We’ve found that employee engagement explains two-thirds of our client experience scores. And if we’re able to increase client satisfaction by five points on an account, we see an extra 20% in revenue, on average.”

This link is consistent with research by Disney Institute and McKinsey & Company as reported in “Put Employees First to Delight Customers“, “American Express Boosts Customer Service with Transformed Leadership and Culture“, and a Wharton study showing to improve customer service, treat your employees better.

The Customer Service Chain is often a useful visual in building a culture of serving the servers to boost the customer experience and live up to the organization’s brand promise. Its core message is “if you’re not serving customers directly, you need to serve someone who is.”

Customer Partner Chain

7 Tips for Co-Creating a Higher Service Culture:

  1. Draw a customer-partner chain for your organization. Start with a key customer segment and work your way back through external partners and each team or department to external suppliers. Help everyone see where they fit in the big picture.
  2. Regularly bring the voice of the customer and actual customers into your organization. Take support staff who rarely deal with customers out to meet them.
  3. Update customer and internal partner performance data frequently (daily or weekly) and make visible to everyone.
  4. Work with servers to systematically identify root causes of service problems and involve them in a continuous improvement process.
  5. Post service trend charts and customer experience/process maps for all servers to keep score and stay engaged in the improvement process.
  6. Continuously ask servers to identify and prioritize what’s getting in the way of higher service levels and involve them in addressing the issues.
  7. Make it easy and painless for internal partners to raise issues and concerns. Respond promptly and systematically to analyze the trends for improvements.

I often encounter caring servers who want to respond to my request or help me deal with a service problem. Many times, they’re as frustrated as I am with the situation and their inability to solve it. Too often I’ve heard some version of, “Please complete our survey or make a complaint about this. Nobody listens to me. Maybe they’ll do something about it if enough customers like you complain loud enough.”

Mental Health Problems and the Workplace

October is Mental Health Month. Recently there has been bigger mindfulness of the impact of mental health problems on individuals and the workplace. The economic impact is realized through direct treatment costs to the health care system as well as indirect costs, such as reduced or lost productivity due to absenteeism.

Mental health problems account for about half of employee absences due to illness each year in Canada for example, 3.5 days lost per employee per year are due to mental health problems. It is estimated that mental illness results in 35 million lost workdays each year in Canada.’

Employees living with mental health problems may feel and behave out of character at home and work. There may be feelings of things not quite right, yet they are unable to pinpoint the problem. Their co-workers, supervisors and family members may start to notice a change in mood and behaviour.


 Signs that indicate an employee or colleague may have a mental health problem are:

·      Regular late arrivals or often absent

·      Lack of teamwork or an over-all disinterest in working with co-workers

·      Lower output

·      Increased mishaps or safety problems

·      Numerous complaints of exhaustion or unexplained pains

·      Difficulty focusing, not being decisive or forgetting things

·      Making apologies for missed deadlines or poor work

·      Decreased attention or involvement in one’s work

·      Working excessive overtime over a prolonged period

·      Expressions of outlandish or grand ideas

·      Displays of irritation or pointing the finger at others


It is important to highlight that people behaving in these ways may be just having a bad day or week or dealing with a difficult situation in their personal life that may be temporary. A pattern that continues for a more extended period, however, may point to an underlying mental health problem.


Stress is a consistent part of life and work, and it can be positive or negative. Unwarranted hurtful stress through life events, including workplace issues, can contribute to mental health problems. Work itself can be expected to generate a certain level of stress associated with meeting deadlines and expectations, the need to feel valued and the loss of control over one’s time.


There are many causes of workplace stress. One key to effective stress management is maintaining awareness of the potential stressors and readiness to address them before they become problematic. Some of the most critical sources of work-related stress are listed below.

·    Poor communication

·    Incongruity in work demands, individual ability and amount of control over working practices

·    Work overload and work underload

·    Shift work and/or night work

·    Segregation, isolation and/or unstructured support for home workers

·    Short-term contracts

·    Role conflict, uncertainty and changing roles

·    The uneven weight assigned by management to consultation, support and control

·    Lack of training for managers in communication and people skills

·    Idleness

·    Uncomfortable physical workspace

·    Introduction of new technology, if not planned and gradual

·    The culture of presenteeism, in which an employee feels the need to be seen working at all times

·    Work-life imbalance

·    Home-based stresses that support or feed off of work-based stresses


Managing workplace stress can include training for employees to raise awareness about the causes and effects of stress, as well as to learn skills for coping with stress at work and in their personal lives.


Research has shown that some job stressors are worse than others, such as jobs that continuously involve imposed deadlines over an extended period and give individuals little control over the day-to-day organization of their work (high demand/low control). These jobs can lead to more than double the rate of heart and cardiovascular problems. As well as significantly higher rates of anxiety, depression and fell of being undermined. High demand/low control jobs also lead to substantially higher alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter drug use, and a significantly higher susceptibility to infectious diseases.’


Jobs that require high physical or mental effort but offer little in the way of compensation, status, financial gain or career enhancement (high effort/low reward) also affect employee stress levels. These jobs are associated with triple the rate of cardiovascular problems and significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety and conflict-related problems


The health of workers does not have to be compromised by stress. Changes to the workplace can make for a more mentally healthy workplace, especially when employees feel adequately rewarded and have greater control of their work.


Mental health problems can seriously affect someone’s ability to work. If left untreated and the mental health problem worsens, the employee may need to stop working altogether.


On the other hand, employees may try to continue to work knowing that they are not performing to their usual standards. If mental health problems are acknowledged early, and proper treatment is obtained, most people can quickly return to their regular performance at work, and much unhappiness and suffering can be avoided.


Monika B. Jensen Ph.D
TEL: 905-683-9953

FAX: 905-683-9912



Municipal Elections – Does My Vote Matter?

Municipal Elections – Does My Vote Matter?

The simple answer is yes, your vote does matter. (But that doesn’t make for a very interesting blog, now does it?)

A great advantage about municipal politics is that it’s easier to get to know the candidates on a more personal level than candidates at the provincial or federal level. Outside of major cities, many candidates will be someone you went to high school with or they’re related to a friend of yours, or they’re a local business owner of your favourite shop. For those candidates you are not familiar with, many municipalities “All Candidates’ Meetings”, that provide meet & greet opportunities throughout the campaign. These sessions typically encourage questions and comments. Local media outlets usually profile candidates and their platforms so you can gain a better understanding of who they are and what they stand for. Check your municipalities website, your local newspaper, cable channel and social media.

Candidates generally have an established platform or mandate on which they’ll be campaigning. While you might agree with their thoughts and ideas about that platform, keep in mind that they’ll still be voting on your behalf for any items that come up at council meetings. Be sure that their morals, values, and goals for the future of your municipality are clearly in line with your own. Remember, just because you agree with their platform doesn’t always mean that they share your views on current or potential affairs that will need to be decided upon.

Who you vote on to council will have a direct influence on your municipality, your daily life, your business and your city or town’s long-term goals and strategic plan.

Here are 5 great reasons for you to learn about your local candidates and get out there and vote in the municipal election.


  1. Each potential candidate brings something unique to the table. Everyone has particular ideas about how things should be done. They have personal causes they support or want to see come to fruition. Even their motivation to vote a certain way on issues can be something you fully agree with or the reason you’ll never check off their name on the ballot.
  2. Your local government is responsible for affecting much of the health and safety of your daily life. Some of these important issues are: Public transit, keeping streets clean and maintained, local police and fire, community water systems
  3. Municipal decisions include long-term planning for your town/city. Some considerations are: Neighbourhood planning, major road work, sewer systems, annual festivals/events, tourist attractions
  4. Social issues are often dealt with at the municipal level: Where to place shelters to help the homeless, how to keep drugs off the street, how to make the downtown core safe, affordable housing
  5. Local government loves community enrichment projects: Parks, waterfront enhancement, recreation centres, libraries, arts, culture


Having your voice heard in the municipal selection process is important. Your vote plays an integral part in shaping your community. I encourage you to get involved in your local politics this year. Get to know the candidates and vote. Who knows, maybe politics will become something you’re passionate about and we’ll even see your name on the ballots four years from now.


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