Strategies to Overcoming Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Unconscious bias is hitting the news. From Bay Street to Main Street to Starbucks the impact of unspoken bias is real and harmful to the workplace. Bias stands in the way of making correct decisions in hiring and promoting. It also has a vital impact on your staff and the workplace in general. Let’s explore how we can become aware of our own bias and stop it in the workplace?


First, let’s define it. “Unconscious bias refers to a bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. (ECU: 2013 Unconscious bias in higher education) 


We all have a bias. The question is, do we identify it and then what do we do about it? In addressing one of the most crucial training issues facing the workplace today, unconscious bias, employers can assist in creating an inclusive, civil and respectful workplace. 


Research indicates that unconscious biases are prejudices we have, yet are uninformed of. They are “mental shortcuts based on social norms and stereotypes.” (Guynn, 2015). Biases can be based on skin colour, gender, age, height, weight, introversion versus extroversion, marital and parental status, disability status (for example, the use of a wheelchair or a cane), foreign accents, where someone went to college, and more (Wilkie, 2014). If you can name it, there is probably an unconscious bias for it.


Hence if we think we are unbiased, we may have unconscious adverse thoughts about people who are outside our own group. If we spend more time with people from other groups, we are less likely to feel prejudice against them.


This universal tendency toward unconscious bias exists because bias is rooted in our brain. Research shows that our brain has evolved to mentally put things together to make sense to us. The brain sorts all the information it is blasted with and labels that information with universal descriptions that it may rapidly access. When we categorize these labels as either good or bad, we tend to apply the rationale to the whole group. Many of the conclusions are taken from previous experiences and learnings.  

In an article, “The Real Effects of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace”, a few of the known unconscious biases that directly impact the workplace include:

  • Affinity bias is the tendency to warm up to people like ourselves.
  • Halo effect is the tendency to think everything about a person is good because you like that person.
  • Perception bias which is the inclination to form stereotypes and assumptions about specific groups that make it awkward to make an objective judgement about members of those groups. 
  • Confirmation bias is the openness for us to pursue evidence that sanctions our pre-existing beliefs or experiences. 
  • Group think is a bias which occurs when people attempt to fit into a specific crowd by mirroring others or holding back opinions and views. This results in individuals losing part of their characteristics and causes workplaces to miss out on originality and creativity.

Horace McCormick’s research found more than 150 identified unconscious biases, making the task of rooting them out and addressing them daunting. For many organizations, however, identifying as many as possible and eliminating them has become a high priority.  


You can address discrimination issues by increasing your awareness of your unconscious biases, and by developing strategies that make the most of the talents and abilities of your team members. 

Unconscious behaviour is not just individual; it influences organizational culture as well. This explains why so often our best attempts at creating corporate culture change with diversity efforts seem to fall frustratingly short; to not deliver on the promise they intended.


What you can do: 

  • Be aware consciously of your bias 
  • Focus more on the people, on their strengths
  • Increase Exposure to Biases
  • Make small changes 
  • Be pragmatic 
  • Challenge stereotypes and counter-stereotypical information 
  • Use context to explain a situation 
  • Change your perception and relationship with out-group members 
  • Be an active bystander 
  • Improve processes, policies & procedures  

Also, managers can play a crucial role in unearthing these hidden biases by declaring their intentions to be non-biased. They can also provide transparent performance appraisals that emphasis on the employee’s exceptional abilities and skills, and grow a stronger mindfulness of their own unconscious principles.



If You Don’t Understand These Concepts You Don’t Understand Learning

Here’s some Key Learning & Development Concepts to Consider

  • Content is less important than you think, even poor content – the focus needs to be on what happens after the delivery.
  • If you’re not familiar with the Kirkpatrick or Phillips models of evaluation, then you will not understanding that Level 3 is a very critical level. What I see is most doing level one and two then wanting to jump to 4 or 5 depending on what model you follow 
  • Everyone shouldn’t have access to learning, it should be a privilege that’s earned. Over $40B spent on learning, where’s the ROI? Did you ever notice that those who did well in your workshops were the high performers, not a coincidence
  • If building organizational competence is truly your mission, then don’t hire anyone that isn’t willing to learn on the companies time and their time.
  • If you don’t get to application after two weeks of the learning intervention, your attendees will lose 70% of they’ve learned, this is why application is so critical.
  • If you keep conducting the same classes or offering the same content and nothing has changed, stop doing that and move to another approach or different content
  • Most of you have forgotten about the 9 Box Transfer of Training Model, Vertical axis, Boss, Employee Trainer, Horizontal Access, Before, During and After. Box one and three, is the boss before and after, box 2 is the trainer delivering the knowledge to the employee. Guess what, 1 and 3 never happen, so nothing changes, this issue is one faced by every organization, I mean ever
  • Learning should be competency driven, that’s how you build organizational competence, you identify the core competencies that drive organizational results, guess what, your other talent systems, selection, performance management and succession planning are all competency-driven. Less than 50% of Fortune 500 companies use competency modeling, don’t know why
  • If you are using an LMS, make certain that you build in the Amazon 5 star rating approach. It helps drive others to the content and more importantly, tells you how your customer feels about the content
  • When your customer comes to you with a problem that requires your learning solution, don’t believe what they tell you. I’ve learned that my customers bring me symptoms, I ask a lot of good open-ended questions to ensure I’m dealing with the root cause. I passed this skill on to my team, you need to know how to consult
  • If your learning strategy is a push and not a pull, you’ll never be successful.
  • If you’re a learning department consider yourself to be a vendor and the currency of your customer to be time. You have to sell them on the idea of using your solutions, the best way to do that is have other customers talk about the effectiveness of your solutions. Remember, nothing beats a good testimonial and don’t be afraid to share those with the organization.
  • If the flipped classroom approach isn’t in your strategy, you’re missing the boat and the point. As I mentioned earlier, degreed has taken care of the content, you need to focus on getting the learner or a group focused on applying that learning in a real live project. Two things happen, you get real-time experience and you move the needle on the company’s results 
  • If your goal is to build certain organizational competencies, remember, more is less. Instead of focusing on several, which forces you to go 10 miles wide and an inch deep, pick one or two and do a real deep dive, so that you’re a mile wide and 10 miles deep, a better return
  • Whose responsibility is the development of the company’s employees? If you said you are, go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Employee development is and will always be the responsibility of the leader, you are merely the catalyst 
  • Stop using meeting webinar solutions to deliver synchronous and asynchronous learning, look at products like Adobe Connect or Go To Training, there’s a big difference. 

Where the field of learning has really failed in this country is that those in the discipline still continue to focus on the tools instead of the process. This is similar to those in the HR discipline when it comes to performance management. They focus on the tool and not the system or process.

If I gave you Rachel Ray’s cookware, do you think you could cook as good as she does, I don’t think so?

John Prpich, Learning Protagonist



Competency-Based Learning

One of the most significant opportunities being missed by most organizations today is the lack of a competency talent framework. I’ve always believed that the only true business differentiator is the competency of your organization. Everything else can typically be easily duplicated with financial resources.

The exact opposite is true for people. They are complex and require a great deal of effort and energy, however, if you can tap into their talents and keep them engaged in building their strengths, you will flourish.  History has proven this time and time again.

When it comes to the term competency, it’s often confused with other words like talent, strengths, or skills. By definition, a competency is where, motivation, knowledge, and skill meet. A competency can be a talent and it can certainly be a strength, so let’s not get too hung up on the term. The goal is to identify the critical or core competencies that are drivers of your organization’s success. Typically, I encourage the organization to select anywhere from 8-12 competencies – more than 12 becomes difficult to manage.

Once they’ve been identified and agreed upon,(this requires feedback from all levels of the organization), you can then start to incorporate them into the other systems and processes that drive your talent framework – selection, performance management, succession planning, personal development, and organizational values. These competencies also become an integral part of your culture.

Marcus Buckingham, the author of, Go Put Your Strengths To Work, also advocates focusing on the people’s strengths and not their weaknesses. What I found compelling about his work was that it aligned with my experiences as a leader.

Most performance review processes focus on improving someone’s weakness but rarely have I seen an improvement.  However, if they focused on a strength, I would see great strides being made. Even Dan Pink discussed this when he identified what motivates individuals – Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. The mastery of skills is aligned with focusing on strengths and that’s aligned with what Malcolm Gladwell shared in his book, Outliers, where he wrote that “ ten thousand hours is the magic of greatness.”

If you are going to build a competency-based organization, make certain that the learning opportunities you provide are tied to those competencies and incorporate them into everything you do.

On a final note, I’d like to suggest another philosophical opportunity. Would you hire a person that wasn’t willing to develop or improve themselves?  You probably will tell me that you wouldn’t but we do it all the time. One important criterion that is missed in the selection process is assuring newcomers that if they join your organization, they have to be willing to continue to learn and develop.  If not, why would you hire them?

If the competence of your employees is a business differentiator everyone has to be willing to continue to learn.

John Prpich, TalentBlueprint


Becoming a Learning Organization

During my 20 years in the business of learning and competency development, I’ve experienced a pattern that continues to plague organizations – confusing tools with strategy and process.

A good example of this can be found in performance management. Organizations focus all their energy on the tools and ignore the process, therefore the system has always failed. As the old saying goes, if I give you a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Developing an organizational mindset with a focus on behaviors necessary to ensure that the crystallization of the behaviors that will support the change you are looking for.

In the business of learning, organizations typically go directly to purchasing content or tools that will support the content – Learning Management Systems (LMS). Let’s remember if you buy a racing car that doesn’t make you a racing car driver.  It just makes you someone with a racing car. If your goal is to build organizational competence, you need to understand how to bring that change about. 

It isn’t easy. There are a series of questions you must ask yourself, here are some examples:

  • What does it mean to be a learning organization?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What are the challenges?
  • How does this align with our Mission, Vision, and Values?
  • What are the desired outcomes?
  • Who will champion this change?
  • How will this impact our goals?
  • What type of investment is involved?
  • How will this impact our culture?
  • How will this impact our ability to attract talent?
  • What behaviors are we trying to change?

As you can see, the list of questions will be very long and there’s a good reason. The average investment for a LMS today is around $100K, not including the learning content you would purchase or the overhead expense for managing the process. Take that and then factor in learning engagement trends, (30-40% of the organization), you’ll start to understand that this can easily be an expense instead of an investment.

Most organizations don’t realize the pre-work that proceeds getting ready to become a learning organization and they simply fail. Learning in North America is more of an expense than an investment. Billions of dollars are spent every year yet its rare for someone to articulate what happened or changed that impacted that expense that made it worthwhile. Part of this failure must do the lack of understanding of the model of learning evaluation (See Jack Phillips or Donald Kirkpatrick). Organizations should be developing Level 3 type evaluations to measure behavioral change.  It isn’t difficult, but most don’t understand how.

The other challenge is the perspective you must take when it comes to learning as a support function should engage with internal customers. Most learning departments use a push strategy, trying to force their customers to engage in learning –  this never works. You need to have the mindset that you are a vendor with a solution that can help your internal customers and the currency you are dealing with is time. How do you get your customers to invest their time in your solution? You must market your solution and you need testimonials from internal customers to encourage other customers to engage in your solution. This is a completely different mindset, but it works well.  I’ve been doing it for 18 years.

The other two critical components that are always missing are the Communication and Change Management strategies. How many times have you observed your organization’s leadership announce a change without doing any ground work and then watched that change fail.  People went back to work doing the same things they were doing before you told them what was going to change. We tend to forget the dangers in not explaining the Why’s of what we want to do and how that will positively impact the employee first, not the organization.

The other value of change management and communication is to get buy in. Remember, you want the leaders of the organization to drive the process and change, not the learning department.

John Prpich, Learning Protagonist




Making a Case for the Digital Transformation of Municipal Learning & Development

The digital transformation of municipalities has morphed over time from simply being a trendy “buzz word”, to becoming a central component of a modern municipal business strategy. Fortunately, government leaders are really starting to leverage modern technology to implement and improve administrative best practices.

“Smart governments integrate modern technology into their day-to-day operations to enhance engagement with citizens and other stakeholders to drive better outcomes – And, better technology improves public administration.”[1]

Modern technology is revolutionizing and transforming all aspects of public administration – everything from the way you manage your public works and assist citizens, to the way you administer your learning and development programs.

An LMS is a software application that helps organizations manage the administration, documentation, tracking, training and reporting of their Learners. It reduces the time, effort and cost of training programs while offering deeper insight into your Learner’s experience, compliance and progress. The number of organizations that now use learning management systems (LMS), is higher than ever before and digital learning and training is becoming more widely accepted and used.

That’s why it’s hard to understand, with all the proven efficiencies and benefits of using LMS software and digital learning, why some learning and development professionals still consider expensive, face-to-face, instructor-led training preferable to digital learning?

So, here’s a case for going digital:

It Breaks Down Silos – Different departments often use different systems resulting in decentralization and “everybody doing their own thing” with training and development. Centralizing your learning and development programs by using an LMS, eliminates the decentralization that results in scattered data across multiple municipal departments and improves management analytics and reporting so more informed decisions can be made.

It Eliminates Spreadsheets – Spreadsheets and legacy systems are unwieldy processes that lead to increased errors and a limited ability to track and monitor training, which ultimately results in frustration.

Produces IT Savings – On-site software requires in-house IT resources and expensive IT ongoing maintenance. It needs to be updated continually – plus it’s difficult to access information across departments and away from the office.

Using cloud-based software and Software-as-a-service (SaaS), eliminates the time spent on installations and manual software updates, while at the same time providing a more cost-effective solution that saves time and provides online data centers with far greater computer power and storage capacity.

You Can Do More with Less – Transforming your learning programs to digital learning simply allows you to deliver more training to more learners at less cost. It stretches training budgets because it reduces training costs (less travel, time away, travel expenses etc.)

Deliver consistent learning across your organization, anywhere, anytime – Maybe you need to deliver the same compliance course to various departments in your municipality at the same time? An LMS and digital learning makes this easy.

Adopting digital learning lets your team obtain certifications such as PMP, Change Management, Risk Management and more – right from their desktops – at a fraction of the cost of traditional classroom learning to acquire the same certifications.

Puts you ahead of the curve in your ability to entice younger workers – many of them are quite used to digital learning already.

It’s predicted that over the next 5 years, 51% of senior municipal staff members employees will be eligible to retire. Therefore keeping the current workforce engaged –millennials, generation Xers and baby boomers included – is essential to the success of each municipality. When you create a modern digital workplace and give employees tools to help them do their jobs it helps drive employee engagement, which keeps more young professionals in local government.

Establishes the right learning opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders – You can create Learning Paths and Learning Objectives within an LMS to ensure you are helping shape tomorrow’s leaders.

Improved control over the creation, deployment and management of your own training initiatives and staff development.

And More…………

As digital technology continues to evolve successful digital transformation will require careful collaboration, thoughtful planning and the inclusion of every department.

However, digital transformation isn’t only about technology, it’s about meshing the power of technology with a corporate culture that embraces the change technology can lead for the organization.

Any learning initiative needs employee buy-in and the support of upper management. And often organizations need assistance to help them create a strategic roadmap to guide them through their digital learning and development transformation.

We wanted to know why municipalities have been slow to adopt new technology to transform their learning and development programs so we conducted a survey in 2017. What we learned was, that while municipalities would like to have an LMS, purchasing their own LMS software is a huge capital outlay that is simply cost-prohibitive for many municipalities. In addition, we heard that those municipalities who already have their own LMS have a hard time sourcing quality, accredited training.

So, we developed muniLEARN – a collaborative learning management solution for municipalities that’s intended to be an end-to-end solution to help them as they navigate through their learning and development transformation and digital learning.

muniLEARN is a robust, secure, turn-key learning platform that lets you manage the deployment of your own learning and training initiatives – digitally, in a cost-effective manner.

If you’re considering transforming your learning and development program, Click here to try our free needs assessment tool to check your readiness to transform, or

Contact us at for:

  • More information about muniLEARN and/or a free introductory demo for your team
  • How your municipality can participate in our free Pilot Program to test drive using an LMS and digital learning

Remember, Learning Isn’t Where You are, It’s What You Do!

By: Susan Shannon, Founder & Principal of or at 855.477.5095

[1] The Digital Transformation of Public Administration – OpenGov


What Can a Learning Management System do for my municipality?

Municipalities have reported two (2) main pain points when it comes to managing their learning and development programs:

  1. They are tired of tracking Learning & Development on a spreadsheet and they would you like to have an LMS but they are cost-prohibitive for their municipality,
  2. Sourcing training content to populate their LMS is difficult and time-consuming, not to mention expensive

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

A Learning Management System (LMS) is a software application to help organizations manage the administration, documentation, tracking, training, reporting of their Learners. The main benefits of an LMS are to reduce the time, effort and cost of your training program while offering deeper insight into your Learner’s experience, compliance and progress.

With an LMS, you can assign training to your team to; a) grow the leaders of tomorrow (succession planning), b) for annual compliance training, c) for new hire onboarding or d) improve the job skills of employees in your organization. 

Not every municipality is the same so not everyone has the same needs when it comes to an LMS.  That’s why any LMS must offer a wide range of functionality to address individual municipal circumstances and the provider must be available to provide support and guidance along the way.

Learning Content

When organizations purchase their own LMS, the first step they need to do is upload training content into the LMS – and municipalities already know that it’s difficult and time consuming to source quality courses. But, then once they’ve found the training content they will need their IT or the LMS provider to upload it for them.  This increases costs and results in time delays in getting their training started.

A Learning Management Solution for Municipalities

muniLEARN is a collaborative learning management solution provided by, in partnership with Orion Learning. It saves municipalities money, improves  learning effectiveness, and helps them implement a safe, secure, collaborative learning solution across their municipality.

Here’s how:

muniLEARN has three components:

  • A state-of-the-art, robust, secure, subscription-based learning management system (LMS)
  • Access to a content marketplace of over 900 accredited, competency-based learning courses, programs and certification exams
  • Expertise to help you transform your learning and development program



Learning Management System – muniLEARN’s LMS comes with a full range of functionality already, but it is also customizable to suit individual needs.

Learning Content – With muniLEARN you have immediate access to our learning marketplace of over 900 accredited competency-based learning courses, programs and certification exams. We have sourced the best competency based learning courses from some of the world’s best content authors to provide you with an off-the-shelf content solution you can access directly or integrate it into your own learning programs. All of our courses are accredited by internationally recognized accreditation bodies including PMI, AXELOS, APMG International, ISSA, APM and ISTQB. We show you the accreditation agency on the accredited courses and your learners will receive certificates on successful completion of the exam.

Learning Transformation – muniLEARN has the expertise available to help guide municipalities through the transformation of their learning and development programs.

muniLEARN Pilot Program

If you’re not sure how muniLEARN will work for your municipality, we’ll give you a month to try it out!  Our muniLEARN Pilot program gives municipalities a test drive of the muniLEARN solution and the opportunity to experience using an LMS and digital learning.

Contact us today at to learn more and discuss your learning and training needs!


Dealing with Escalated Situations in Your Workplace

Resolving workplace conflict is an expected part of the job managers and Human Resource Practitioners. Whether you work in education, healthcare, human services, business, or any field, you might deal with angry, hostile, or noncompliant behaviour every day. Your response to the defensive reaction is often the key to avoiding a physical confrontation with someone who has lost control of their behaviour.

These ten De-Escalation Tips will help you respond to challenging behaviour in the safest, most efficient way possible.

  1. Be empathetic and non-judgmental
  2. Respect personal space
  3. Use non-threatening nonverbal communication
  4. Avoid overacting
  5. Focus on feelings
  6. Ignore challenging questions
  7. Set limits
  8. Choose wisely what you insist upon
  9. Allow silence for reflection
  10. Allow time for decisions


 To help you towards more efficient conflict de-escalation and resolution, the following basic steps can be followed:

  • Obtain the name of the person with whom you are speaking: People respond favourably to their own name. It also makes the conversation more personal. Ask for the person’s name early in the piece and use it throughout the discussion.
  • Use Active Listening: Clarifying, paraphrasing and using open-ended questions ensure that the individual you are speaking with knows you are aware of their situation and frustrations. Resaying a person’s own words back to them demonstrates that you have understood entirely what they were trying to say.       
  • Show support and suspend judgement: Empathy needs to be shown during conflict situations. Respecting the other person’s point of view even if you do not agree entirely will be the first step to resolving the conflict. 
  • Get them to agree and say yes: Having the person agree with you on general factual points leads the conversation towards a more favourable outcome. If you can show that you have understood their point of view by making clarifying statements you generate a state where the other person must reply with an affirmative response. The sooner you can get the person to say yes then sooner the conflict will de-escalate. It always works.
  • Avoid clichés: The worst of these being “Calm Down”. Did you ever notice how people who tell you to calm down are the ones who got you mad in the first place? Saying those words during a verbal conflict usually gets the classic retort “I AM CALM” very loudly usually with an animated hand gestures as well.       
  • Show empathy: You need to show compassion and understanding and give the conflict your full attention. Do not make impulsive decisions. Take the time to work through the problem.
  • Consistency in Courtesy: The person you are dealing with first thing in the morning deserves the same level of respect, civility and patience as the individual you are dealing with at 2 in the afternoon. They warrant the same high level of service and professionalism as the first person you spoke to. You need to maintain that position of positive brand ambassador and an excellent professional service.

There are many physical aspects of being mindful of in conflict situations. It is important always to be aware of features of conflict such as your body language, your emotions, your judgement, and your initial thoughts. Keeping these in mind is essential when trying to de-escalate a problematic situation.

Monika B. Jensen is the principal of the Aviary Group, consulting company that address workplace discord.  For more information, visit





Private Security Trends and the Need for more Trained Private Security Resources

The Canadian Occupation Projection System (COPS) predicts that by 2018, there will be a significant shortage of Private Investigation and Private Security professionals for the projected number of job openings in Canada.


This is due to a large number of impending retirements and the increasing demand for trained professionals in the Private Investigation and Security field. The current security climate in Canada, the privatization of public security functions and the gaps in accessible knowledge and streamlined training in the private security field, including the gaps between private and public security, are all indications that there is an imminent and urgent need to provide professional and comprehensive private investigative and security services to Canadians. This not only increases individual safety and security within municipalities but also ensure the Canada as a whole maintains its credibility and reputation as one of the safest Countries in the World.


In 2002, the Law Reform Commission of Canada opened a dialogue on the trend in the growth of private security in Canada. A continued rise in law enforcement expenditures, combined with economic downturns, have contributed to pressure being placed on police services around the world to become more effective and efficient. This has resulted in a growing trend of privatizing some functions traditionally performed by public policing to the private security industry as well as the growing cooperative efforts between public and private security. Private security plays an increasingly important role in community safety and addressing issues of crime and social disorder.


It is often assumed that privatizing and outsourcing traditional law enforcement tasks will result in reductions in the numbers of sworn police officers. This is very far from the truth, on the contrary, public and private security collaboration may in fact result in innovative initiatives that previously did not exist, and with the growing need for security actions in communities, may in fact provide law enforcement with extra resources and partners to undertake more actions without being overworked and understaffed while utilizing various community expertise.


There is a growing need for more security trained private resources and more collaboration between all security facets in Canada.  In Ontario, Private Investigators as well as Security Guards are licenced and regulated by the Ministry Of Correctional Services and Community Safety.


Anyone that acts in these rolls must have a licence. To obtain a licence, you must meet some requirements, one of them is completion of a Ministry-approved course provided by a registered provider such as Focus Investigations. A minimum 50 hour course for Private Investigator and a 40 hour course for Security Guards is mandatory.


These courses can be completed online making it easy for students to complete at the curriculum at their own pace. The process is as follows:


1. Complete Ministry training course and receive a “Completion Number”


2. Book a written exam at a SERCO Canada location that provides these tests. 


3. Upon successful completion of the exam, a candidate may now apply to the Ministry for their license. 

* For Security Guards, Emergency level first aid training is also required.


More information can be found on the licensing and industry here:


Additional training that is useful for security professionals as well as anyone working in a security related field such as:




Knowing how to take notes is important for the following reasons:


  • Notes are referenced for several reasons and potentially by several people.
  • Supervisors might want a rundown of the events you encountered the night before, clients may want to know about incidents that affected their businesses, and law enforcement may need these notes to help with an investigation which could conclude in a court case in which the notes will be used to prove or disprove an allegation.
  • It is vital that security personnel know how to take proper notes so that the facts are covered and there is no confusion that renders the reports useless.


Crisis Intervention


A crisis occurs when someone loses control over their behaviour. These moments are often preceded by warning signs that tells you someone’s behaviour is starting to escalate.  Security officials and any employee having to interact with the public may be faced with a situation where they are called upon to defuse a situation. By following the tips in a crisis intervention course, they often prevent a situation from becoming critical and dangerous and they are prepared and confident in any crisis they may face.


 For more information or to enrol in one of these courses, visit us at



Managing Gossip in Your Workplace

By: Monika B. Jensen

Gossip is widespread in the workplace. At times, it appears as if employees have nothing better to do than gossip about each other. They chat about their organization, their coworkers, and their bosses. They often take a half truth and flip it into an entire hypothetical reality. Speculating on the team’s future, who will let go, who is seeing who and what employees are doing in their personal lives.
Employees are capable about gossiping about everything, and they do in a workplace that fails to bring about a stop to the chatting employees.

A certain amount of gossip is likely to occur in any place of work; employees are curious to know what is going on and like to chat about work matters. The essential point is to determine when the gossip is inappropriate. In which case, if it is not addressed, it may lead to low employee morale or a toxic work environment.

As a manager, the need to stop the gossiping occurs when it becomes disrupting to the workplace and the business of work, it is hurting employees’ feelings, it is damaging interpersonal relationships, or injuring employee motivation and morale.
Since research shows that gossip is disruptive in the workplace, what can we do to address it? Let us look at a few different approaches as a team and as an individual to addressing gossiping in the workplace.

When you deal with gossip as a team considers putting a ban on gossiping. Some workplaces have adopted an official ban on workplace gossip by having employees sign a pledge. Although extreme it may be effective. To discourage gossiping encourage employees to speak to each other about issues that are causing them problems before they bring it to their supervisors or other parties’ attention.

In the age of social media, it becomes easier to spread rumours and gossip about others. This can cause tremendous harm to the culture of the workplace. Organizations, today need to deal with social media and keep an eye on emails, personal blogs and Facebook discussions among employees. Finally confront rumours promptly. Providing factual information about layoffs, problematic situations or surplus of employees serve them better than to leave them speculating on their own. It is important to discuss the impact that gossip may have in the workplace. Talking openly the differences between active communication and gossip. In today’s workplace, verbal harassment has legal ramifications. Employers have a duty to take action against verbal harassment when they become aware of it.

So in dealing with gossip as an individual, always share information.

Be generous with the non-confidential material. This has proven to put a check on the gossip mill. Interestingly closed doors can set off alarms even if the intent is innocent.

Let people know that you may be interrupted at any time unless in a private meeting. Be sensitive about appearances.

Often rumours and gossip form around cliques in the workplace. Try to avoid forming groups and reach out to new people to keep the loop open. If all else fails, walk away. Gossip loses its momentum when there is no audience.

Find a way to tactfully suggest a more efficient channel for complaining or remove yourself from the discussion. If you start to focus on the positive qualities of your colleagues, you will automatically have nice things to say about each other.

Workplaces that have the highest levels of gossip seem to be the ones where employees are not engaging in work duties. Stay busy. If your day is full of tasks which you find thought-provoking and rewarding you will be less likely to get distracted by trivial activities.

We spend long hours at our job, make a point of cultivating relationships and activities outside your workplace. Having strong relationships outside the office provides sources of emotional support and objective advice often.

Unfortunately lurking at the extreme end of the gossip spectrum is workplace bullying. What may seem harmless rumors to some, may amount to intimidation and harassment for the targeted employees. Complications of physical and meth health issues arise and need to be addressed in the proper forum.

Finally become a role model. Do not indulge in any gossip yourself. Become a leader in this area. Do not feel the need to chat to feel connected, liked or to be informed about your team. Taking a stand to prevent random gossiping creates a better workplace for everyone.

Monika B. Jensen

Principal, Aviary Group



The Five Key Facets of High Performance Leadership


High Performance Leadership (HPL) is in great demand. Are you ready to become a high performing leader?
Many people in leadership positions struggle with understanding what makes a good or even great leader. While billions of dollars are spent annually on leadership development, high performance leadership is still in short supply.

Organizations have responded to the demand for high performance leadership with a steady stream of education and training resources, which seem to be plentiful, (for example, at the time of writing, had over 9,000 references on leadership), yet most attempts at building high performance leadership are either far too complex or too simplistic to be of any practical use to leaders who need to make things happen. So what does work?

High Performance Leadership

While successful organizations focus on three imperatives: aligning strategy & people; developing world class leaders; and building world class teams, when we look at what successful leaders personally do to succeed, we find that they concentrate on building their capacity around what we call the five key facets of high performance leadership , using the acronym FACET:

Focus – Authenticity – Courage – Empathy – Timing


Effective leaders stay focused on the outcomes they wish to create, and don\’t get too married to the methods used to achieve them. They provide this \’outcomes focus\’ for their organization by emphasizing the mission, vision, values and strategic goals of their organization and at the same time building the capacity of their organizations to achieve them.

This capacity building emphasizes the need to be flexible, creative and innovative and avoid becoming fossilized through the adoption of bureaucratic structures, policies and processes. It also means letting go of lines of business, products and programs that don\’t support the focus.


Leaders who are authentic attract followers, even leaders who are viewed as being highly driven and often difficult to work with day in and day out. Simply put, they are viewed as always being themselves and therefore followers know what to expect from them and can rely on them, in good times and bad. They know themselves intimately, and they understand the effect they have on others.

Authenticity provides the leader with the currency to obtain \’buy-in\’ from key stakeholders, because authenticity builds and maintains trust. Authenticity is the bedrock upon which the other four facets are built.


The challenges facing leaders today are immense, and require great courage to overcome. Leaders are constantly being challenged by others, be it their own team, customers, the public or stakeholders. Standing firm in the face of criticism, yet having the courage to admit when they are wrong, are hallmarks of courageous leaders.

They have the courage to face reality and lead change in order to achieve whatever they are focused upon. Courageous leaders know when to let go and let others take the initiative, which entails…


Effective leaders know how to listen empathetically, thus legitimizing others\’ input. By doing so, they promote consensus building, and build strong teams. They coach others to do the same, and so create a culture of inclusiveness and collaboration. They tend to be great listeners who capitalize on the ideas of others, and provide recognition for these ideas, yet they don\’t get bogged down in overly complicated dialogue. They never let themselves get caught in endless dialogue, because they are continuously refocusing.

While they create learning organizations that place a high value on dialogue and continuous feedback, they know when to make decisions and take action, which brings us on to the fifth facet…


The one facet that can make or break a leader is in knowing when to make, and not make, critical decisions. All of the other facets must be viewed as subservient to getting the timing of critical decisions and actions right. There is a need to be focused, authentic, courageous and empathetic, but get the timing wrong on critical decisions and everything else will fall apart.

Great leaders move with appropriate speed. They don\’t believe that everything must be done immediately…they know how to prioritize, and how to get their team to prioritize. As well, they engage in timely follow-through to ensure actions that are committed to happen in a well coordinated and timely way.

Is it that simple?

Is that all it takes to be a great leader? These facets of high performance leadership are not exhaustive. Just as one would look at the facets of a diamond, upon closer observation other qualities become observable.

Any person can aspire to being a great leader by embracing these five key facets. To get started, if you are in a leadership role, regardless of your position in your organization, start by asking yourself the following key questions:

Key Questions

1. How focused am I? How much of my time do I spend communicating and inspiring people about our mission, vision and strategic goals? How much focus do I create in my organization? How married am I/my organization to methods that have outlived their usefulness?

2. Am I viewed as authentic? Do people see and hear the real me? Do I wear a mask at work, and remove it when I leave each evening?

3. How courageous am I?  When my values, vision and goals are challenged do I buckle? Do I stand firm and only change my position when I know that I am wrong?

4. How empathetic am I? Too much/too little? Do I create enough opportunities for open and candid dialogue? Do I ever find myself getting bogged down in consensus building, or leading my team to false consensus? Is there a feeling of inclusiveness, collaboration and engagement amongst the members of my organization, and with other stakeholders, including customers?

5. Do I make and execute decisions in a timely fashion? Do I demand well coordinated and timely execution of strategy from others?

What can you do to create a high-performance leadership culture? Asking these questions in a candid way will open up many possibilities for you, your organization or your clients…if you have the courage to do it. Building and sustaining a high-performance leadership culture takes time, patience and a clear focus on the vital few characteristics that leaders can develop naturally and authentically.

Listening to what people expect from you as a leader, and then responding empathically, in a timely fashion, will move you dramatically towards mastering these five key facets of high performance leadership.

Above all, you need to TAKE ACTION.

About the Author

Brian Ward is CEO of Affinity Consulting and Training, an independent consulting and training organization based in Edmonton, Alberta. He is also the founder of, an online training resource for new and first-time supervisors and managers.