Author Topic: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?  (Read 4269 times)

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Offline daftandbarmy

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Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« on: December 17, 2017, 20:45:21 »
Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?

Amid longer hours, an uncertain economy and our ever-shaky grip on a healthy work-life balance, plenty of people agree that the work environment has only gotten more challenging in the past few years.

But in some workplaces, times aren’t just hard; they’re toxic.

Think of the type of workplace in which employees feel personally threatened in one way or another. While relatively rare in most sectors, toxic workplaces appear to be on the rise, experts say. The distinction between extremely difficult and downright toxic work environments can be fuzzy, but in general, the toxic workplace is one in which the dynamics resemble an abusive personal relationship.

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/is-your-workplace-tough-or-is-it-toxic/
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline mariomike

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2017, 10:41:58 »
"...those who merely annoy with habits like pencil-tapping..."

When you're cooped up with the same partner 40 hours a week it's the little things that get to you.

"He keeps opening and closing the glove compartment a thousand times a day! Click, click, CLICK!"

"He's a foot tapper! Tap, tap, TAP!"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A7OKurRoII

« Last Edit: December 18, 2017, 10:45:15 by mariomike »

Offline Navy_Wannabe

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2017, 14:35:43 »
Civilian Experience

Fresh engineering grad. Got a consulting gig right out of uni. Since accepting that offer, work place has been very hostile. First day I was given a box containing basic office supplies, and was told to hold on to that box as one day I might have to use that box (i.e. upon departure). Working on a design job, design mentor gave me crap all day every day. Yelled at me so loud that all people in that corner of the office knows what an idiot I was. Managers and big wigs knew about the situation but nothing was really done about it. Finally spoke up and action plan was for my supervisor to talk to the person, and check-in every month or so to see if the situation has improved. It has not. My productivity drastically dropped every time I get yelled at. Silently cried in my cubicle. Co-workers check in with me every once in a while how I am doing and how do I put up with the harassment. My response was to maintain my professionalism and that each time I interact with the "mentor" was a learning opportunity. Said "mentor" has been in the company ~30 years and I guess soon to retire. So obviously knowledge transfer was a high priority for the managers and big wigs. This "mentor" really thought he was so funny, one day, decided to show us his a$$. Til the very end maintained my professionalism. I felt that with all the yelling my career was being set back. Tried asking for a raise (I knew I was in the lower quartile compared to my peers as there is a salary survey in my profession) as the company claims it pays in the upper decile. In the end I was laid off without cause. Was given a month's salary. Oh, and didn't keep the cardboard box. Instead, I brought in my own bin.

Fresh out of school, realized that the university provides such a false sense of shelter, protection. There are tons of policies in place designed to protect you. Since then I learned that the world is much harsher. I try to be kind and appreciate the things that I have now.

Offline Good2Golf

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2017, 16:03:55 »
I knew that many new 'iron rings' get treated poorly, as far as compensation, but that's quite something.  Assuming this is an ISO-certified engineering firm?  Couldn't be a 6-Sigma org, or if it is, has really worked the system.  Did the company have a 'whistle-blower' policy?  Most public firms do, these days.

Sorry to hear about what sounds like a horrible entrance into your profession that would have taken a lot of work and dedication to get into.

Most provinces' Professional Engineering Associations have avenues to register official complaints against such conduct.  Did you look into that at the time?  You yourself would not have to be a P.E. to enquire.

Regards
G2G

Offline Navy_Wannabe

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2017, 16:44:55 »
Just like the referenced article, I have unfortunately got close to being confused as to who was the victim and who was the perpetrator. As a recent graduate, I definitely experienced that difficulty of securing a job. Unlike the baby boomers who had to choose 1 out of 25 job offers, at least an account from one of the guest speakers in class, I had to go through 25+ job interviews and secure 1 job offer. Most of my peers weren't able to get jobs right after graduation. I was so full of aspiration and determination. And now I know better.

With job insecurity, being so green in the field, and the desperation to learn as much as I can on the job, I endured the verbal and emotional harassment at that place. I definitely felt ashamed of myself.

The firm was ISO-certified (but was not anymore when I first got there). It is privately owned. Not that I was dirty, but I feel like, until today, bringing this experience to the attention of regulators/administrators/someone would be opening a can of worms. I don't think it will serve any purpose. Turn-over rate at that place was definitely high. During my less than 2 years I saw >25 people come and go. This is a company with a national presence. If an organization is stumbling/struggling, I believe that it will eventually manifest itself.

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2017, 17:57:47 »
Just like the referenced article, I have unfortunately got close to being confused as to who was the victim and who was the perpetrator. As a recent graduate, I definitely experienced that difficulty of securing a job. Unlike the baby boomers who had to choose 1 out of 25 job offers, at least an account from one of the guest speakers in class, I had to go through 25+ job interviews and secure 1 job offer. Most of my peers weren't able to get jobs right after graduation. I was so full of aspiration and determination. And now I know better.

With job insecurity, being so green in the field, and the desperation to learn as much as I can on the job, I endured the verbal and emotional harassment at that place. I definitely felt ashamed of myself.

The firm was ISO-certified (but was not anymore when I first got there). It is privately owned. Not that I was dirty, but I feel like, until today, bringing this experience to the attention of regulators/administrators/someone would be opening a can of worms. I don't think it will serve any purpose. Turn-over rate at that place was definitely high. During my less than 2 years I saw >25 people come and go. This is a company with a national presence. If an organization is stumbling/struggling, I believe that it will eventually manifest itself.

The bullies win if you don't write down your experiences, like a statement of a witness to a crime, and share them upwards and outwards.

Most big organizations have well defined processes for dealing with bullies. You should do some research and find out what the firm's processes are. Here is an example of what's available through industry sources: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/health-safety/hazards-exposures/bullying-harassment

If nothing else, it will show that you have the chutzpah to tackle the tough issues head on.... which is an admirable trait for any engineer IMHO.
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline mariomike

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2018, 09:23:55 »
As a recent graduate, I definitely experienced that difficulty of securing a job. Unlike the baby boomers who had to choose 1 out of 25 job offers, at least an account from one of the guest speakers in class, I had to go through 25+ job interviews and secure 1 job offer. Most of my peers weren't able to get jobs right after graduation.

With my employer, students received "informal offers of employment" before graduation, securing them a promise of employment by the time they graduated.

As the 'Baby Boom' generation ages, those 'boomers' are mostly retired and becoming health-care consumers themselves, rather than providers.

A challenge is that subsequent generations are typically smaller, and demand for service is increasing.

Good luck.

« Last Edit: January 18, 2018, 10:16:01 by mariomike »

Online Colin P

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2018, 10:15:56 »
Took a job in one station at the CCG, my predecessor had punched out the OIC and shoved him head first into a garbage can on the way out the door. The OIC had not learned his lesson, he had been grieved by all his senior officers, but the CCG swept everything under the rug. When he started bad mouthing a 2nd officer to me, I suggested that it was not appropriate to discuss his concerns with a seaman and he should take up his concerns with the officers captain. That put me on the "enemy list" and he harassed me for a number of years. Got to the point where I was about to pound him, the duty captain grabbed him and shoved out the door telling him to go home. Everyone else there was excellent and I knew the officers and captains had my back, but that CCG would do nothing about the issue. Eventually left into my current job. The great thing about having a sh*tty job is you will know when you have a great one.   

Offline mariomike

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2018, 15:45:02 »
Took a job in one station at the CCG, my predecessor had punched out the OIC and shoved him head first into a garbage can on the way out the door. The OIC had not learned his lesson, he had been grieved by all his senior officers, but the CCG swept everything under the rug. When he started bad mouthing a 2nd officer to me, I suggested that it was not appropriate to discuss his concerns with a seaman and he should take up his concerns with the officers captain. That put me on the "enemy list" and he harassed me for a number of years. Got to the point where I was about to pound him, the duty captain grabbed him and shoved out the door telling him to go home. Everyone else there was excellent and I knew the officers and captains had my back, but that CCG would do nothing about the issue. Eventually left into my current job. The great thing about having a sh*tty job is you will know when you have a great one.

Reminds me of a movie I saw.
The Captain said, "You cannot have an efficient ship unless you have a happy ship, and you cannot have a happy ship unless you have an efficient ship."  :)

Thankfully, where I was stationed, the supervisor's office was miles away. Most contact was via telephone.

Your partner was a different story. You were stuck with the same individual 40-hours a week. For years.

So, we got along, and had a lot of fun.  :)

« Last Edit: January 18, 2018, 15:53:27 by mariomike »

Offline pbi

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2018, 21:44:14 »
My son recently left a skilled job in what was once a happy and productive plant in Eastern Ontario. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, the Head Office in Toronto brought in a US consultant to "improve" the operation. Within weeks the levels of tension, fear and uncertainty in the plant soared as productivity and timely delivery fell. The consultant (who became the de facto plant manager) ruled by screaming, threatening and "leadership by e-mail". People began to get physically sick about coming to work, and feared losing their jobs. Within a year my son, who was actually a favourite of the consultant, could no longer stand the poisonous atmosphere and the sight of his fellow workers getting sacked for little or no reason. He quit, giving up good wages and benefits, because the job was making him sick.

The plant is currently in a death spiral and has laid off or fired about 75% of its workforce. It won't last much longer.

This is what a toxic workplace can do to people, especially when senior management has no idea what is happening.
The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. ...

The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out...

Offline FJAG

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2018, 22:46:28 »
The bullies win if you don't write down your experiences, like a statement of a witness to a crime, and share them upwards and outwards.

Most big organizations have well defined processes for dealing with bullies. You should do some research and find out what the firm's processes are. Here is an example of what's available through industry sources: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/health-safety/hazards-exposures/bullying-harassment

If nothing else, it will show that you have the chutzpah to tackle the tough issues head on.... which is an admirable trait for any engineer IMHO.

My old law firm represented most of the businesses in SW Manitoba. As the firm's main civil litigator I was always called in when a company had finally had enough from one of it's problem employees and wanted to fire them.

The biggest problem we ran into was that most small and mid-sized civilian firms have very weak personnel record keeping standards and are mostly inept at progressive counselling and discipline. Usually we were faced with a situation where the company had carried the trouble maker for years until finally there was a straw that broke the camel's back. Unfortunately at that point the employee's file was either very thin or non existent. That means you either start the discipline process (usually not an option that they wanted because they had already crossed the Rubicon) or fire the individual with cause and hope for the best in any future unjust dismissal lawsuit.

I'm not sure why businesses generally do not deal well with toxic workplace issues. My guess is because management is too busy taking care of the operational side of the business that they can't or won't dedicate time to the finer points of employee interpersonal relationships or because they are conflict averse and simply let things slide in the unreasonable hope that with time the problem will fix itself.

 :cheers:

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Offline mariomike

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2018, 23:03:15 »
My guess is because management is too busy taking care of the operational side of the business that they can't or won't dedicate time to the finer points of employee interpersonal relationships or because they are conflict averse and simply let things slide in the unreasonable hope that with time the problem will fix itself.

Depends on the employer, I suppose.

It was almost impossible to get kicked out. Unless you became a public disgrace, they would tolerate almost anything.

Only thing they might do is transfer you to Scarborough.


Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2018, 23:07:02 »
My son recently left a skilled job in what was once a happy and productive plant in Eastern Ontario. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, the Head Office in Toronto brought in a US consultant to "improve" the operation. Within weeks the levels of tension, fear and uncertainty in the plant soared as productivity and timely delivery fell. The consultant (who became the de facto plant manager) ruled by screaming, threatening and "leadership by e-mail". People began to get physically sick about coming to work, and feared losing their jobs. Within a year my son, who was actually a favourite of the consultant, could no longer stand the poisonous atmosphere and the sight of his fellow workers getting sacked for little or no reason. He quit, giving up good wages and benefits, because the job was making him sick.

The plant is currently in a death spiral and has laid off or fired about 75% of its workforce. It won't last much longer.

This is what a toxic workplace can do to people, especially when senior management has no idea what is happening.

Darwin works in mysterious ways....
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline pbi

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2018, 11:09:55 »
Darwin works in mysterious ways....

Yes, perhaps. But look at the unnecessary human cost (and I don't just mean my son: he has gone on to other things). I remain completely gobsmacked that Head Office apparently did not even realize what their Frankenstein consultant was doing to the plant's output, or the havoc being caused in the workplace. The massive drop in product quality and timely delivery must have been visible to them. It seems that the only thing they ever did was to send an HR person to visit the site, with no meaningful results.
The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. ...

The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out...

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2018, 11:39:26 »
Yes, perhaps. But look at the unnecessary human cost (and I don't just mean my son: he has gone on to other things). I remain completely gobsmacked that Head Office apparently did not even realize what their Frankenstein consultant was doing to the plant's output, or the havoc being caused in the workplace. The massive drop in product quality and timely delivery must have been visible to them. It seems that the only thing they ever did was to send an HR person to visit the site, with no meaningful results.

You'd be surprised how many times I see the same thing occurring in other organizations. Army people like to complain about the Army, until they see what civvie street does to each other :)

Is your organization effective? Sadly, probably not:

http://www.cmc-canada.ca/blogs/richard-eaton/2016/12/13/is-your-organization-effective-sadly-probably-not
« Last Edit: February 26, 2018, 11:59:52 by daftandbarmy »
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline pbi

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2018, 10:39:45 »
You'd be surprised how many times I see the same thing occurring in other organizations. Army people like to complain about the Army, until they see what civvie street does to each other :)

Is your organization effective? Sadly, probably not:

http://www.cmc-canada.ca/blogs/richard-eaton/2016/12/13/is-your-organization-effective-sadly-probably-not

Which I why I am eternally skeptical of people who rant about how much better off the military will be if it adopts various methods from business, or why a given politician is automatically a better candidate than a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker because he "comes from the corporate world".

There are some very successful, well-run businesses with healthy workplaces and good management. They may actually be able to teach the military something. And then there are all the rest, whose failures are sometimes catastrophic but always end up hurting people: Eaton's, NorTel, Sears Canada, etc.
The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. ...

The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out...

Online Colin P

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2018, 11:44:28 »
My opinion is that business people often don't do well in government, the amount of checks and balances and restrictions frustrates them to no end, but since government has the ability to make law and ruin people, you need those checks and balances. A typical problem is the matter of forming relationships, in business, you buy people lunch, take them golfing or some form of "bonding". You can't do that in government as it's is seen as corruption and bribery, failure to switch cultures can be fatal for a political career.

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2018, 12:49:35 »
My opinion is that business people often don't do well in government, the amount of checks and balances and restrictions frustrates them to no end, but since government has the ability to make law and ruin people, you need those checks and balances. A typical problem is the matter of forming relationships, in business, you buy people lunch, take them golfing or some form of "bonding". You can't do that in government as it's is seen as corruption and bribery, failure to switch cultures can be fatal for a political career.

Which is pretty much what we discovered in the BC Public Service as contained in our report:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/organizational-structure/public-service/executive_transitions_report.pdf
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline FJAG

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2018, 19:59:26 »
My opinion is that business people often don't do well in government, the amount of checks and balances and restrictions frustrates them to no end, but since government has the ability to make law and ruin people, you need those checks and balances. A typical problem is the matter of forming relationships, in business, you buy people lunch, take them golfing or some form of "bonding". You can't do that in government as it's is seen as corruption and bribery, failure to switch cultures can be fatal for a political career.

I was brought in for three years to work as the project director for a major JAG information technology program principally because of my experience in that field in my civilian practice. While I understand why the government needs checks and balances it was and is my opinion that the current human resources and materiel acquisition processes are dysfunctional. As configured and operating they cause excessive delays and added costs that no private industry would put up with. Quite simply when critical systems like this fail in private industry it increases the risk that the business itself will fail.  Bureaucracies don't "fail" as long as the public continues to pay taxes. In government, folks just accept the situation and carry on and muddle through.

 :cheers:
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Offline dapaterson

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2018, 20:41:01 »
Quite simply when critical systems like this fail in private industry it increases the risk that the business itself will fail.  Bureaucracies don't "fail" as long as the public continues to pay taxes. In government, folks just accept the situation and carry on and muddle through.

 :cheers:

#Phoenix
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Online Colin P

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #20 on: May 01, 2018, 12:48:19 »
The thing government needs to do is increase the risk benefit, however that also means being willing to fly cover for those that take acceptable risks. Another thing to learn is how communicate how the department is taking risks and managing them. In other words beat the "gotcha" cycle the media lives on. Some departments do that better than others. Example might be the Forest Service with forests fires, they live in a dynamic situation with calculated risk taking as a norm rather than exception.   

Offline Rifleman62

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Re: Is Your Workplace Tough — or Is It Toxic?
« Reply #21 on: May 01, 2018, 18:07:28 »
Receive these legal briefings every week. This article may fit here.

http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=692868&email_access=on&chk=1929162&q=1236294

Canada: Recognizing And Resolving Poisoned Work Environments - April 23 2018
Article by Paul J. Willetts - Vey Willetts LLP
               
Employees are entitled to work in a respectful environment, free from harassment and discrimination. In circumstances where the work environment deteriorates to such an extent that it may be considered "poisonous" or "toxic", a court will likely find that the employer's behaviour in creating and/or condoning this environment amounted to a constructive dismissal of the affected employee.

A constructive dismissal from employment occurs where an employer unilaterally and fundamentally changes the working relationship, and the individual neither condones nor acquiesces to the change. In the context of a poisoned work environment, the Ontario Court of Appeal has confirmed that except for "particularly egregious stand-alone incidents" a workplace becomes poisoned only with repeated incidents of "serious wrongful behaviour sufficient to create a hostile or intolerable work environment" as assessed from the perspective of an "objective reasonable bystander."

Given this high threshold, it is important that legal advice is sought before any steps are taken in response to a perceived toxic environment. In the event that an individual fails to establish such an environment, having left the workplace, he or she will be deemed at law to have resigned.

Failing to Meet the Bar

A recent decision from Alberta provides an informative case study where an allegation of a poisoned worth environment fell flat. In T.L.K. and Serva Group Ltd., the Court of Queen's Bench considered whether an employer had constructively dismissed one of its employees ("TLK") by condoning a poisonous work environment.

TLK was employed by Serva Group Ltd. from February 7, 2012 to August 14, 2013 as an expediter/buyer. On August 9, 2013, TLK covered for one of her colleagues, Mr. Clow, as he was attending a wedding. In order to cover for this colleague, TLK was provided with Mr. Clow's work smart phone.

Once in receipt of the telephone, TLK accessed emails on the device and read messages sent between Mr. Clow and some of her other colleagues. The overall thrust of the emails was that TLK was "crazy" and a "failure." TLK was upset by the emails and brought them to her supervisor, Mr. Welsh.

Mr.  Welsh met with Mr. Clow immediately upon his return to work, and Mr. Clow voluntarily apologized to TLK. TLK considered the apology to be insincere. As such Mr. Welsh offered to convene a further meeting with himself and Mr. Clow present. TLK was not interested in attending a further meeting, and shortly thereafter left the workplace, pursuant to a letter provided by a physician.

TLK advised the employer that she could not work in the same office as Mr. Clow. The employer responded that there was no other practical place for her to work, noting that many staff were already sharing offices as space was tight. In addition, the company's Director of Human Resources wrote an email to TLK stating that:

         
  • ur desire is that employees treat each other with dignity and respect, and work together as a team. If you experience any

          issues in the future, you may report them to your manager or to any higher member of management. You may also contact me
          at any time – my contact information is listed below.

Despite receiving this email, TLK refused to return to work and commenced legal action asserting that she had been constructively dismissed from employment by subjecting her to a toxic work environment. The court rejected this argument, finding that where "an employer who, when advised of a dispute among co-workers, takes reasonable steps that amount to a re-assertion of its expectations of mutual respect and support for the victim of harassment, cannot be said to have introduced any fundamental change to the workplace."

Moreover, the court confirmed that the resolution of workplace issues does not have to be perfect from the perspective of the employee. Rather, employers are expected to provide a reasonable resolution of the issue in question.

Takeaways for Employers and Employees


T.L.K. and Serva Group Inc. provides helpful guidance for employees and employers alike. It confirms the circumstances in which a poisonous work environment may be found, and the reasonable steps that an employer may take to internally resolve such issues.

As discussed above, proving a constructive dismissal due to a poisonous work environment requires an objective assessment of the surrounding circumstances and precipitating event(s). If these circumstances are misjudged, and the employee leaves the workplace prematurely, it may later be found that the individual simply resigned from his/her employment and consequently has no entitlement to severance. Accordingly, if you are an employee that is experiencing a negative work environment, it is necessary to obtain legal advice from an employment lawyer prior to any steps being taken.

Employers have an obligation to provide a respectful work environment. Accordingly, it is important to make clear to staff the expected standards at work, and to lead by example. If you become aware of behaviour in the workplace that may create a toxic work environment, it is necessary to take proactive measures to remedy this issue and protect your staff. An employer's obligations in the regard could include conducting an internal enquiry, providing reasonable accommodations and/or implementing discipline in the appropriate circumstances. In order to avoid potential liability, and to maintain staff morale, it is important to act promptly, respectfully and in good faith.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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