Strategic Bullying

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The changes to the minimum wage rate in Ontario are not just about compensation increases.

In January of this year (2018), legislation came into effect that amended numerous working conditions for employees in Ontario, including a stepped increase to the minimum wage for workers. Prior to the implementation of this particular piece of legislation, there were numerous headlines outlining the potential benefits and negative consequences impacting every employer in Ontario.

It should be no surprise, then, to read and hear about controversial employment practices as a result of these changes. Leading the negative storyline were the corporate heirs and franchise owners of the Tim Horton’s restaurant chain. The owners not only removed existing paid breaks and other paid benefits from employees, they also required existing employees to sign a document acknowledging (and accepting) these losses.

Click here to read the CBC report on this issue.

The premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, has called out the actions of the owners as ‘bullying’.

In her statements, the premier accuses the owners of taking out their frustrations with the legislative requirements on their employees and identifies this a bullying behaviour. This is an example of employer conduct, which identifies the actions and behaviours of the employer as setting the tone for the entire organization. If the employer acts in a way that is disrespectful of the law by de-valuing and de-grading their employees, what types of strategic messages or corporate values does this particular employer promote?

If the strategic, corporate objective is to earn profits, then the employer should be clear and direct that this is the first priority. However, when the employer promotes Canadian, family-based, feel-good values as part of its marketing campaigns, the implementation of bullying practices in order to achieve the strategic objective of profits at all costs, leaves a very bitter taste.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What types of values does the Tim Horton’s brand promote in its media campaigns?
  2. From an HR perspective, how should these values present themselves within a Tim Horton’s franchise?
  3. How does bullying ‘from the top’ influence organizational behaviour?
  4. From a values perspective, identify specific changes you would make, as an owner of a Tim Horton’s franchise, in order to
    1. comply with the new legislation.
    2. benefit both the employees and the organization.


Human Resources Strategy First

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Sometimes, when companies are in turmoil, they seem to miss the most obvious elements that would provide strategic solutions to calm turbulent corporate waters.

Uber Technologies Inc. (Uber) is a prime example of an organization facing critical leadership gaps resulting in a lack of an overall strategic vision. Uber, the ride-hailing company, has been in the news recently due to the high profile ‘resignation’ of its co-founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick. Mr. Kalanick’s resignation came as a result of serious business errors and leadership mis-steps leaving the organization to face numerous crises and on-going internal chaos. A new CEO (Dara Khosrowshahi) has been appointed, who faces multiple challenges to get the organization on to a cohesive and clear strategic path.

An analysis of the key issues that must be addressed has been highlighted in a recent article through HRD Canada.

Click here to read the article.

Of the items that must be addressed by Uber’s new CEO, establishing a new executive team with experienced leaders is the number one suggestion.  However, of the executive positions to be filled, there is no mention of a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). Of the seven immediate crises facing the organization, on the face of it, five of them are clearly human resources issues. Each requires an integrated, comprehensive and strategic human resources management approach that should be enveloped within the overall organizational strategy.

Without the key strategic pillar of human resources strategy in place, it is difficult to see how the organization will be able to move forward successfully. Perhaps the plan is to have the CEO fully responsible for human resources strategies and decisions. That plan was, apparently, already in place under the former CEO, providing us with evidence of the negative consequences and unfortunate results.

In order for organizations to change, they must try something different and new. Perhaps it is time to create a seat for Human Resources at this particular corporate table.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Of the list of issues outlined in the article, which one do you think is the most important to implement from a Human Resources perspective? Explain your rationale.
  2. What types of Human Resources strategies need to be in place in order to have successful implementation for each of the items listed in the article?
  3. As a consumer, does the current state of crisis at Uber impact your purchasing (use of Uber) decisions? Explain your rationale.

Perfection Can Wait

A red button with the word Action on it, representing the need to act to affect change, achieve a goal or take a stand for what you believe in

“Nothing kills progress like brilliant strategy.”

This quote is from the book, Bet on Me, by Canadian business leader Annette Verschure, which explores the effective implementation of leadership strategies.

Canadian Business recently published an excerpt which provides an interesting insight into the link between the need for a plan and the need for action. Verschure argues that the effective organizational leader must commit to action instead of waiting around for the perfection of a fully realized strategic plan.

Click here to read the excerpt.

While Vershcure focuses on the need for decisive action, this does not mean that there is no need for a big picture vision. In fact, it is precisely the big goal, the big idea, which provides the target for setting the leadership and organizational sights for the future. According to Verschure, the risk of waiting for the absolute perfection of every detail of a strategic plan to be in place before taking action can stop the process from launching in the first place.

How many of us get stuck by the need for perfection before we decide to move forward? It is easy to get caught in a cycle of paralysis because the fear of moving forward is greater than the risk of standing still. We need a big push to stop that cycle and just get started.

For organizations, the same principle applies. At some point, the leader must determine that waiting for the perfect plan will stifle the benefits of moving forward. With the big-picture goal in sight, the action plan can start the organization moving in the right direction and prepare for adjustments along the way.

Perfection is not necessary. Good enough should suffice.

If it is good enough, it means that it is time to go.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does having a plan force you to act, or prevent you from acting?
  2. What steps are necessary to ensure that the organization is not stuck in constant planning?
  3. What role does timing play for effective implementation of an action plan?
  4. From your reading of the excerpt, why is the development of effective relationships so critical in ensuring effective implementation of an action plan?

Should Managers Become Extinct?

Snake curled in infinity ring. Ouroboros devouring its own tail. Serpent tattoo design, witchcraft masonic, vector illustration

What does HR do in a world without managers?

Morningstar Farms, Sun Hydraulics, Valve, Medium, W.L. Gore, Zappos, Treehouse, Crisp: what do all these companies have in common? It is hard to guess, but all the above organizations have done away with traditional management. Crisp, a Swedish company, even axed its CEO.

Click here to watch a BBC video clip on the CEO-less company.

In 2011, Gary Hamel wrote an article called, “First lets’ fire all the Managers.” This was published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Click here to read the article.

Now, in his new book (2016) Under New Management, David Burkus is saying“fire all managers.”

Is this a real trend or a fleeting notion? Organizations have been downsizing and flattening hierarchies for decades. Has the time come to really eliminate managers? If managers are gone what is the role of an HR department? Traditional HR spends a lot if its time on supporting managers. If managers are gone is HR next, or does the opposite happen and more HR resources are required to support employees?

Is it an interesting thought? Is getting rid of managers the Ouroboros of HR (the Greek mythological symbol of the snake devouring itself)?

This will be an interesting HR trend to watch; will manager-less companies become the norm or not?

Discussion Questions

  1. Your CEO has asked you to prepare a business case outlining the benefits of eliminating managers in your organizations. Develop a 10-minute presentation.
  2. Your VP of HR has asked to develop a list of recommendation on what would the role of HR be in an organization with no managers.

Planning for Excellence

Sketch of cat in treet
Source: Morphart Creation/Shutterstock

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

– Lewis Carroll

One of the many fun things that comes from working in Human Resources is trying to pull together the pieces of an organizational puzzle.  It helps tremendously when we can find patterns in the form of ideas or concepts that are applicable and transferable from one area of the Human Resources function to another.

For example, in the video clip below, “Culture Shock with Shawn Galloway”, Mr. Galloway introduces the concept of strategic planning, specifically, in relation to Health and Safety assessments.

Click Here to View the Clip.

While the focus of this clip is on Health and Safety, Mr. Galloway’s comments regarding the concept of excellence as the big-picture goal relate directly to the strategic human resources planning concept of setting an ideal vision for organizational success.

No matter how big or small an organization may be, if there is an over-riding and established standard of excellence, everything that the organization does must be measured and evaluated against that standard.

What excellence in action looks like, and how it is achieved, may vary between departments or organizational business lines, but it should in each case be defined clearly.  When a department or business line starts to waver or lose effectiveness in its activities, the question can be asked, ‘how does this action tie into the strategic standard of excellence?’.  If the answer is that it does not, or that there is no available evidence of activities that support the standard, then it is time to get those actions back on the path of achieving excellence. If the standard does not require adjustments, then the actions needed to achieve that standard, must be changed accordingly.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does excellence look like for you in your current actions as a student?
  2. What does excellence mean for you, as you think about yourself in the role of Human Resources Professional?
  3. What motivates you to achieve a standard of excellence and how do you know once you have achieved that standard?  What types of evidence or indicators do you look for?