When 81% Is Considered a Failure

81%—Why Current Workplace Leadership Gets a Failing Grade

Usually a rating of over 80% is praised as a positive HR Key Performance Indicator (KPI); however, in this case, 81% is a failing grade.


According to a recent global report by the O.C. Tanner Institute, 81% of Canadian employees are experiencing some type of workplace burnout, which is 2% higher than the global average. The 2020 Global Culture Report of the workplace done by the O.C. Tanner Institute has provided some startling insights about current workplace cultures:

  • 59% of employees would leave their job for a comparable one
  • Only 42% of employees rated their employment experience as positive or extremely positive

These are very discouraging results revealing that many employees have negative workplace experiences, and some of these experiences can be related back to the dominant workplace culture, which is not supportive of employees.

Creating a supportive workplace is a function of organizational leadership and having a supportive workplace can reap very positive employee engagement benefits. In the very same survey, the O.C. Tanner Institute reported that organizations that have a positive workplace culture are:

  • 13 times more likely to have highly engaged employees
  • 3 times less likely to have layoffs
  • 2 times more likely to have increases in revenue
  • 7 times more likely to have employees innovating

The above list is not just great for the HR departments of these organizations, but are great business results overall. If one extrapolates their research though, this shows that only 19% of Canadian employers are reaping the benefits of positive employee engagement.

The O.C. Tanner Institute commented that current workplace leadership is dead. To counteract this, organizations have to fundamentally change their leadership style to one that promotes hope, employee engagement, and inspiration. No longer will mindful mediations, onsite yoga, and weak work–life balance policies work to reduce employee burnout. There needs to be a fundamental change in how leaders in organizations treat their employees.

Organizations must cultivate an environment that is one of mentoring and coaching rather than managing. Understanding current research, such as the O.C. Tanner Global Report, is a great starting point for organizational leadership to turn their dismal employee engagement numbers around.

Discussion Question:

Briefly review the O.C. Tanner Institute Global Report on Culture. Use this link to assist your research. Once done, prepare a 5-minute presentation outlining the highlights of the report that could be presented to a VP of HR.

Stress or Distress Which Is It?

When is stress good for your productivity?

Businessman stressed out at work in casual office

Stress, stressors, burnout, and conflict, these words are all too common in the workplace every day. There has been a lot of organizational research stating that stress in the workplace is killing us! But is it really? Maybe workplace stress is really not as bad as we believe it is.

Watch this video from Harvard Business Review, click here to open the link.

This video sums up a performance concept called the Yerkes Dodson Law, where an individual’s performance is based on a certain amount of stress.

The Yerkers Dodson Law states that stress is a variable and if there is not enough stress your performance may not reach a peak, if you have too much stress your performance will decrease. The amount of workplace stress an individual may feel is also dependent on the type of work being done. Some stress does help us focus and get things accomplished, especially if the work is not simulating. However, the reverse is true, if the work is complicated: too much stress will reduce your workplace performance.

The word stress does have a bad rap in the workplace, but perhaps we should chose more appropriate language to explain our feelings. At work we should use the word stress if it adds or sharpens our performance and use the word distress when the psychological pressure leads to poorer or impaired performance.

Like many things at work it will help if the HR department has a solid understanding of what can affect an individual or an organizations performance. We should not just use the word stress when we are feeling overwhelmed, but analyze all aspects before giving the emotional feeling a label.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Think about the last time you had a project at school or a task at work to complete and you felt stressed out? Was it stress or was it distress that you were feeling? Did the stress help you perform better or worst on the project or task?
  2. How would you present this concept of the Yerkers Dodson Law to a workplace that was saying it was stressed out?
  3. Research to see if there are any workplace stress tests that would be valuable for you to administer in the workplace as an HR practitioner