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.


Good news. Good choices.

People in a Meeting and Single Word Rewards

For many students, the study of compensation planning takes place mainly within a theoretical framework. There are limited opportunities to explore real consequences of designing and deploying pay systems.

How do performance pay choices work in ‘real-life’ situations? Fortunately, the team of employees led by the owner of Homestead Organics is able to provide us with a step-by-step example of the application of theory to reality.

Homestead Organics, located in eastern Ontario, started as a family based business dedicated to growing and developing sustainable agricultural products.

Click here to access Homestead Organics website.

As this particular company developed and expanded in size, so too did its profitability. Homestead Organics decided recently to share its good fortune with its employees by introducing an Employee Share Ownership Program (ESOP).

Click here to read the article on Homestead Organics’ ESOP implementation.

Both the article and the information from the website reinforce the importance of a high-involvement managerial strategy in the application of successful pay for performance systems. Further, the article provides us with an overview of the key elements that need to be in place from the beginning of the design process through to the delivery of returns to employees who have chosen to participate in this plan.

From theory to reality, this is indeed a good news story worth ‘sharing’!

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the positive effects for employees as share-owners of Homestead Organics?
  2. How does the concept of share-owner differ from stock-holder in this case?
  3. What types of employee behaviours will this share-owner agreement reinforce in order to ensure continued success?
  4. How do you think the values of Homestead Organics influenced the decision to provide a share-ownership program for its employees?