Importance of A Healthy Workplace

Reflections on Workplace Perspective…..

April 6, 2009 was the tenth anniversary of the OC Transpo  massacre; on that date, at the headquarters of Ottawa’s bus service, Pierre Lebrun took the lives of 4 colleagues and injured a fifth before finally taking his own life.

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As with many mass killings, the initial observable act was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the suffering that would befall friends and associates of the primary victims, such as a fellow worker who had prior knowledge of the killer’s plans; overwhelmed with grief and guilt, he took his own life two months later.

The inquest that followed unearthed a travesty of  management sins and exposed the toxic nature of the working environment.  In addition to proposing extensive work surrounding a violence and harassment policy, the inquest jury’s report was exhaustive.  Several of the key recommendations follow:

  • ongoing training for staff to affect a “positive cultural change” in the workplace
  • improved communication within and between all levels of staff
  • access to an independent ombudsman to avoid reprisals
  • periodic review and audit of violence and harassment policies
  • a code of conduct to ensure all employees are treated with respect and dignity
  • sensitivity training for all managers
  • sufficient skills training to ensure employees can effectively perform their duties
  • promotion based upon aptitude and qualifications

Altogether, the jury offered77 recommendations; in essence, a complete condemnation of workplace practices at that time.

Ten years later, and following a very disruptive city wide strike, workers are once again questioning the quality of their work environment.  Although it would be expected that manager-employee relations would deteriorate during a turbulent and hostile strike,  one worker quoted on CBC radio’s morning show (April 6,2009)  questioned whether the lessons learned ten years ago had been forgotten.

Although in recent weeks we have seen a flurry of massacres committed by marginalized and isolated employees and citizens, they tend to be an extreme and unusual response.   Sadly, most people will quietly and anonymously show up for work and suffer through poor working conditions and relations.

Why is this a compelling story?  It is a reminder that building the ideal working environment takes effort and a commitment from all employees; further, it is not a one time exercise done to impress or to address an outside requirement.  Finally, it is in the best interests of both employees and managers to design and develop an optimal workplace where everyone thrives.   With the workplace management tools at our disposal today,  mere survival is an embarrassing standard.

How are things at your workplace?  Do your practices continue to improve or do you find that things regress from time to time?  What would you recommend for your workplace?  Leave a comment and I will respond.

A new perspective posted next Monday:  Villians and Heroes

Craig’s Top Five List posted this Friday5 Things to Consider When Building a Powerful Management Environment

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