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The Year of the Snake is upon us! The Mayan prediction of the end of days did not occur, the NHL labour dispute continues (at least it was ongoing at the time I wrote this article) and the North American economy did not veer off the fiscal cliff.

All of this leads us to ponder the risky art of making predictions in any area of human endeavour! Notwithstanding the risks and uncertainties that face us, Cuma's Corner boldly offers some predictions for "The HR Year of 2013."

The festive season has arrived! Many benevolent employers carry on a pleasant tradition of giving employees holiday gifts. Employers often scratch their heads trying to determine the ideal gifts for their employees. We have the solution!

The City of Winnipeg recently implemented a policy requiring paramedics and firefighters to put away their personal cell phones while on the job. The policy was put in place to ensure that important legislation including the Highway Traffic Act and the Personal Health Information Act are adhered to by employees of the Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service.

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret,” said author Ambrose Bierce. This quote is as relevant in the workplace today as it was in the early 1900s when he wrote it. Workplace behaviours like “blowing off steam”, “snapping”, throwing objects, slamming doors or similar acts are no longer acceptable ways of expressing anger or disagreement in the workplace. Judging by Bierce’s quote from the 1900s, we can safely say they never were. We all get angry and upset in the workplace, sometimes for good reason, but acting out in anger is not acceptable behaviour for any party. This includes supervisors, employees and their elected or appointed representatives.

Statistics Canada reports that almost 3.7 million working adults typically go through their workday feeling a high level of stress! These high levels of workplace stress present a serious challenge to both employers and the healthcare system. In fact, the cost of workplace stress adds up to over $20 billion annually. Stress leave is fast becoming a leading cause of absenteeism in workplaces today. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise as anyone who has been employed can probably think of at least one person who has been absent from their workplace on stress leave.

In the war for talent, most employers appreciate the importance of carefully recruiting, assessing and selecting ideal candidates for employment in their organizations. Leading organizations know that successful recruitment is only the first step. Once a new employee is hired, the equally important job of orienting the new employee to the workplace begins!

A lot has been written about bullying and harassment in the workplace. It is hard to overstate the devastating impact such negative behaviour has on bullied or harassed employees. Understandably, much of what has been written tends to focus upon the effects of such inappropriate behaviour on the targeted employee.

The news media frequently offers us fascinating real-life workplace case studies. They offer an endless source of information about how to do things the right way in the workplace and, unfortunately, how not to do things in the workplace.

A recent case in point occurred earlier this month when the National Research Council (NRC) announced and implemented significant workforce terminations. The terminations were part of an important overall organizational shift as NRC increases the focus of their efforts on commercially viable research activities. The shift was part of a year-long transition and the unfortunate impact of this shift was the termination of 65 NRC employees, approximately 47 of whom worked in Winnipeg.

Every once in a while a news story comes along that makes you ask, “What were they thinking?” In the news story that follows, one might even ask, “Were they thinking at all?”

North American newspapers and television news programs recently carried a story about a 21-year-old lifeguard in Miami who was fired for leaving his post to rescue a person in distress. The lifeguard responded to the call for help, as lifeguards are trained to do, and saved a life. This should have been a “hero saves the day” story but, instead, the lifeguard saw his employment terminated for leaving his workstation in violation of company rules!

Manitoba employees look forward to summer vacation with great anticipation! Our terrific summer offers an endless supply of exciting things to do and places to go. Employees usually plan for travel, family activities or other important events during their brief summer vacations.

Here in the geographic centre of North America, our short summers can get pretty hot and humid. Plus, here on the prairies, our long hot summer days tend to cool only slightly in the evenings. These long hot and humid days can create some very uncomfortable workplaces for many Manitobans. Beyond being simply uncomfortable, heat and humidity in the workplace can cause heat stress. This can be quite serious and, in extreme cases, a deadly problem.

It has been said that the only constant in our world is “change”. In the workplace there is at least one other constant: performance problems. What separates the best employers from others is how they diagnose and solve performance issues.

Frontline supervisors face many challenges and difficulties everyday in the workplace. Supervisors must routinely assign work and direct the activities of the workforce. One of the more problematic issues a supervisor may encounter in these activities is the difficult issue of insubordination.

I have been fortunate to work with some very gifted and highly effective leaders and it’s been an exceptional learning experience. Here are nine common traits I have observed while working with these great influences:

Supervising people is one of the toughest jobs in organizations today. The role is often a thankless one, requiring incredible communication, problem solving and interpersonal skills. Today’s supervisor balances the personal needs of a diverse group of employees while meeting the operational requirements of the organization. The supervisor must ensure the safety of all employees while continuously improving overall performance, maintaining effective communication and ensuring compliance with a myriad of company policies and regulatory requirements.

An interesting item recently appeared in the news involving a Grade 5 Altona classroom. A teacher posted a particular plaque in the classroom that a number of parents found offensive. Complaints, conflict and hard feelings predictably followed. Regardless of where one stands on the subject matter of the particular posting, the story raises some very interesting issues about what an employee can and cannot post or display in the workplace.

While many individuals struggle to maintain their 2012 New Year’s resolutions, companies and their employees enter the Year of the Dragon with newly granted flexibility. As of January 2012, Manitoba employees can request that employers consider and implement individual “flex time” work schedules.

It seems that every week there is a story in the media about an employee, or even a politician, who sent a highly inappropriate message using their employer's information system. It's almost as if these individuals were unaware of even the most basic realities of the workplace or devoid of any understanding regarding the proper usage of their employer's information systems.

Festive work parties should be fun events! They should be joyous get-togethers where everyone can put aside day-to-day workplace challenges to socialize with their coworkers. Work parties should be friendly and relaxed.

I once spoke with a busy and beleaguered Chief Executive Officer and asked her to outline the two greatest challenges that her business faces on an ongoing basis. After a few seconds of contemplation, she sighed deeply and said, “If it wasn’t for those demanding customers and those hard to manage employees, things would be pretty good around here!” The scary part of our conversation is that she was serious!

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Adapt, Communicate & Walk the Talk

It has been nine months since Manitoba’s workplace safety and health regulations were changed to include requirements to prevent psychological harassment or bullying. While many Manitoba employers have responsibly developed and implemented new or amended policies, a large number have yet to comply with requirements. This puts both the employer and employees in the workplace at risk.

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Manitoba recently updated workplace safety and health regulations to address psychological harassment such as intimidation, bullying and humiliation that often occur in the workplace. It has been noted that approximately 40% of workers reported that they have been subject to harassment or bullying. Since the new regulations came into effect many employers have diligently prepared new policies or amended their old ones to include the prevention of psychological harassment or bullying.

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If you feel like you need to take some time off to recover from your vacation… cheer up! You are not alone, nor are you simply imagining these feelings. You may be suffering from a phenomenon known as Post Vacation Syndrome (PVS) or Post Vacation Blues (PVB).

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The role of managers and supervisors in today’s fast-paced and complex workplaces is a very difficult one. Leaders face the need to drive their team to achieve results while complying with a myriad of regulatory and other internal and external governance requirements. At the same time, leaders need to be respectful of the individuals they work with; this can be a difficult balancing act. The old-style leadership approach of giving orders and expecting employees to promptly follow them without question is no longer effective. It probably never was!

In today’s workplaces, change is the norm. The need for employers and employees to be flexible and open to change is absolutely essential for success. Manitoba’s employers and their non-unionized workforces are certain to embrace the upcoming amendments to employment standards that will permit the introduction of flexible hours.

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Ensuring that pay policies and practices remain current and competitive is critical to retaining and attracting an engaged and capable workforce.

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Workplace violence is a serious matter. It is generally held that physically or verbally abusing others, or acting aggressively towards others, is as unacceptable in the workplace as it is in the community at large.  One can easily understand how such behaviour undermines the very fabric of a workplace; assaults, harassment and threats of violence are directly at odds with an employer’s interest and requirement to create a safe and positive workplace.

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A recent case of wrongful dismissal cost an Ontario company a great deal of money and perhaps more in terms of damage to its image and reputation. After Canac Kitchens in Ontario fired long-time employee, Olguin, he challenged the actions of the company in court and was awarded $235,000.

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Leading organizations typically have comprehensive policy manuals to guide the operations of their day-to-day workplace. Yet, employees in leading organizations frequently complain that policies and procedures are not consistently applied or followed in their workplace, which often leads to serious problems. Why does this occur?

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For many Manitobans, May long weekend usually signals the start of summer. Winnipeggers know that our reward for enduring the pleasures of winter is the fact that summer is a great time for beaches, cottages, golfing, biking, baseball and patio. Our hot sunny days seem to go on forever!

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Business leaders, employees and unions often talk about morale in the workplace. Unfortunately, this subject usually becomes a hot topic when someone thinks it has deteriorated or it’s not up to par. Have you noticed that you seldom hear about workplace morale when it’s considered to be good?
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Every workplace is unique and complex. With all sorts of people in all sorts of roles, even in the best of times things may not run smoothly. Occasionally employees do not follow policies or other requirements and groups of coworkers may not get along. When this happens, employers are often called upon to investigate allegations of improper conduct or behaviour. In other cases, where there is an allegation that some form of policy violation has occurred, employers will also be called upon to conduct an investigation.
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An increasing number of employers are creating and implementing employee relations or human resources policy manuals in their workplaces.
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A common concern employees identify in workplace satisfaction surveys is favouritism. The stress this can cause will often affect work quality, safety, overall productivity and can also impact overall employee engagement.
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Many readers have heard of the “Best Employers” in Canada studies and awards. Organizations work very hard to make it onto the prestigious list of the “Best Small and Medium Employers” in Canada, an award for businesses with 50 to 399 permanent employees. Larger employers strive to achieve recognition on the “Best Employers” in Canada list for organizations with over 399 permanent employees.
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“Legislation, regulations, policies, procedures, committees, managers, supervisors, human resource specialists, unions and government agencies don’t manage workplaces. People do”. This is a lesson a leading Manitoba organization and the union representing the workforce recently learned the hard way.


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Recently, the United Bank of Switzerland (UBS) recanted its very old and very outdated dress code. Many have described the 43 page code as the mother of all dress codes.
Effective February 1, 2011 Manitoba joined provinces such as Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan by implementing regulations to address the issue of psychological harassment, or bullying as it is more commonly known.

Many organizations provide their employees with varying levels of health, medical and retirement benefits. Typically these include benefits such as: life, accidental death, prescription drug, dental, physiotherapy, chiropractic, basic health care, short term and long term disability and retirement benefits. Some also include employee assistance programs (EAP).

Happy New Year!




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If I asked you to describe the changes in today’s business world, most would quickly point out that it is much more global than it has ever been.

‘Tis the Season. 
Once Upon a Time…
There was a time when many organizations and managers believed that if an employee was not 100% healthy and fit, they should not be in the workplace.
As published in the Winnipeg Sun.
Social networking - how it impacts you in and out of the workplace.
This is a story about the totally fictitious ABC Company and its employees.
As published in the Winnipeg Sun.
There are two words that often cause fear, anxiety and even invoke sleepless nights for managers and employees alike.
When we report for work we seldom think about the dark side of harassment or violence in our workplace.
As published in the Winnipeg Sun.
As published in the Winnipeg Sun.
Many employers conduct surveys of their workforce to help identify issues or concerns and opportunities for improvement.
As published in the Winnipeg Sun.
As published in the Winnipeg Sun.
As published in the Winnipeg Sun.


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