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Workforce Management in Times of Transition

Most of us have lived through major organizational transitions such as mergers, acquisitions and corporate restructuring. According to a recent poll from the Turnaround Management Association, the top four industry sectors predicted to encounter the greatest financial and/or operational difficulties in 2007 include automotive, home builders, construction/contractors and manufacturing. This could have some bearing on all of us, whether we work in those sectors, related industries or as consumers.

Philip H. Gennis,
Vice President,
Recovery &
Grant Thornton
If you were asked to downsize a department tomorrow, what factors need to be taken into account to avoid chaos and mass exodus? As senior managers, do you have a proper communication plan in place? What resources are available when developing your plan?

Talent retention: In cases involving mergers, acquisitions and restructuring, you have two audiences, those staying and those leaving. Outplacement consultants suggest involving key employees in the crucial processes and in issues of vision. By the time you are alerted of necessary changes, financial experts have met with the organization’s directors and have identified areas that need to be trimmed. Financial experts and management consultants can assist you in keeping the destabilization period as short as possible, a prime objective in successfully managing the transition. Invest in coaching and support to develop employees critical to the new organization. Recognize contributions and promote a work environment based on mutual trust and teamwork.

Monika Morrow,
Right Management
Productivity: The new organization has a strategy. Get all employees on board with the new strategy and establish clear goals and targets. Our experts recommend implementing workflow and procedure changes before the actual changes take place. Develop and implement a proper communication plan.

Selection and Placement: Define positions and competencies clearly within the new structure. Support redeployed employees with career coaching. Invest in the retraining of proven contributors. Take the time to review and amend all job descriptions and objectives to make sure they are in line with the new strategy. It may help to update your organizational chart so your top performers can see their roles and reporting structure with the new framework.

Richard Nixon,
LL. B.,
McCarthy Tetrault
Morale: Reduce erosion of morale with by getting employees involved. One mass communiqué or general staff meeting is not usually sufficient to meet both the employees’ and employer’s needs. Set up internal transition teams, focus groups and task forces. Help all employees deal with the emotional phases of change. Expect people to adapt to change as individuals and make the proper case for change. Make sure that everyone is looked after. Ensure you message is being transmitted to all employees, full time or part time, on all work shifts.

What happens when planning and communication have not been properly executed? Beyond the speculation, lost productivity and related problems, your leaders and managers may not be trained in the delivery of key messages. The inability to deliver difficult messages has led some people to believe they were being promoted not terminated returning to work the next day. Top performers who stood to be promoted within the new organization resigned immediately after hearing the first rumour of impending change for fear of losing their jobs. Staff members have thrown themselves in front of buses not knowing what if any role they had in the restructuring unable to cope with the uncertainty of their future.

As senior human resource and management professionals, we need not feel isolated in handling these daunting tasks. It’s not the best part of our job, but it is something we should know about whether faced with trimming one position or downsizing an entire branch. Consult with financial experts- they do more than crunch numbers. They can work with you to determine which positions and departments need adjustment to ensure that the new organization is not “top heavy”. Management consultants can assist with communications, outplacement, assessment and retraining. Employment and labour law specialists help you avoid needless litigation. This does not solely involve basic knowledge of the minimum employment standards in your region. Legal experts will assist you in developing the correct message, in handling letters of termination as well as new employment contracts.

Bottom line: No two cases are alike. Miscommunication and other errors can produce devastating results. Make good use of the resources and experts available and be sure to follow up to ensure that the process is done right from beginning to end. It is both in the employers’ and employees’ best interests to manage the transition effectively.

The above information has been provided by Monika Morrow, Vice President and National Practice Leader, Right Management Inc., Toronto, Philip Gennis, LL. B., CIRP, Vice President, Financial Advisory Services, Grant Thornton Limited and Richard Nixon, LL. B., Partner, McCarthy Tetrault LLP, Toronto.

Codependency in the Workplace

What is codependency, what does it mean and how does this apply to the workplace?

Rhona Charney,
Bellwood Health
The term codependency was originally developed in the addictions field in reference to familial reaction to an alcoholic (later expanded to any addict) in ones midst. A common definition encompasses the idea that one is codependent if one’s sense of well-being has to be fulfilled mainly through relationships with others because of a paucity of one’s own inner resources.

According to Hendricks and Hendricks (Conscious Loving: The Journey To Co-commitment) codependency is “An unconscious agreement that results in an entanglement with another person rather than a relationship where both parties are equal” and “it occurs when your behaviour is determined by someone else’s and you become subordinate to others and thereby not true to your own feelings.”

How is a codependent created, and does how you behave at home and in the world outside reflect on how you behave at work?

One theory suggests that we play specific roles according to our birth order. The more dysfunctional our family of origin, the more rigid, habitual, extreme and prescribed are the roles that we are groomed to perform in order to ensure homeostasis in a chaotic family system. An alcoholic/drug addicted system must, by its very nature, be dysfunctional. Everyone must pitch in to save the family from break-up. Each member develops behaviours, therefore, that are ‘other’ oriented and are geared to rescue, mediate, ignore self and work as a cover up for another person’s shortcomings. Each person is reacting to the alcoholic with little consideration for their own needs.

What are some of the characteristics you should look out for in yourself and how to recognize if you are a codependent at work?

Some of the characteristics and signs to watch for include:

  • If a relationship with a peer, subordinate or a boss is consistently unfulfilling and you do nothing about it.

  • If you allow the behaviour to continue unabated and don’t assert yourself.

  • If you tend to be indirect and unable to express your feelings particularly in the face of conflict.

  • If you don’t recognize your boundaries and allow others to overstep them.

  • If you give away too much of yourself by not being able to say no, or do for others when you’d rather not, or do things only to please others without considering yourself.

  • If you take responsibility for the actions of others and make excuses for their behaviour to cover up.

    Codependents have good intentions. They are trying to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty but find that after an initial sense of reward the behaviour takes on a life of its own and begins to feel compulsive, choiceless, helpless and self-defeating. They become martyrs and benefactors to an individual in need. Their repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and become even more dependent on the unhealthy care taking. This exacts a huge toll on the giver with painful and confusing repercussions.

    The price one pays for codependent behaviour includes:

  • Work overload
  • Resentment
  • Anger
  • Second guessing oneself – not sure what is right or what to do
  • Staff splitting – gangs for and against
  • Bullying those who are “hard hearted” and are taking a stand against the offender
  • Preoccupation with the situations, not being able to work/function properly
  • Feeling like a “rat” for reacting, feeling immobilized, helpless and stupid
  • Creating and living in a bad atmosphere
  • Feeling a loss of control

    A Typical Scenario

    There is a person at work who is driving you crazy. He is unreliable and you don’t know what to expect from him. Half the time he is productive and the other half he lets you down. You know something is wrong and suspect drugs or alcohol (late lunches, slurred speech, alcohol on breath, missing Mondays, aggressiveness and defensiveness etc) but don’t necessarily know what it is. You and others are constantly putting out fires and covering up for this person’s behaviour. You are getting fed up, feeling guilty, getting moody and bad tempered at work and taking it home with you. Your own feelings are getting tangled up with the other persons. When, or if, you confront the person, things get better for a while and then - boom - it’s back to the same thing again.

    What can you do about this situation?

    If this is a colleague:

    1.Stick to work issues and job performance, don’t try to diagnose or solve the problem
    2.Be assertive
    3.Look at patterns of behaviour, e.g. lateness.
    4.Document everything
    5.Use consequences, e.g. “do something about this problem or I will report your behaviour”, and mean it
    6.Stop enabling the person to get away with poor job performance and get into deeper trouble

    Enabling is good intentions with bad results. Drugs victimize everyone including the people who care, so in a nutshell, you need to STOP:

    1.Covering up
    2.Accepting excuses
    3.Feeling guilty
    4.Accepting unacceptable behaviour
    5.Taking on the other persons responsibilities
    6.Trying to solve problems you are unqualified to solve

    If you are the employer/manager:

  • Stop enabling
  • Examine job performance and patterns
  • Avoid personal problems
  • Avoid blaming or using guilt tactics
  • Refer them to a professional to deal with their personal issues
  • Let them know the consequences of poor performance
  • Set job performance goals that must be attained
  • Present the bottom line
  • If performance does not improve, follow disciplinary steps according to company policy
  • If unionized, enlist your union representative’s support

    No one wants to be a snitch, but it’s to everyone’s advantage and cost effective to get a person the help or treatment that they need. Employers need to be educated regarding how to respond and what to do. Employees need to be assured that they won’t lose their job if they get help.

    A personal note

    Codependency is serious and can threaten your mental well-being and job stability. Though it is incumbent upon you to get the addict help, it is equally important for you to take care of yourself. If you relate to the above you need help. Make sure you get it.

    Rhona Charney, MSW, RSW has worked in the field of addiction treatment since 1988, with a focus on group work and individual therapy. She has been on staff at Bellwood Health Services as a therapist since 1992. For further information, visit www.bellwood.ca, or call 1-800-387-6198.

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