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Do you discriminate based upon silly grounds? Part 1

Posted by Joanne on July 28, 2011 Comments Off

If you do, it is certainly not good human resources practices. Let’s consider a few real life scenarios:

1.  A manager hiring for several different positions tells HR: “I only want to interview candidates who graduated from my alma mater – ABC University.” 

2.  A small business owner hires people with specific horoscope signs that are compatible to his, so he screens candidates by asking: “What horoscope sign are you?”

3.  The General Manager asks a candidate: “Where are you from with a last name like that?”

Are these statements discriminatory? Let’s look at some definitions and legislation.

Webster’s Dictionary

Discrimination is “a showing of partiality or prejudice in treatment; specific actions or policies directed against the welfare of minority groups.”

The Charter of Rights

Every individual is equal before the law and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.

But the Charter relates to laws and government actions and it generally does not apply to private business. If a private business is discriminating against you, provincial human rights laws will be more likely to apply than the Charter.

The Ontario Human Rights Code

The code states:  Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability.  (These are considered protected grounds).

Discrimination based upon protected grounds or silly grounds.

Scenario 1:   In the case of the university example, unless there is more to it, then education is not a protected ground. This would differ if, for example, the university the employer hires from is Catholic, or women only, or something similar.   As a colleague of mine once stated, “an employer is free to discriminate based upon “silly grounds” like shirt colour.”  Or in this case, hiring only from a specific university with no legitimate job related reasons.  

Scenario 2:  The small business owner is free to discriminate based upon “silly grounds” like horoscope signs, however, if the candidate reveals his birth year, he is opening himself up to complaints of discrimination under the protected grounds of “age.”

Scenario 3:  Finally, the statement about last name should never be asked because, whether intentional or not, it could be seen as seeking to discover country of origin or ethnicity, which could lead to charges of discrimination based upon the protected grounds of “ethnic origin.”

Stuart Rudner, an employment lawyer with Miller Thomson LLP states it best when he says that:

“People are often surprised that discriminating, per se, is not unlawful. It only becomes unlawful if it is based upon a protected ground, as set out in applicable human rights legislation. For example, it would clearly be a violation to post a job ad stating “no women or Jews.” However, in and of itself, deciding to dismiss anyone who wears a red tie would not be a violation of the legislation. Our courts have made it clear that not every distinction is an unlawful act of discrimination. Of course, it would hardly be a sound human resources practice. ”

So discrimination based upon “silly grounds” is not unlawful, but it is certainly not human resources best practice. Are there risks involved? Stay tuned for next week’s blog – Part 2 - to continue the discussion.

Best regards, Joanne Royce

Photo credit:  Svilen Milev via  SXC

Is Your Future Boss Great? A 10 Point Reference Check

Posted by Joanne on July 21, 2011 Comments Off

I’ve been reading  The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. He mentions that it takes about 3 positive interactions to overcome 1 negative interaction to help a corporate team become successful.  This 3 to 1 ratio (or 2.9013) is called The Losada Line and it is based on a decade of research by Marcial Losada on high and low performing teams. 

Typically we are bombarded with negative images and information, so a couple of weeks ago, I decided to do a little experiment.  I mindfully took note of anything that was framed positively or negatively. I noticed several comments, blogs, and contests about “horrible bosses.”   For example, “horrible bosses” was trending on Twitter, and Bob Sutton, posted a blog titled: “Is Your Future Boss Horrible? A 10 Point Reference Check.” All this because the film Horrible Bosses was due to be released on Friday, July 8th. Horrible bosses was trending on Twitter and I wanted to see “great bosses” trending. And in honour of trying to look for the positive I was delighted when Bob Sutton good naturedly gave me permission to reframe the checklist on his recent blog post: Is Your Future Boss Horrible? A 10 Point Reference Check .  So here it is …

 Is Your Future Boss GREAT? A 10 Point Reference Check

1. Kicks-up (gently) and kisses-down (vs Kisses-up and kicks-down): “How does the prospective boss respond to feedback from people lower in rank and higher in rank?” “Can you provide examples from experience?” You definitely don’t want a boss who “kisses-up and kicks-down.” One characteristic of certified greatness is that great bosses tend to encourage and build confident in those who are less powerful and support and talk positively about their staff with their superiors.

2. Can take it (vs Can’t take it): “Does the prospective boss accept constructive feedback and accept accountability for the team when the going gets tough?” Stay away from bosses who can dish it out but “can’t take it.” Jump at the chance to work for great bosses who can provide constructive feedback and are open to feedback themselves.  

3. Long fuse (vs Short fuse): “In what situations have you seen the prospective boss keep his cool?” Does your new boss breed a climate of calm and respect in the workplace or does he have a “short fuse?” Are co-workers comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas knowing they will receive encouragement and direct honest feedback from this person with his/her flying off the handle?  

4. Good credit (vs Bad credit): “Does the prospective boss assign credit where credit is due, and actively champion his/her staff?” You don’t want a boss who takes all the good credit and assigns you the “bad credit.” This question opens the door to discuss how the boss recognizes his or her team and promotes the team to others in the organization.  

5. Can soar (vs Canker sore): “What do past collaborators say about working with the prospective boss?” Great bosses usually have a history of spreading collaboration, respect, productivity, and achievement within teams. A great boss helps you soar! The world needs more talented bosses and so do you.

6. Harmonizer (vs Flamer): What kind of email sender is the prospective boss? You don’t want a boss who is a “flamer” who stokes the fire of conflict behind the scenes. Most great bosses contain themselves when it comes to email: they build harmony, and don’t tolerate blind carbon copying at all, and only carbon copy relevant recipients. Email etiquette is a window into one’s soul.  

7. Upper (vs Downer): “What types of people seem to work very well with the prospective boss?” Pay attention to responses that suggest being positive, encouraging, understanding, and a problem solver. You want a boss who is an upper not a “downer.” Positive and energized people tend to stay and work with great bosses who energize and build them up.  

8. Card dolphin (vs Card shark): “Does the prospective boss share information for everyone’s benefit?” A card-shark keeps information close to the chest and a card dolphin shares information. (Full disclosure – I made up the term ”card dolphin!”) A tendency to share information is a sign that this person treats co-workers and staff as a team that works together collaboratively to solve issues together. 

9. Army of many (vs Army of one): “Would people pick the prospective boss for their team?” There is upside to having a great boss on the team; others will want to work with that person. A boss is not an “army of one,” but an army of many. Who else is clamouring to work with greatness? 

10. Open architecture: “How would the prospective boss respond if a copy of “ Good Boss, Bad Boss” appeared on his/her desk along with a note saying, “The “good boss” in the book reminds me of you.” Chances are your great boss will take you out for one ducky of a lunch!

Those are your 10 questions. I would love to hear other tips about what has helped you accept a job with a great boss – or the signs that you noticed before going to work for such a great person.

Best regards, Joanne

P.S.  Bob notes that research conducted  “In the context of romantic relationships and marriages, for example, the truth is stark: unless positive interactions outnumber negative interactions by five to one, odds are that the relationship will fail.”   Do you have five positive interactions with your partner for every one negative interaction? Better get busy with your happy list and focus on that.   By the way, no interaction is like a negative interaction and a neutral interaction doesn’t count as a positive interaction!

Read Bob Sutton’s original blog post: Is Your Future Boss Horrible? A 10 Point Reference Check . Thank you Bob for giving me permission to reframe your original checklist! Bob is the author of “Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to be the best and learn from the worst,” “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t,” and more!

Photo credit: Gavin Spencer via SXC

How the Royal Tour gave us a little burst of happiness

Posted by Joanne on July 14, 2011 Comments Off

Did you notice something different about the news last week? Did you watch the coverage of the Royal Tour? Did you see the images of a smiling Will and Kate as they traveled our beautiful Canada and part of the USA? How did it make you feel when you saw their smiling faces? What was different about this kind of news coverage?

It was positive and it made us feel better.

That is what was different about the news last week. When we looked at the pictures and watched coverage of a smiling Will and Kate we couldn’t help but smile ourselves. And when we smiled we sent out endorphins and serotonin that made us feel good. It brought us a little burst of happiness.

Try this experiment.

Self-awareness increases our understanding of how information, thoughts, and interactions can impact us.  

  • Become self-aware of the positivity you experience throughout the day. How does it make you feel or think? When you see a funny video, or see a smiling face (or faces like Will and Kate), you can’t help but feel better, and more energized.
  • Next become self-aware of the negativity you experience. Perhaps it’s negative news, negatives thoughts or a negative exhange. You’ll be surprized at how much negativity is out there. Whenever you experience negativity, take note of how it makes you feel or think. Are you frowning? Does your heart race? Do you feel down or angry?
  • Next, actively try to change the negative to a positive. You might decide to look for positive news stories versus negative coverage, watch a funny YouTube video, or change negative thoughts to positive thoughts. For example, if you hear someone constantly complaining, “It’s way too hot out.” Say something like, “But it’s a great day for ….a walk in the park …being inside with air conditioning ….a BBQ tonight …a swim …being alive.”

If you’re feeling a little down, actively look for positive news or experiences, like the Royal Tour, to experience a little burst of happiness! Soon you’ll reap the benefits of positivity and happiness and the stats show that you will be more healthy and productive!

Positively yours, Joanne

P.S. And if anyone has a photo they personally took of a smiling Kate and Will on the Royal Tour that they would like to share, I’ll gladly post it here with a photo credit! Send it to me at!

Do something Mom! What would you do in a crisis situation?

Posted by Joanne on July 7, 2011 Comments Off

This week a disaster was averted, but it made me think more about health and safety and first aid training. Bad things can happen when you least expect them. What would you do in a crisis situation? Are you trained and confident about how you would react? Would you know what to do?

Accidents happen …

It was a lovely day in the neighbourhood. I work from home and I was getting ready to go out to a meeting. A neighbour was having two cars towed away. A driver came with a tow truck that could adjust to two levels to take away both cars. Suddenly, I heard screaming.  I was horrified to see the tow truck flatbed with one of the cars on it, tilted at a very strange angle, with what appeared to be the tow truck driver pinned underneath.

Both my daughter and I hurried to the front door. By this time, my neighbour was running to the side of the truck to try to stop the hydraulics. I can’t begin to tell you the helplessness my daughter and I felt, and then my daughter yelled:

“Do something Mom!”

What could I do? I couldn’t lift the car off the tow truck driver. I was panicked and shocked, but then I realized I could do something – I could call 911. I must apologize to the 911 dispatcher as I yelled into the phone several times – “Just send someone NOW. He’s getting crushed.” As they are trained to do, they got my address and dispatched help, but kept asking me questions. I answered the best I could since I was across the street and couldn’t see exactly what was happening. By this time the tow truck driver was trying to instruct my neighbour on how to reverse the hydraulics. After several attempts, and a very loud agonizing scream, the tow truck driver was free. We were astonished when he got up off the driveway, walked across the front lawn, and lay down in the shade. Then my neighbour went inside (to also call 911), so I sent my daughter over to see if the tow truck driver needed any help. I finally got off the phone with the assurances that the police, ambulance and a fire truck were on the way. By this time another neighbour arrived and was helping the driver who had a punctured and damaged arm.

I am not health and safety certified nor do I have first aid training but I learned a few things from the 911 dispatch operator:

  1. Don’t give water to the person, as it may interfere with recovery, especially if the person goes into shock.
  2. Keep talking to the person to keep them awake and alert as possible.
  3. Find out if the person is on any medication in case they pass out, so this can be relayed to the paramedics.
  4. When the dispatch operator gets the address, emergency responders are dispatched right away. The 911 operator keeps asking questions to ensure you know how to offer assistance. This is common sense, but at the time I couldn’t figure out was she was still asking me questions as I thought she hadn’t dispatched help!

I learned some other important things from this experience:

  • It made me think about my own reaction. I felt paralyzed and panicked but after the “Do something, Mom!” – I realized I wasn’t helpless. I called 911 and didn’t assume someone else was calling for help.
  • I learned something about providing first aid support. My other neighbour who came to help seemed like he had first aid training because he remained calm, asked the tow truck driver his name, and provided much needed support until the real help came. He knew when to apply pressure on the wound. Later my husband, who has first aid training, told me you only apply pressure on the wound if there is blood flow and there was no blood flow at the start because the arm had been pinned. 
  • Time goes by very slowly when you are waiting for the ambulance, fire truck, and police to come. When they arrived, the tow truck driver said “That was quick.” Meanwhile, my daughter, neighbours, and I looked at each other thinking they had been a long time coming.
  • We have very fast emergency responders in our community.
  • The Ministry of Labour inspector was on the scene immediately taking pictures and investigating. They have an important job to do to keep workplaces safe. And yes, in this case, the workplace was a driveway!
  • No matter how long you’ve been working on the job, bad things can still happen. The tow truck driver told my neighbour that he had been doing this job since the 1980s.
  • I live in a wonderful neighbourhood with helpful and caring neighbours.
  • If a health and safety accident happens at work, in addition to the victim, don’t forget the people who witnessed the situation. It can be very upsetting. My daughter, my neighbours and I certainly didn’t sleep very well. I actually woke up saying out loud – “That’s awlful.” and “That’s terrible.” It will take a bit of time before my daughter and I can look at our neighbour’s driveway without remembering this accident.

Health and safety training and first aid training are needed for a real and important reason. The more training you have and the more practice, the better you will be at responding calmly with confidence when a crisis situation happens.

Luckily, the tow truck driver didn’t have any critical injuries. His arm looked damaged, but there were only fractures and a puncture wound and no broken bones! Thank goodness my neighbour was there to provide help quickly. Because of his assistance the tow truck driver didn’t lose his arm or life. Another day to count our blessings indeed.

Keep safe, be alert, and be prepared, Joanne

P.S. Is your organization health and safety compliant?  If you aren’t you might want to ensure someone is Health & Safety certified through our affiliate partners. Give us a call and we’ll provide you with more details.

Pic by Sxc user Hisks

 Joanne Royce

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Use our insider tips on human resources, training, and interpersonal relationships to create your own happy, healthy, and productive workplace. We'll also comment on life in general and share info and highlights from books.

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