A Money Coach in Canada

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Buillies aren’t just found on school grounds. There is growing recognition that they exist on the workplace, and they can make life hell for their targets as well as undermine their company’s business objectives by diminishing their targets – and usually their team’s – ability to function effectively.

Why any business puts up with it beats me. At best, it’s wasteful nonsense; at worst it is deeply destructive and sabotages the organization. In my small-business work experience, it would not be tolerated: it’s too easily apparent that tolerating bullying behaviour is a net drain on the business even if it’s by a high-performer.

The following piece is the personal experience of someone I know well. She prefers to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. The experience below occurred in a large hotel chain headquartered in Europe, with over 145,000 employees.

Readers, if you relate to her experience, I’d so appreciate if you leave a comment. I’d like to know how much it cost you personally, because there’s always a dollar value attached, and what you’d estimate its cost was (dollar value) to the company where you experienced it. You can leave your comment anonymously – just fill in fake e-mail and name. I’ll never know the difference.


Serial workplace bullying is only one of the recognized workplace bullying behaviours seen in today’s business world, and it doesn’t seem to matter which industry or country you are in. Despite legislation or corporate policies, many companies still have ongoing issues of this unsocial behaviour. How do I know? I have been targeted by serial workplace bullies in two countries. I don’t have scientific research to back up my thoughts — I have personal experience and desktop research. This is what I know.

Bullies will continue to be part of the workplace as long as people don’t talk about it. I think it is time to keep the conversation going. And to have a conversation, it is helpful to have the facts.

Bullies don’t target the stereotype of weak incapable staff — they target people who are ethical, just, fair, well-liked, highly personable, strong, independent, intelligent and self-assured.

Bullies are driven by feelings of inadequacy at being able to do their job, and fear being exposed. Bullies envy the target’s abilities, are jealous of their social skills and relationships. Bullies turn their insecurity outwards, finding satisfaction as they attack and try to diminish the capable people around them. Bullies try to project guilt, shame and fear — which are known as tactics of control. It is how all abusers try to gain control over their targets and silence them.

And there is a huge impact on our societies. Bullying affects individuals, colleagues, corporations, organizational productivity and the economy. Many of these targeted individuals either take long periods of leave from work, or they leave, some never finding their feet again. The cost to lives and communities continues to add up. Why do we keep accepting this behaviour in our society?

As I said, I was bullied at work, once in Canada and twice in Australia. After being bullied the first time, and choosing to learn from the experience, when I saw the signs a second time, I had no issue to act and speak out quickly.

In my first meeting with the new General Manager after returning to work from my summer holiday, I was confronted with a finger wagging across the desk at me and the words “I have it on good authority that you…” with very negative words about me coming next. I was appalled. Rather than get to know me, he chose to believe, and repeat the vicious words the two office bullies had started to circulate the weeks before I went on leave. I was the third manager in our team to be targeted in 12 months. I recognized the signs all too well. I had spoken to HR before, now it was directed at me.

When his phone rang, I excused myself from his office and called his bluff. I went back to my office, sorted my emails, packed my personal belongings from my desk and typed up my resignation. Within 30 minutes of experiencing the escalation of the bullying, I left with eight weeks pay.

I also talked about what was going on, to former colleagues, to other managers, to HR — I got it on record. I knew it was my choice about how long I wanted to stay, or leave. This organization had no bullying policy — and no intention of putting one in place. There would be too many staff to deal with if a new policy was written. I knew there was nothing I could do to change the corporate will to stop the bullying.

If you are being bullied, or know someone who is being bullied, learn about it. There is plenty of good information available online. Know that you are not alone, that bullying will not go away through your good behaviour, and decide what you are going to do to look after yourself.


Resources for folks being bullied:


Your “>EAP


Photo Credit: CoalandIce

Are you overlooking hundreds of dollars worth of resources because you think Employee Assistance Programs are just for folks with pretty severe issues like drug abuse or alcoholism?

You should think again. Once I got past that idea, and was convinced of the confidentiality (and the companies who offer EAP know their life depends upon it), I haven’t hesitated to access EAP for all manner of resources.

Over the years I have received, at no cost to myself:

  • 10 weeks of nutritional advice, one-on-one, tailored just for me.
  • 45 minutes of free legal advice.
  • Career coaching that included some eye-popping discoveries and prevented me from wasting time on applying for a couple jobs I would have sucked at (I discovered).
  • And yes, several sessions of the more typical counselling, when I was going through a really rough time a while ago.
  • In every instance, the professional I worked with was absolutely excellent.

    Are you overlooking your EAP plan? I totally recommend finding out what is available to you and accessing it. Why walk away from no-charge-to-you resources which could prove invaluable to you?

    Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt

Do you speak up on the job? Or do you keep your head down? While you might quietly believe something going on is wrong do you prefer to just keep doing your job and let The Others deal with it? Most people do, I think.

A manager of mine once made the remark, “we’re all responsible for our own eco-systems”. I think she was fed up with the griping about the senior management team. And she’s right, I think. Our work is such a vital part of our life (it’s called a livelihood with good reason!) that we hesitate to rock the boat. Yet in my experience, not speaking up, not rocking the boat, will ultimately exact its own price.

The price could be your health.

The price could be your coworker who gets taken down. (Which at first may seem like a relief, * phew! It wasn’t me *, but once they are gone … who is left? What will the fall out be and how will it affect you? Because it will.)

The price could be the company itself.

This is on my mind particularly today because of news I hadn’t heard earlier which affects pretty much all of us.
Follow this trail with me:
The global financial crisis that has us bouncing around? That was triggered by the sub-prime mortgages debacle?Those sub-prime mortgage investment bundles were given AAA status by S&P and other ratings agencies.

They should not have been. (HELLO).

Apparently S&P staff analysts would challenge the ratings given by S&P to various investments and companies, but their managers would x-nay those challenges, and it’s thought that was because the managers didn’t want to piss off those companies, who were paying them for the ratings.

End result: Pension Funds, Banks, Mutual Funds and individuals bought those sub-prime-mortage ridden investment bundles under the impression that they were AAA quality. And we know what happened. The whole western world is teetering.on.the.brink.

It’s not hard to imagine how it could have played out in the cubicles.

One nerdy math-y person, James, does the spreadsheets and the numbers just don’t add up. In fact, they’re kinda damning. So he quietly goes into his boss’s office, “uhh, boss? ” and the boss hears James out, but is secretly irritated because he knows what his own boss, the Director, is going to say and he just doesn’t want to deal with it. Nevertheless, in a low-key way he presents the findings to to the Director who as predicted shrugs it off and tells the boss that they need to rate it AAA.

So the boss does, because he’s a chain-of-command kinda guy, and James is somewhat disgusted but he’s not one to make a fuss so he doesn’t. But his stomach starts to kinda hurt, even as he rationalizes his higher-ups decisions.

Down the hall, same thing happens to Sarah. Over lunch one day, James and Sarah get to talking and find out the same thing happened to Mike on the floor above. It doesn’t feel very good.

Word gets out. They all respond differently. Most just don’t want to think about it that much and they have a lot of other work on their desks to think about anyway. Some are disillusioned but they want the paycheque. Some shift the blame “upstairs” and don’t think about it anymore at all. And some … some are weasels who are more interested in their careers than their team so they just keep their ear to the ground and relay that info up the chain in the hopes that they will become part of the club upstairs (and lo and behold, some do).

And then there was Chris. Chris had seen the movie before and was fed up so he spoke just a little more loudly. And argued a little more with his boss. And didn’t let it rest. And it embarrassed his boss. And his name started being spoken of upstairs. And then one day … he was gone.

Message received. Message received by James, Sarah, Mike and all the others who had flagged that there might be a problem with giving AAA ratings to investments that in fact were set up for disaster. Message received that their livelihoods were at stake. Message received that their company was not in fact a place of neutral ratings, but was set up to ensure profits and bonuses for the people upstairs, the ones who held the analysts’ livelihoods in their hands.
They got it.

I don’t know how they (in this imaginary, for the record, world) reacted when things went all to hell. Did they lose sleep? Did they justify it to themselves (I imagine I would)?

For every Chris in different organizations, there must be, what, 250 folks who are passively or actively complicit?

Caroline Herron, a former VP at Fannie Mae spoke up. So did an interesting accountant dude named Roger Barnes. I wonder what their coworkers did?

Senior VP of Finance at Lehman Brothers pushed back over their accounting “gimmicks” in 2008 and lost his job. I don’t believe it was coincidence that he was downsized, do you?

Joseph Kus has something to say about Merrill Lynch’s breaches of FSA regulations. It sounds like his coworkers not only kept their heads down, but actively hounded him for his audacity.

My point? There is a cost to you and me, down the road, when we don’t speak up. When we look at our ricocheting portfolios or when our property values plummet, remember the folks to tried to speak up. Remember their coworkers who looked the other way because that was easier. And then consider your own workplace and those who attempt, perhaps with finesse or perhaps in a bungling-it-up way, to speak up. Are you supporting them?

Photo Credit: Truthout

Well the first thing I noticed when researching for this post is the dearth of data for Canada! Stats Canada? I could only find a piece taking us up to 2015. I mean there’s Laissez-faire, and then there’s just kinda muddling along and hoping for the best.

The States has all kinds of data and news items (I do have a wee bit for Canada, see below, and I think we can extrapolate somewhat from info about our neighbours to the south).

So — in the USA, where are the smart jobs?

Well according to a report by NPR and Wired Magazine, the bottom line is: look to businesses producing new-to-the-market products (think: GMOs, iPhone apps)

Between 2006 – 2010, drawing on data from Linked-In, the report authors discovered that the good-paying jobs were and will be found in the following fields:

Environment & Renewables jobs grew by 50%+ every.single.year (this makes me happy)

Jobs in Online Publishing and the Internet each grew by about 29% per year

Jobs in the Wireless sector grew by 18% per year.

Looking ahead to 2018, the US Bureau of Labour Stats projects that

Network systems and data analysis jobs will grow by over 50%

Home Health Aides jobs will grow by 50% (no real surprise there, given coming demographic trends)

followed closely by general Personal and Home Care Aides which will grow by 45%.

And Canada?

Career Builder says that for 2011, the in-demand jobs are:

Administrative Assistants (wait. what? yes, really)
Real Estate Agents (my armchair take is that this one won’t last)

In contrast, the Globe & Mail said the top sales (and by their inference, job) growth was …
wait for it…

didn’t cross my minda, gotta say …

was: Engine, Turbine and Power Transmission equipment manufacturing, which grew by 20.46%.
errrr – anyone know if a new plant started up or something?

My bottom line conjecture is that jobs in Health and Technology (including bio-tech) will dominate the next 10 years. Any dissenters?

Photo Credit: bgottsab

Anxious about job security? Career coach Karen Begemann provides her third recommendation to strengthen your position in your workplace. (And by the way, if you *are* anxious about your job security, now is a great time to really get clarity on your finances. My online program, It’s Your Money, will help you do just that).
Recommendation #1 focussed on fuelling yourself to be a high value employee by knowing your why.
Recommendation #2 focussed on deepening your work-related relationships by networking

Recommendation #3: Keep Learning
Today, we discuss life long learning and how it can mobilize your career and ensure your skills remain up-to-date.
The term Life Long Learning gets bandied about quite a bit these days but it is one of the keys to staying resilient in our work. Technology keeps taking us in new directions and touches the work we all do in some way. Every field has its own evolution. Are you up to date on the direction your field is headed? If not, it may be useful to do some informational interviewing to learn more about what other professionals see as the future trends in your occupation. Just as in driving, it’s about looking well ahead so we can proactively plan maneuvers and avoid potential hazards. A couple of on-line labour market resources that show trends in different industries are BC Work Futures and Working in Canada.

Think you are too old to go back to school? Think again. Many people of all ages are returning to college or university for retraining or skills upgrading. Find out what you need to learn to ensure you are up-to-date in your field or even better, to take your career to the next level. Even a few evening courses can make a difference to your career. What do you need to do to keep building your skills?

On a final note, practicing these simple tips of clarifying your work purpose, building influential relationships , keeping abreast of changes to your field and continuing to build on your skills will take you a long way to a more satisfying, successful and ultimately resilient career. What is one step you can take over the next couple of days that can help you to build the kind of career you want?

Karen Begemann has worked in the career development field for the past 10 years in government-funded employment programs, the corporate sector and in private practice as a Career Coach and Facilitator. Her passion professionally is helping people to connect with meaningful work. She provides a range of services including career exploration, job search (resume support, networking strategies and job interview coaching) and resiliency coaching (dealing with work related stress). Karen also specializes in working with professional moms who are planning to return to the workforce. She practices in Vancouver, BC and provides coaching services either in person or on the telephone. Karen can be reached at 604-828-5600 for a complimentary telephone session to determine an individual’s career coaching needs. For more information visit www.workmattersconsulting.com.

photo credit: familymwr

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