Keep People - Ottawa Employment Hub

Keep People

Are you providing a work environment and leadership that fosters engagement and retention?

As a leader in an organization or business owner, you play a key role in creating a positive work environment. You not only set the tone for the organization through your behaviour and actions, but are also responsible for ensuring that organizational practices promote a healthy work environment.


Work environment and strong, positive leadership will help you retain employees. We have already discussed the high costs of employee turnover. A positive work environment can also help you to attract and retain employees who may be tempted by higher salaries at one of your competitors. It is not all about the money – although salaries should be competitive, a strong employer brand can go a long way to helping you keep the best. The younger generation is also attracted to the job and the environment more than the salary. A recent US study of 14 – 18 year-olds, 78% said money “was less important to them than personal fulfillment”.

Build your desired corporate culture

Culture is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviours shared by a group of people. Corporate culture can be described as the behaviour that results when a group arrives at a set of – generally unspoken and unwritten – rules for working together. It grows out of the values, beliefs and attitudes that are shared by the people in the workplace.  Your organization will be successful as a result of, not only what the company does, its strategy, but also how it does it, its culture.

A culture will naturally evolve whether or not the business owner or leader consciously focuses on it. However, to ensure you create the desired culture, leaders will need to take the time to understand the current culture in the organization and take steps to change it where needed to attract and retain the right people. If you are creating a new organization, you should be determining in advance the vision and values of your company, and establishing policies and procedures to encourage the appropriate behaviours to “live” them.


Your organizational culture is crucial to attracting and keeping employees. Many organizations also include questions around cultural fit in their interviews. Employees will be most motivated and satisfied when they feel that the organization is a good fit for them in terms of their values and needs.

Your company’s reputation and “word of mouth” is often based on what kind of culture you have built.  Your corporate culture is what makes you an “employer of choice.” Culture is essentially what is behind people saying, “Company X is a great place to work.” It can also be a differentiator in attracting employees when you may not be able to match the pay and benefits of bigger or more-established organizations.


Many business leaders feel that organizations need to embrace a culture of learning to be able to adapt and evolve at the pace required in the 21st century business environment. Below we highlight essential ingredients of a culture that can embrace the continuous change. Based on your particular business focus, you can emphasize different components.

  • Clear Purpose & Direction– An imperative for successful organizations is the provision of clear direction and a well-articulated long-term vision in order to engage employees around a common purpose and to guide decisions that they are expected to make.
  • Employee Engagement– Engaged employees will not only understand the direction and vision of the company, but will direct their energy toward constantly learning and adapting to improve their performance and contribution. If properly aligned, an engaged employee and the company will realize their mutual goals together.
  • Innovation & Creativity– Many organizations in today’s fast-paced environment of change choose to embrace a culture of learning. A learning organization is skilled at systematic problem-solving and experimentation with new approaches so it can continuously adapt to changes in its environment (technology, competition, regulation and changing customer needs).
  • Risk-Taking– An organization cannot continuously learn and adapt, or be truly innovative, unless it encourages reasonable risk-taking and tolerates mistakes.
  • Supportive Managers– Supportive managers are critical to the creation of a learning culture – they are the #1 driver for setting the tone and environment.
  • Motivated Learners– A culture of learning cannot exist without employees who are self-motivated and driven to continuously advance their skills and knowledge.
  • Knowledge-Sharing– This drives innovation and continuous learning; it entails a high sense of trust and collaboration to be optimally effective.
  • Trust– Trust is essential in any learning organization. Without trust, you will not have risk-taking. Without trust, you will not have knowledge-sharing. In fact, it is the prerequisite to all of the other essential ingredients


In Organizational Behavior- Managing People and Organizations, Gregory Moorhead outlines five key steps to creating your desired culture. Organizations will be at different stages and will focus more or less on the specific components. You will need to fill the gaps that exist in your particular case, or build from the ground up in the case of a new enterprise. Moorhead’s steps are paraphrased below:

Step #1:  Establish Strategic Values – Through an environmental scan and strategic analysis, you can determine the strategic values of the organization; these strategic values are essentially the basic beliefs about your environment that shape your business strategy and goals.

Step #2:  Develop Cultural Values – Cultural values are the values upon which employees need to act for the organization to carry out its strategic values (and successfully achieve its business goals). Employees need to value work behaviours that are consistent with and support the organization’s strategic values.

Step 3: Create Vision – After identifying the strategic and cultural values of any organization, the organization must establish a vision that can become a “call to action” for employees to move toward a common future. This vision will portray what the organization will be like currently and what it will be like at some point in the future.

Step 4: Initiate Implementation Strategies – After identifying the strategic and cultural values, as well as the vision, the next step is to take actions to build on the values and help you to accomplish the vision. These strategies can range from developing the organizational design to recruiting and training employees who share the values and will carry them out. At this point, you are essentially ensuring that the organization structure, practices and policies will encourage the desired behaviours.

Step 5: Reinforce Desired Behaviours – Finally, you will need to put measures in place to reinforce the desired behaviours. The formal reward system can be used to reward desired behaviours in a way that employees value. Stories should be shared about employees who engaged in behaviours that exemplify the cultural values and the organization should engage in ceremonies and rituals that emphasize employees doing the “right” things in the “right” way.


What if you look at your organization and don’t like what you are seeing in terms of culture? HR expert Susan M. Heathfield cites key steps to take to transform your culture.  She highlights the two most important elements as executive support and training, as well as listing additional ways to change organizational culture:

  • Executive support: Executives in the organization must support the cultural change, through not only words but actions. They need to “walk the talk” and show consistent support of any changes.
  • Training: Culture change can only take place with behaviour change. Employees at all levels of the organization must be clear on what is expected of them, and they also need to be shown how to do what is expected. Teaching new behaviours is key to success.
  • Create value and belief statements: Use employee focus groups to identify concrete behaviours that put the mission, vision, and values into words that show their impact on each employee’s job; what does the culture “look like” in the workplace; what actions do you see that reflect the culture.
  • Practice effective communication: Keep all employees informed about the culture change process and ensure that they know what is expected of them.
  • Review organizational structure: Make sure the organization is structured in a way that will encourage appropriate behaviours.
  • Review rewards and recognition: Ensure that rewards and recognition encourage the behaviours that will drive the desired organizational culture.
  • Review performance management, promotions and employee selectionpractices to make sure they are aligned with the desired culture.


Create a positive work environment


Managers, by their example, play a large role in creating the workplace culture. If all managers show respect for all employees and show that they do not tolerate harassing behaviour, harassment will be much less likely to take place. Managers must also ensure that every employee is responsible for treating everyone with respect.


The more knowledgeable managers are about how to identify harassment and how to handle it, the more easily problems will be resolved, and the smoother the workplace will function.

  • Harassment is a form of employee behaviour that is offensive, hostile, threatening, or demeaning to another person, undermines the integrity of the employment relationship, and is “unwelcome”.
  • Unwelcome behaviour is defined as behaviour the employee “knows” or ought reasonably to know is unwelcome.
  • Sexual harassment involves unwelcome, sexually oriented conduct or contact. It includes not only demands for sexual favours, but also sexist jokes and comments, leering, sexually suggestive gestures, visual displays of inappropriate material, and derogatory comments.


As a Manager, you must take action when you become aware of harassment (even without a complaint necessarily being lodged). Failure to stop perceived harassment, investigate complaints or to take prompt and effective remedial action to deal with such complaints may be perceived to be condoning or tolerating such behaviour.

Ensure that employees know that they can raise concerns and make reports without fear of reprisal.


Deal with problem behaviour


Problem behaviour has an impact on the morale of your whole organization and can lead to formal complaints. As a manager or employer you need to both model appropriate behaviour and effectively deal with issues that arise. Having clearly outlined standards of conduct is a good first step. Once employees know what is expected, it is easier to take corrective action.


As a manager, you can deal most effectively with problem behaviour by focusing on the following:

  • ensure the expected behaviour is clearly stated to all;
  • ensure the employee is counselled when not meeting expectations;
  • follow up and act when behaviour is considered inappropriate;
  • make timely intervention.


Preventive action is action taken to encourage employees to follow standards and rules. The basic objective is to encourage self-discipline among employees; they maintain their own discipline, rather than having management impose it. (For example, managers may encourage their employees to always advise their supervisor, when possible, if they are going to be late; this may prevent managers from having to take corrective disciplinary action.)

Employers and managers should strive to build a climate of preventive discipline.


When employees ignore, refuse or are unable to respond positively to preventive discipline, managers should consider moving on to corrective disciplinary action.

The objectives of corrective disciplinary action are positive:

  • To reform the unacceptable conduct of the offender;
  • To deter others from similar behaviours; and
  • To maintain consistent, effective group standards.

You may want to consider a policy of progressive discipline – when corrective disciplinary actions are required, there are stronger penalties for repeated offenses. The purpose of progressive discipline is to give an employee an opportunity to take corrective action before more serious disciplinary actions are applied.

Should disciplinary action be required, these are the consecutive steps that are normally followed:

  • Counselling (i.e., a discussion between the employee and supervisor to identify the desired behaviour and steps to attain it);
  • Verbal warning;
  • Written warning;
  • Suspension;
  • Probation with final written warning; and
  • Termination

For more serious offenses, one or more of the steps may be omitted.  Extreme cases may lead to immediate dismissal.


Manage rewards


Managing rewards covers both the strategy and the practice of pay systems. The reward or compensation employees receive for their contribution to a company includes monetary and non-monetary values.


A total rewards system is one in which employees are compensated with both monetary and non-monetary means. It is intended to attract top talent, as well as provide incentive to keep the current talent.

Your total rewards system can consist of the following components:

  • Compensation includes base pay, merit pay, incentives, promotions and pay increases.
  • Benefits include health insurance, payment for wellness programs, paid time off, sick leave, retirement, and work/life balance inititatives.
  • Personal growth opportunities, such as training, career development and performance management

Implementing a total rewards program will not only help you attract top talent, it will also help you motivate and engage your current workforce.


Recognize success and excellence


Recognizing a job well done by an employee or group of employees provides a strong incentive for continued excellence in performance. Employees who feel appreciated and valued will be more motivated, more dedicated and more likely to stay with your organization.

It is critical to recognize the types of skills and abilities that matter most to your organization. In order to satisfy and retain employees who demonstrate desired qualities, you must let people know that they are highly valued and serving as role models for others in the company. As a leader, you should look for examples of these types of skills and behaviours, and to recognize them openly, frequently, and in ways that appeal most to the individuals on your team.


Recognition takes many forms and the only way to accurately determine how your employees want to be recognized is to ask them, to then listen carefully to what they have to say, and to respond in a way that demonstrates you have heard them loud and clear. Ascertain, by asking questions, what motivates them to come to work each day, and what they feel is working and what is not working well for them – their responses will provide insight into the rewards and recognition they value most.

You will likely find that while money is important, other factors such as the following are just as critical to many, if not all, employees.

  • Assignments that increase experience base, by building knowledge that enhances professional competence.
  • Projects that are challenging, satisfying and fulfilling.
  • Team leadership roles.
  • Flexible work environments that allow people to meet personal needs outside of work.
  • Opportunities for signaling to recognize unique individual and/or team contributions, etc.
  • In-house accolades (personal endorsements) that demonstrate to peers and other managers that they have been very successful.

You should ensure that you recognize employee effort by offering praise and gratitude for a job well done on an ongoing basis. In fact, often just affirming to people that work is hard and their efforts are genuinely appreciated and valuable to the bottom line is enough to help people get through a tough time in a positive manner.


You can adopt an informal approach to rewards and recognition by focusing on the following suggestions.  Consider which of these would work well in your workplace.

  • Catch people doing things right – provide positive feedback/praise (verbal or written acknowledgment) immediately after an action/behaviour occurs that is considered to be deserving of mention.
  • Acknowledge individual and team efforts on a day-to-day basis.
  • Ensure timely recognition of success and excellence.
  • Recognize more people, more often, both in private and publicly.
  • Recognize all team members.
  • Create a “thank you” culture where you thank employees frequently, and employees also recognize and acknowledge the efforts of their colleagues and their managers.
  • Acknowledge that employees are working very hard, and/or putting in long hours (don’t wait for them to tell you).
  • Provide opportunities that you know they are looking for (e.g., making a presentation to colleagues; giving them a special assignment/project to manage, etc.).


Building the right culture goes a long way toward recognizing and rewarding employees. If you strive to exhibit the following behaviours, your team will likely feel that their contributions are acknowledged and appreciated:

  • Understand your employees and the conditions they work in
  • Show that you care about and value them
  • Be attentive to individual needs and desires
  • Model the behaviour you want to encourage.


The Child Care Human Resources Sector Council (see link below) provides a list of informal recognition ideas, including:

  • A simple “hello” at the start of the day and “goodbye” at the end of the day is an obvious but sometimes overlooked form of recognition.
  • Say a sincere thank you for a job well done. Do this often and be specific.
  • A personal note can be very meaningful. You could also send an e-mail to acknowledge work well done, with a copy to other colleagues.
  • Tell your employee about positive comments that you hear from others.
  • Acknowledge individuals or teams at a staff meeting, management meeting, board meeting, or special event.
  • Organize celebrations – at the end of a project, individual milestones, team milestones.
  • Food is important. You could have muffins or cookies at meetings. Reward achievement with a box of chocolates, or bring in ice cream on a hot Monday morning or Friday afternoon.
  • Acknowledge birthdays, work anniversaries, new babies and other significant life events.
  • Have a team meeting outside the office at the local coffee shop or restaurant.
  • Create a recognition bulletin board to post ‘thanks’ from clients.
  • Ask an employee to represent you at a meeting outside the organization.
  • Take an employee out to lunch.


Lead & motivate your team


It is important that managers and leaders show their teams that they represent them effectively to others, both within and outside their organization, as well as providing an environment that will motivate and engage them.  Your staff will be more engaged and effective if they feel that you “have their back” and act in a way that creates a high performance environment.


Part of your role as a manager or business owner is to represent your team when working with peers, your own manager, and your customers. Managers act as the conduit between their teams and other parts of the organization, and should ensure that they facilitate both sides of these relationships.

Your ability to work well with others will impact your team – how they are viewed and how effectively you can “fight” for them. In exploring the guidelines below, focus on the ones that apply to your particular situation. Some of you are in roles where you are representing your team in a bigger organization and others may be business owners leading a team that is more outside customer-focused.

Managers should strive to:

  • Present your team views– Ensure that you present the team perspective and raise team issues in a way that shows you stand fully behind them on the matters discussed.
  • Keep your team informed– Managers are responsible for providing employees with the downward flow of information.
  • Provide rationale for decisions– When your own manager or a colleague or customer makes a decision which does not go the way your team was hoping, make sure you are clear on the rationale so that you can report back to your team.
  • Take ownership of mistakes– If a problem arises or a mistake is made by you or a team member, provide your boss, colleague or customer with “early warning” – focus on the issue/problem and its resolution, not on assigning blame or pointing fingers.
  • Stand behind your team– Defend the actions of your team when they are challenged publicly by other colleagues or clients. Any feedback can be provided to the individual involved privately, at a later time.
  • Engage in open and honest communication– Be open and honest with your colleagues and clients – feel comfortable providing feedback and challenging their views.
  • Promote teamwork– Avoid creating an “us” versus “them” scenario.  Present others’ perspectives and encourage teamwork across sections and levels. Strive to increase understanding of issues and avoid creating a divide between your team and other sections or “management”.
  • Involve your own leader– Leadership should be as visible as possible.  The more opportunity your team has to interact with your boss, the better they will get to know each other and the better understanding they will have of the challenges facing the other.
  • Model appropriate behaviour– Remember that you should always lead by example. Your team members will model your behaviour in their own interactions. Treat your own boss and colleagues as you would have your team treat you and each other.

Many of the tips and techniques provided under KEEP PEOPLE to create a positive work environment in your business area will also enhance your relationships across larger organizations and with customers.


As a manager or business owner, one way or the other, you are going to affect your employees’ motivation to perform.  You should ensure that you act in ways that positively affect their motivation to perform at higher levels and work more effectively as a team.

It is important to note that you do not motivate people, you influence what they are motivated to do. The Three C’s of Intrinsic Motivation, developed by Alfie Kohn, provide a good basis for motivating your team:

  • Collaboration– People are more highly motivated when they are inspired to cooperate and have the opportunity to help each other succeed. Create an environment that fosters team spirit.
  • Content– Strive to keep your employees’ work interesting and challenging. Help them understand how their work adds value to the organization. Assign and encourage them to take on new tasks.
  • Choice– Provide a sense of control and achievement. Find ways to allow and encourage your employees to make decisions, and provide them with the necessary tools and support.

It is important to remember that providing opportunities for personal growth is one of the keys to keeping your employees motivated. You should offer your employees both formal training and on-the-job opportunities when possible.

You cannot give your employees motivation, but you can give them the responsibility for achieving something and the authority to do it their own way.

  • Share your power with employees. Delegate when appropriate, increase their circles of influence, and support good judgment and common sense at all times.
  • Allow your employees more choices. This will give them a greater sense of control and self-responsibility.
  • Hold them accountable. There will be greater motivation to perform well if employees have a sense of accountability for their actions and outcomes.

You can also keep your team motivated by:

  • Fostering trust and respect. Show faith in your employees and ensure that you “walk the talk” to gain their trust in return.
  • Creating “fun” at work. Use appropriate humour to alleviate stress.  Learn to laugh at yourself and help others see the lighter side of things. Share good news and funny moments. Ask employees for their suggestions for “fun”.
  • Showing that you “care”. Make a conscious effort to show your employees that you care about them both as employees, and as individuals. Try to make your employees feel good about the work they’re doing, find out what they are good at and what they would like to do. Treat people consistently and fairly and really listen to what they have to say.


Communicate effectively


Working effectively with your colleagues and your employees requires effective communication. You can never assume people know everything you know or have the same access to information that you have, as a leader or business owner.

In order to build trust and awareness within your team and among your colleagues, it is easier to communicate what you know right away, rather than letting the information vacuum be filled by rumours. Messages should be honest and address, up-front, any resistance that may be anticipated. It’s better to err on the side of over-communicating, than under-communicating.


As a manager, there are certain things you must avoid:

  • Assuming people know why a change is taking place;
  • Assuming one method of communication is effective;
  • Silence (saying nothing lets the rumour mill take over);
  • Postponing communication until “everything is finalized”;
  • Assuming that communicating once is enough.
  • Sharing only part of the information and withholding crucial elements, unless these are confidential.

You should plan out your communication before delivering any important message.

  • Identify your audience: Should your entire staff receive the message at the same time? Are there additional people that should be included? Did I miss anyone?
  • Analyze your audience: Is your audience aware of the message or change information you are about to deliver? Is there anyone within your audience that may resist or challenge the message?
  • Develop appropriate messages for the audience: The message should focus on the questions that you believe people will most frequently ask. Does the message answer the “me” questions for your audience (how will this impact my job, what is expected of me, will I have to report to someone new)?
  • Select a communication channel: There are four typical communication channels and each has its strengths and weaknesses – print, face-to-face, electronic/e-mail, audio-visual.
  • Deliver your message: Ensure you keep your messages clear and simple.  Ask questions to make sure your audience understands your message. Allow an opportunity for two-way communication.
  • Assess communication effectiveness: After a short period of time, check to make sure the message was received and well understood.


It is critical that you not only communicate to your staff, but also listen to what your staff is saying to you. Listening to what your staff is saying is not always easy because often you must read between the lines. Often what people are saying to you verbally, is not what they really mean. This obviously makes your job as a manager more challenging.

Below are some tips designed to help you be an active listener to get to the issues “between the lines”.

  • Adopt a behaviour that lets the other person know you are listening;
  • Use open-ended probes to encourage communication;
  • Use paraphrasing to improve communication – this shows you are listening, and ensures your interpretations are correct;
  • Listen without interrupting– focus on what people are saying and not how you are going to respond;
  • Listen for the total message– attempt to determine the speaker’s frame of reference, interpret the thoughts from the person’s perspective; and
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues.

Non-verbal cues are an essential part of reading between the lines. Often a person says one thing, but communicates something totally different through vocal intonation and body language. Studies suggest we derive 90% of meaning from non-verbal cues.

Non-verbal communication is made up of:

  • Visual– body language;
  • Tactile– use of touch;
  • Vocal– intonation;
  • Use of time, space and image– shows how we view our status and power in relation to others (e.g., arriving late); we use clothing and other dimensions of physical appearance to communicate values and expectations.

Non-verbal cues can play five roles:

  • Repetition– They can repeat the message the person is making verbally.
  • Contradiction– They can contradict a message the individual is trying to convey, leading to distrust and tension.
  • Substitution– They can substitute for a verbal message; e.g., a person’s eyes can often convey a far more vivid message than words.
  • Complementing– They may add to or complement a verbal message. Patting a person on the back in addition to giving praise can increase the impact of the message.
  • Accenting– Non-verbal communication may accent or underline a verbal message; e.g., pounding the table when making a point.

It is easy to misread these cues, especially when communicating across cultures where gestures and tone can mean something very different. You should use a combination of non-verbal cues and the verbal message both when understanding others and when delivering your own message.


  • CHRSC: Workplaces that Work- Interpersonal Communication– Tips and tools on how to communicate effectively in the workplace; discusses the common misconceptions about communication and tips on how to listen and respond effectively.
  • Communication & Social Media– Various articles on employee communication from the go2hr Employer Toolkit.
  • Mind Tools: Communication Skills– Numerous articles, tips and tools for building workplace communication skills.
  • What is Effective Communication?– This Chron article geared toward small businesses identifies workplace communication obstacles and provides tips on how to communicate effectively; includes links to other articles and videos.
  • Managing Organizational Communication – This toolkit by SHRM reviews the basics of effective organizational communication, the importance of a communication strategy, the role of different communicators within the organization, types of messages and vehicles, training for better communication, and methods for measuring results.

Manage time and stress


While it is important to focus on providing work-life balance as an employer, you can also help your employees manage stress that may be unavoidable and help them manage their time when workload seems overwhelming. Stress in the workplace will lower both productivity and morale, affecting both performance and retention. Applying some of these tips and techniques personally, will also help you be a more effective leader.


Being a manager, there is little chance that you will avoid dealing with the issue of stress, whether your own stress or that of your employees. As a manager, it is important to be aware of the sources of stress, the signs of stress and how you can alleviate stress in your environment.

Stress can be brought on by:

  • A new work environment;
  • Added responsibilities at work;
  • Difficult work situations; and/or
  • Changes in personal life.

It is important to understand that some pressure is good both for you and for your staff.  Without any pressure to act as a stimulus, people may not be motivated to perform. The caution is to ensure that you control the amount of pressure that develops – too much pressure becomes stress.

As a manager you need to be able to recognize symptoms of stress in yourself and your staff. There are four types of indicators:

  • Physical– these include low energy/fatigue, insomnia, headache, elevated pulse rate;
  • Emotional – these include irritability, excessive complaints, anxiety, emotional outbursts, depression;
  • Mental – these include poor judgement, inability to focus, misplaced priorities, tendency to make mistakes;
  • Behavioural– these include increased absenteeism, increased smoking, short temper, impulsive behaviours, sudden change of habits.

Stress can be “contagious” and impact a whole team, so it is important for a manager to recognize and confront the causes of stress as soon as possible. There are several remedies to help minimize the impact of stress:

  • Building up a resilience to stress. Some ways to build up personal resilience include healthy eating, exercise, better time management, learning to say “no”, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), and developing a strong social network of family and friends.
  • Reducing situations in which people feel overwhelmed. Stress is most destructive when people have to deal with factors that seem beyond their control. If you want to hand over new responsibilities to your staff, prepare your people appropriately, well in advance.
  • Be willing to negotiate. If justified, negotiate the terms and conditions of the assignments you delegate to your staff.

Make stress reduction part of your infrastructure. Try to find ways to bring humour and fun into your workplace. Ensure you have an open- door policy, so you can identify issues before they become stressful problems.


Of all of the resources available to managers and employees, only one is distributed equally – TIME. Since people cannot buy, borrow or manufacture one single extra second, it becomes what a manager does with his or her allotted time that differentiates one manager from the next.

Below is a list of tips and tools that can make a manager’s time more productive.  You can also encourage your employees to use them in managing their own time.  Keep in mind that some of these tips and techniques may be more or less acceptable depending on which culture you are working in.


Preparation & Organization:

  • Have a tidy desk.
  • Be conscious of time.
  • Prepare a daily list of tasks/priorities.
  • Say “NO” to jobs that are not yours.
  • Set realistic deadlines.
  • Give yourself private time.


  • Plan the meeting (objectives, agenda).
  • Don’t allow interruptions.

The Telephone

  • Make your calls in blocks.
  • Write down points to raise.
  • Be aware of time passing.


  • Check email at set times
  • Reserve time to respond to email as a break after a period of focused work
  • Take care of emails right away that will take less than two minutes to address
  • If more time is required, schedule time on your calendar or flag as an action item
  • Focus on “To” emails as a priority over “cc” emails which are more likely FYI
  • Keep your main inbox clear; set up a filing system to help manage your mail

Dealing with Interruptions

  • Work out who needs access to you.
  • Administrative support deals with the rest.
  • Stand up when a person comes in to your office to talk.
  • Suggest a later meeting, if possible.
  • Meet in their office, so you can leave when you need to.
  • Perch on the edge of the desk.

Office Systems

  • Finish one job before you start the next.
  • Spend 5 minutes planning your day.
  • Handle each piece of paper once only.
  • Make use of committed time.
  • Put up a clock where everyone can see it.


Handle conflict


Conflict is one of the most difficult things you have to deal with as a leader. Whether the conflict is between your staff members or yourself and a colleague, it is never easy or pleasant. Not dealing with conflict can lower workplace morale, cause retention issues, and potentially escalate situations into disciplinary or legal problems.

Conflict can be defined as a clash of opposing principles, ideas or issues. They can arise because individuals have divergent goals, personalities, views or ways of doing something.

Some obvious symptoms of conflict include:

  • Taking sides and refusing to compromise;
  • Attacking ideas before they’re fully expressed;
  • Making attacks on a personal level;
  • Accusing each other of not understanding the point;
  • Combative behaviours (yelling); and
  • Scrutinizing every detail or decision.


There are five conflict resolution styles that you should consider. You may have a style that is most natural to you, but different approaches are appropriate under various situations.

  • Competing– This style requires the manager to take a firm stand on an issue.  It is most appropriate in a crisis. However, a manager must be aware that enforcing their opinion too often may lead to being surrounded by “yes” people.
  • Collaborating– This style views disagreements as opportunities to make things better by developing new ideas. This style is appropriate when the desires on both sides are too important for a trade-off. A manager must be careful not to spend too much time on the process, rather than on the decision.
  • Compromising– This style sees the mechanics of compromise as more important than the substantive concerns about the controversy. A good approach for someone who can manage the “give and take.” The caution with this approach is that often no one is fully satisfied with the result and there may be a residual impression of a sell-out.
  • Avoiding– This style is typical of someone who accepts default decisions or withholds contributions to the decision.  This style can be appropriate when the conflict is trivial or when further research is more useful than a quick decision. The consequence of this approach is a perception of lack of credibility or interest in the issues.
  • Accommodating– This approach enables the manager to “give in” when warranted.  It can be used when you want to admit to an error. This is appropriate when you are aware that the other side’s position has more merit or when the controversy matters more to the other party, or you value peace more than the potential gains in the controversy. However, if it is used too often, you can be seen as not having enough influence or conviction.


In resolving a conflict there are several logical steps that you can take as a manager.  They can be summarized as follows:

  • Step 1:  Acknowledge that the conflict exists– best done on a one-on-one basis.
  • Step 2: Gain common ground– remind the parties involved that they need each other to succeed, and that they need to work together to solve the problem.
  • Step 3: Seek to understand all angles– it is often during this step that people discover the solution.
  • Step 4: Attack issues, not people– focus on the cause of the conflict and maintain mutual respect. Highlight areas of agreement.
  • Step 5: Develop an action plan– spell out what each person will do to resolve the problem.  Ensure that each person can take accountability for their part in resolving the conflict.


Deal with change


In today’s climate of constant innovation, it is important that leaders and business owners are able to assist their employees in embracing change as an opportunity.  To do so, you need to be able to understand how change affects people, recognize resistance to it, and deal with this resistance in a positive manner. Not managing effectively can lead to reduced productivity, increased workplace stress and overall retention and morale issues.  You may lose valued employees and those who stay may not make the necessary buy-in to the “new way of doing things” that will help to ensure future success.


As a leader, you need to understand how both you and others are affected by change.

  • It occurs when people believe they have lost control over some important aspect of their lives or their environment.
  • It occurs anytime the balance in our day-to-day routine shifts and there is a disruption in our expectations.
  • It is a question of perception, rather than of objective facts.  Change is considered major when it is perceived to be so by those affected.
  • It can either be positive or negative.

Most people equate change with having no control.  This feeling of no control manifests itself in fear.

Keep in mind:

  • The only thing you can control about change is your reaction to it.
  • Before you can deal with change, you have to accept that it has happened.
  • Resistance is defined as the energy an individual puts out, consciously or not, to maintain the status quo. It is important to realize that resistance is not necessarily an indication that things are going wrong.  It simply means that people see that something big is happening.


Change is a natural part of life, both at home and work. We may not have control over all the job-related changes that come our way, but we can find positive ways to face them. Following are some suggestions to help you and your employees manage change effectively:

  • Tell yourself the truth. Allow yourself to be upset, worried or sad.
  • Reach out to others. Discuss your feelings with supportive coworkers, friends, family, or an EAP Counsellor.
  • Stay focused. Use “to-do” lists to keep your goals clear.
  • Be patient. It takes time to sort through all your emotions and adjust.
  • Let go of the past. Keep moving forward. Prepare yourself with a positive attitude and new skills.
  • Reflect on what you’ve learned. Ask yourself, “What have I learned from this experience?” Remember any successful coping techniques you used that may help you handle future changes.


As a manager, you need to be able to recognize resistance to change, and deal with this resistance in a positive manner.

Resistance is defined as the energy an individual puts out, consciously or not, to maintain the status quo. It is important to realize that resistance is not necessarily an indication that things are going wrong. It simply means that people see that something big is happening.

Resistance can take many forms:

  • Lack of commitment, apathy, denial, skepticism, avoidance, or protest.

It can be overt or covert:

  • Overt resistance manifests itself through public means such as memos, meetings, one-on-one or public behaviours. It is more constructive than covert resistance, as it can at least be heard and addressed.
  • Covert resistance is hidden, and can go unnoticed until it destroys a project. It takes the form of clandestine unrest, from indirect complaining to outright sabotage. It is usually the result of low trust and inadequate participation.


When dealing with resistance, a manager can draw on these key skills:

  • Ability to identify when resistance is taking place;
  • Capacity to support/encourage the people in expressing resistance openly/directly;
  • Capability to deal positively with resistance;
  • Effective listening skills;
  • Ability to NOT take it personally; and
  • Capacity to identify appropriate actions.

It is important that you are able to deal positively with resistance face-to-face.  This can be done by following these steps:

  • Surface the Resistance– Make the expression of resistance as safe as possible and ask for it all.
  • Honour the Resistance– Listen, acknowledge the resistance, and reinforce that it is permissible to resist.
  • Explore the Resistance– Ensure that the resistance is authentic (directed toward a specific demand) rather than pseudo (stemming from resentment, old grudges, or a need for attention) and probe the resistance – ask the resistor “what would you prefer?” and develop agreement about actions to be taken.
  • Recheck– Recheck the status of the current resistance and agreements to provide closure and ensure that no agreement is forgotten.