EXCLUSIVE: Bullying charges levelled at civil servants

Two managers ordered off job
theres_no_crying_in_management_tile_coasterTwo managers in a government department are off work and an independent investigation is underway due to concerns about bullying and intimidation in the workplace. The move comes after employees in two units of the Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Department participated in a workplace assessment survey in December. Participants were asked to comment confidentially on their work environment and any related concerns. The assessment was conducted “with the intention of understanding the current issues, what’s working well, what we can do to improve, and support the development of an action plan for us to move forward positively,” Nancy MacLellan, then-executive director of Access Nova Scotia, wrote in an email. The email, along with others, was shared with The Chronicle Herald. Two months after the survey was announced, staff were informed two other unidentified managers would be out of the office until further notice. “They have been advised not to contact staff during their absence so please refer them to me if you are contacted,” Darlene Joyce, then-acting executive director of service delivery at the department, wrote in an email. Eight days later, Joyce advised staff the decision to remove the two people was “in accordance with the respectful workplace policy.” The results of the assessment prompted the department’s deputy minister to conclude that “issues brought forward during this assessment must be addressed through another means,” Joyce wrote. “He has therefore asked that a formal independent investigation be conducted into allegations of harassment, bullying and intimidation.” HRA, a Prince Edward Island firm specializing in labour relations and human resources, is conducting the investigation. According to Joyce’s email, the final report and recommendations are expected by the end of this month. On Wednesday, a government spokesman said the department could not say whether the two employees were suspended or on leave because the matter is still being investigated. Workplace concerns within the public service in general, and the department specifically, aren’t new.
Untitled-1In the 2013 government employee engagement survey, one-quarter of responding Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations employees said they have experienced workplace bullying. Fewer than half the total survey respondents said they feel valued. Polling on communication with senior department leaders also yielded poor results. Those results have prompted senior members of the Public Service Commission to find ways to change the workplace environment and culture. The Liberal government has also attempted to improve the situation. Within a few months of coming to power, Premier Stephen McNeil met with employees of all government departments and created the premier’s suggestion box, which allows staff to send anonymous concerns directly to his office. Laura Lee Langley, Nova Scotia’s public service commissioner, said in an interview Wednesday there is much more attention, in general, on the effects of bullying in the workplace and the province takes such allegations seriously. Langley said she doesn’t think the problem is rampant across government. The fact that people feel comfortable reporting their concerns is a good thing, she said. “I do think that we are paying more attention and that people are feeling a little more safe to bring those things forward, maybe, because of the (respectful workplace) policy.” Although there are “a couple of dozen” outstanding respectful workplace complaints across government, none of them approach the magnitude of this case, she said. “There is a new heightened awareness across the country … around these kinds of things, and I think what we’re really trying to do is put the right resources in place to deal with them as they come up and refine those resources as we go along to make sure that we’ve got them right.” by Michael Gorman Provincial reporter for the Herald News, March 13, 2014.

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