Canadian HR Reporter

November 2019 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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Page 22 of 23

CANADIAN HR REPORTER NOVEMBER 2019 INSIGHT 23 The quantum physics of social interaction People with autism just need time to adapt — and then they'll knock your socks off One of the clues that I may be on the autism spectrum was when I was watching a TV drama about a young man who wasn't get- ting along with kids at school. As they were investigating the kid, it became apparent he watched movies and was mimicking the behaviour of people in the shows. He was studying these movies to understand how people com- municate and try to be normal. ey said he was autistic and sud- denly the premise of the investiga- tion changed — they weren't look- ing for a threat, they were looking for a potential victim. I don't remember much of the show, but that one point stood out and I researched it. It turns out that it isn't uncommon for high- functioning autistic types to study behaviour to try and understand what people see and try to fit in. ey are sorely aware that they are different — not "normal" — and want so desperately to be like everyone else that they go through a process of study, observation and application. Essentially, they do what autistics do best. I did this. All my life, I have stud- ied, observed and applied. I always thought I was just an avid people watcher. I have always been fasci- nated with what people might be feeling based on their behaviour, body language or what they said. I have been told that I am very em- pathic and intuitive. I was always confused by this — to me, I was just connecting dots, doing math. It isn't that I am intuitive or have special empathy, it is more like a database of social interactions. I have millions of data points where, based on observation and attention to detail, the points just add up. "ese words plus these facial expressions, multiplied by body language X and Y, equals this out- come with a probability of this percentage. Response should be with these words, with this body language and this level of physical connection. Outcome of said re- sponse has a probability of accep- tance of this percentage. Engage." People with autism aren't so- cially incompetent, we are just socially unaware. We know there is something going on that we miss, so we try to discover it us- ing the scientific method that comes naturally to us. To become aware, we use our super powers of observation, analysis, strategic planning and math. We can do the math quickly because we also retain a lot of in- formation. We make connections and draw conclusions based on all of that data. We can typically see potential outcomes but, as al- ways, humans are unreliable. is confuses us — the math doesn't always add up. First day on the job e problem we have is new situa- tions, like a new job. We know we come across as strange and don't quite "jive" with the rest of the group. We prepare for this. We know we make mistakes and misinterpret situations and events. We err on the side of being friendly and trusting people, even though we know deep down it will wreck us emotionally when we discover our error. We are also not robots — we actually feel intensely, so be- trayal and sudden counter-infor- mation is a shock, a deep, scarring, emotional shock to us. An "Aspie" can adapt to new situations, but we need to estab- lish the data points. We act, func- tion and make decisions based on previous data. In a new company or a new situation, we rely on the data until we have to adjust. e problem in the workforce is that businesses, especially in this day and age of near hysterical political correctness, don't or can't afford to allow people on the au- tism spectrum to make mistakes. We have to recalibrate our data, we have to be able to make mis- takes without having an immedi- ate investigation or firing. Often, it is a misunderstand- ing, mostly by us being unaware but also by the new coworkers because we don't fit in. is is why it is difficult for peo- ple with autism to keep jobs. is is why it is terrifying to change jobs. is is also why we don't tell our coworkers that we have autism, typically. We are either ostracized or treated as invalids — or both. Even writing this article terri- fies me because I rarely ever had a good experience in a large com- pany even before I knew I was on the spectrum. My fear is that out- ing myself will prevent me from achieving what my drive and in- nate abilities can accomplish. We all fear this. Companies that want to hire people with autism need to under- stand this principle. We can't be hired and dropped into the gen- eral population and expected to flourish without some assistance. We need time to adapt. We need a plan and we need a manager — an advocate — who understands that we are adapting but also help us understand how better to adapt. We don't need babysitting and protecting, we are fine with mak- ing mistakes if we feel safe — that helps us with the math. We know we will require a little more at- tention than others, usually, but once we know our lanes and we have our data points set, we can be trusted to be left alone to do the work and do it well. ere is a lot more I can say on this, but in the meantime, do more than say you want diversity. To harness the power that a person with autism brings to the table, create an environment and find your autism whisperers. Eventu- ally, you will have a loyal tribe of social mathematicians who will knock your socks off. Rick Jacobs is a learning strategist, leader and mentor and founder of Quantum Knowledge Strategic Solu- tions in Phoenix, Ariz. For more infor- mation, visit Can a manager's micromanagement be considered bullying and harassment? There's a fine line between pressuring employees and actual bullying Question: Can a manager's micromanag- ing of an employee's entire workday and list of tasks be considered bullying and harassment if it makes the employee feel pressured? Answer: Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their workers. is includes an obligation to keep employees safe from bullying and harassment in the workplace. In most Canadian jurisdic- tions, workplace bullying and harassment is addressed in work- ers' compensation legislation, occupational health and safety regulations or policy. In British Columbia, for example, WorkSafe BC Policy D3-115-2 requires em- ployers to take all reasonable steps to prevent workplace bullying and harassment. To prevent and deal with work- place bullying and harassment, employers should implement measures such as: • developing a policy statement with respect to workplace bul- lying and harassment not being acceptable or tolerated • taking steps to prevent where possible, or otherwise mini- mize, workplace bullying and harassment • developing and implementing procedures for workers to report incidents or complaints of work- place bullying and harassment, and for how the employer will investigate and deal with such incidents and complaints • training supervisors and work- ers on bullying and harassment and the employer's policy and procedures. WorkSafe BC defines bullying and harassment as including any inappropriate conduct or com- ment by a person toward a worker that the person knew or reason- ably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humili- ated or intimidated. However, the definition spe- cifically excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the manage- ment and direction of workers or the place of employment. Managers and supervisors are not held to a standard of perfec- tion and are entitled to a consider- able amount of leeway when they are exercising their authority to manage and direct workers and the employer's operation. However, this authority must be exercised reasonably and in good faith, for legitimate work- related purposes and in a manner that is not abusive, demeaning or hostile. Where an employee alleges that micromanagement by her man- ager constituted bullying and ha- rassment, the question is whether the manager's conduct represent- ed a reasonable and good-faith exercise of management authority or crossed the line into bullying, harassing or abusive behaviour. Two decisions illustrate how this issue is typically addressed. In Decision No. 317/171, [2017] OWSIATD No. 1243 (Ont. Work- place Safety and Appeals Trib.), the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal considered a situation where an employee complained that his su- pervisor was bullying and harass- ing him. e employee's claims included allegations that his supervisor had required the employee to move his desk just outside the supervi- sor's office so the supervisor could overhear his conversations, had humiliated him in front of others, had never said hello to him in the morning and had criticized his work unreasonably. e employee said this conduct made him feel nervous and anx- ious, and that he feared coming to work because he didn't know what his supervisor would do next. After reviewing the evidence, the tribunal found that while the supervisor had a management style that was tough and may even have amounted to micromanage- ment, the supervisor's conduct never crossed the line into bul- lying and harassment as it rep- resented reasonable exercise of management authority. Conversely, in Toronto Tran- sit Commission v. Amalgamated Transit Union (Stina Grievance), [2004] O.L.A.A. No. 565 (Ont. Arb.), the arbitrator found that the employee had been the victim of workplace abuse and harassment by his supervisor. e supervisor had constantly and unfairly singled the employee out for not working, while ignor- ing the conduct of coworkers who behaved in the same way. The employee was only allowed to use his phone during lunch and coffee breaks, while others could use their phones whenever they wanted. As the supervisor paid special attention to this employee, other workers began to keep a distance from him for fear of being tar- geted, too. e complainant al- ways received bad performance reviews from this supervisor but never from the other supervisors with whom he worked in the same workplace. e employee was not allowed to leave early on the day before his vacation while all other work- ers were permitted to do so. e employee was followed into the washroom by his supervisor and watched while he washed his hands on numerous occasions. All of these actions by the supervi- sor were conducted continuously over a number of years. e arbitrator concluded that the supervisor had abused his au- thority and awarded the worker $25,000 in general damages. Colin G.M. Gibson is a partner at Harris & Company in Vancouver. He can be reached at (604) 891-2212 or Rick Jacobs Guest Commentary Colin Gibson Toughest HR Question "We can't be hired and expected to flourish without some assistance."

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