Canadian HR Reporter

April 2021 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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2 N E W S So, how does this happen? How do such high-level leaders get hired on only to fall from grace because of toxic behaviour? Slipping through the cracks Most of the time, regardless of the level of position, it's when process isn't followed, says Henry Goldbeck of Goldbeck Recruiting in Vancouver. "That's what happened with the governor general… The prime minister did not follow process that had been established and had worked in the past, and [he] hired on a whim, based on credentials, based on whatever was on his mind. But that person was not vetted through a regular process." There should always be a regular process that includes several interviews, along with reference checks and psycho- metric testing, says Goldbeck. "You do all of these steps to eliminate risk. And when that process isn't followed, that's when things can happen." In addition, many executives are still hired through friends and acquaintances, he says. "There's not a great track record of those being successful. Really, it comes down to the same thing: If you're hiring for a certain position, you want to look at a large enough pool of potentially quali- fied candidates and put them through a process of deciding on the best candidate, the best fit and then vet those candidates." In many cases, there's a small network of people considered, says Dan Brown, managing partner at Boyden in Saskatoon. "A board of directors or a company owner thinks, 'Hey, this is a great person to come in and run my organization' without doing a deep dive into that person's background. So, it's that mistake says Patricia Faison Hewlin, associate professor of organizational management at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montreal. "That's why a lot of leaders are able to get away with negative behaviours, because employees are afraid to speak… When they do, that means that… prob- ably, this is behaviour that has happened over a long period of time, and employees have had enough." When people reach the executive level, it's often assumed that leadership expe- rience on the resumé translates into emotional intelligence and a people-ori- ented mindset, she says. "It could be that the people component is simply ignored, which is completely irresponsible… And the ability to get things done is what's really often consid- ered the core virtue of leadership: 'She gets things done; he gets things done,'" says Faison Hewlin. "No one is really thinking about… the 'how' ― how is the leader actually getting things done, through the teams, the people who support the leader? So, that's how, oftentimes, toxic leaders can slip right through the cracks because no one's really focusing on the people component and… how they motivate employees." It can also depend on how toxic lead- ership is defined, says Julie Jonas, prin- cipal in the leadership practice at Odgers Berndtson in Toronto. "There are some leaders who intention- ally can be toxic… They are the kind of people who are greedy or self-serving or use manipulation to get what they want. And that's obviously a recipe for disaster. But then there's unintentional toxic leaders who maybe just don't know better or who haven't been given the right support. And I'd say those are more common." Payette always needed to be super of familiarity: 'Oh, we know this person, we think they've got a good track record on paper, let's hire them.' And then they get in there and they realize there's behavioural issues or communication issues or leadership issues, and it can have that drastic impact." The other side of it is failure to do a full background check, he says. "There was a reputation [with Payette] of toxic leadership in previous organiza- tions as well. But she was a big name and, obviously, a high-profile individual that the government moved forward with, maybe without doing a full due diligence into that person's background," says Brown. "If you skip any of those steps or if you cut corners in that process or take things for granted, that's where mistakes can happen and you end up with a leader that does not… add to the culture that you're looking to create." Plus, many employees don't feel comfortable speaking up because they're concerned about the backlash, competitive and was highly focused on training and studies, and she had worked with other high achievers and pace-set- ters. But then she became a leader in the public service and suddenly she's the odd person out, says Alain Ishak, managing partner at Russell Reynolds in Montreal. "She probably misread the environ- ment… Our governor general was toxic in that environment; she was a star within the space program," he says. "With the governor general, it's reputation-based hiring; that's it." Assessing for fit, leadership qualities That's why organizations are asking more and more that executive hires be tested for personality and culture fit, he says. "Most of them have had a lot of success everywhere. So [employers are] not asking us to determine if the person can be successful. They're asking us: 'Can this person be successful in our environment?'" In working with a selection committee or board, it's about looking for the charac- teristics that don't make for great leaders, such as arrogance, overconfidence, narcissism or a hierarchical authoritarian style, says Jonas. Instead, traits such as compassion, humility, emotional intelligence and grat- itude make for a strong leader. "These are all things that go along with someone who has a greater level of self-awareness and a greater level of emotional intelligence. Because they're better able to read the room, they're better able to build relationships, they know their own flaws, they're interested in working on them. Those are things that teams are going to respond to more positively," she says. NEGATIVE CULTURES NOT GOING AWAY Source: "You do all of these steps to eliminate risk. And when that process isn't followed, that's when things can happen." Henry Goldbeck, Goldbeck Recruiting 53% Percentage of workers who say their organization does not address toxicity issues 48% Percentage who say their organi- zation does not have funding to promote a healthy workplace 40% Percentage who will not put greater emphasis on address- ing toxicity in the coming years 20% Percentage who say their leaders are good at preventing problems before they begin Toxic leadership> pg. 1

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