Half of Canada’s workforce “dragged down” by office negativity

A new Ipsos-Reid poll indicates that half of working Canadians have issues fitting in their workplace. Apparently one in three feel ‘dragged down’ by a negative work atmosphere.

The survey also reveals that younger workers are more likely to be disappointed with their work experience. More than a quarter (28 per cent) of younger respondents said their experience is worse than they expected, versus just 10 per cent of workers 55 and older.

Workers in the 18 to 34 age group are much more likely (37 per cent) to be affected by negative work environment than those aged 35 to 54 (30 per cent) or employees 55 and above (20 per cent).

The fact that a “negative” work environment has a bigger impact on younger workers is important – given that a significant proportion of workforce will be going into retirement, says Gail Rieschi, president and CEO of HR services firm vpi Inc.

Mississauga, Ont. based Vpi Inc.  offers services aimed at optimizing employee productivity and assists people in finding employment.

Whose responsibility is it to foster a positive and wholesome company culture?

Experts say it’s a task that both business owners and employees must participate in.

Misalignment between company’s culture and employee expectations can contaminate the work environment big time, they say.

Rieschi cites four reasons why employees may feel they are being ‘dragged down’ at work.

  • Lack of belonging – often the result of a mismatch between the values and interests of the individual and the company.


  • Feeling stifled – When the worker believes he or she is being micromanaged or is not being given any latitude to develop within their own work style.
  • No sense of personal achievement –  This could be missing, says Rieschi, even though someone may be achieving all the company goals. If employees don’t have a way of measuring their performance,  they may feel they aren’t making a contribution.


  • No recognition – The employee feels there is no acknowledgement of their hard work and accomplishments.

Another expert urges managers to remember that young workers, especially recent graduates, are used to having their accomplishments recognized.

They’ve just emerged from an environment where their work is graded and given a definite value, and it  gave them a way to estimate their own progress, says Baha Habashy, founder of Integrity+ Consulting firm.

Integrity+Consulting, based in Markham, Ont., helps organizations, leaders, and knowledge workers deal with stress caused by information and work overload.

Habashy say’s he’s not surprised younger employees are more adversely affected by workplace negativity than their older colleagues.

Younger workers, he noted, have recently emerged from an academic environment where they were encouraged to be creative, empowered with constructive feedback, and associated with supportive peers.

They lose much of this in the corporate world, he noted.

More than one in 10 (12 per cent) respondents to the Ipsos-Reid poll said they felt like outsiders in their workplace – with nine per cent complaining they didn’t fit well within their workplace’s culture.

Another three per cent think they are complete misfits, saying they ‘hate’ the culture and ‘don’t fit in at all.’

Young workers’ negative feelings may also stem from expectations to move up the ladder faster, Rieschi says – expectations they may feel are being thwarted or aren’t met fast enough.

“Our sense is younger workers are less patient with that evolving process and they expect to move up more quickly than the prevailing corporate culture would allow,” she says.

Lack of mobility within the company often spurs them to look outside, experts say.

This job hopping trend is one that has been developing over the past 15 years, says Tom Limoncelli, author and independent consultant on time-management for IT admins and stress-free functioning in the workplace.

“My father worked for two companies in his whole career, but people today change jobs a lot more frequently. I think it’s a generational change.”

He says it is normal for IT employees to change jobs every two to three years.

Based on his experience, he says, it takes a team a certain amount of time to size up one other’s strengths and weaknesses – and only after that can the team – as a whole – optimize its performance.

In days when people rarely changed jobs it was easier for a team to get to the high performance level. “But today. more often than not, your team always has at least one new person and is trying to get back to that high performing team mode.”

Limoncelli says companies need to do two things: learn to embrace negativity and focus on educating new hires about the corporate culture.

He says often in the IT and engineering world, negativity can be misinterpreted.

In most engineering projects, there’s one way the initiative could be successful, and 50 ways it could fail. “So engineers are very focused on remedying those 50 failures.”

However, often outsiders see this as emphasis on the negative and get concerned, Limoncelli says.

It’s important for management to not fear negativity but embrace it as preventing failure, he says.

“Engineers are also the quintessential problem solvers.  We discuss failure so we can be aware of it and prevent it.”

The consultant urges companies to educate employees on the corporate culture and what’s expected of them. “This is often left to chance or assumed to happen automatically.”

But today companies need to articulate their culture is, communicate it to all managers and then begin from the first day, to educate new employees about the corporate expectations and ways of doing business, he says.

Reischi says it’s important that important company initiatives are a true reflection of what it the culture is today and not what you want it to be.

“I would caution to hire based on your current culture, not where you want to be.”

Once the company is aware of its culture, she says, it becomes easier look for talent that fits.

It’s an employee’s own responsibility to make sure his or her strengths are a good fit in the work culture, says Habashy, “First define what you would like to be then you can discover what you like to do.”

He says one of the things he does with his clients is identify ‘what makes them tick.’ By learning what they are passionate about and focusing on it they can also identify a company that is the best fit for them.

According to Rieschi, a healthy company turnover rate is eight per cent – much lower than the Canadian average of 22 per cent.

There are new software tools companies are using to help them find candidates that are a fit for the position – and can adapt to the

The human resource department at VPI supports the use of job matching software says Rieschi.

But ultimately, they’re just tools, she notes. “That’s their strength and their weakness and if if not used properly, they can be more damaging than useful.”


She says the best tools help you do an analysis of the job and the organization first and then compare the candidate to the profile of the job and the organization, “It’s a two part process. It allows you to breakdown the human factors of the job and the values of the organization.”

The individual is then assessed and their answers compared to that profile giving you a better opportunity to determine fit. However she cautions that the timing as to when you give the candidate this test is essential.

“That’s not the last step, you would use those findings to ask questions to the candidate and probe further during an interview process.”

At VPI they give the test to those short-listed from their first interview process and discuss them the results in the second interview, “It allows us to drill down on some of the shady areas or areas of uncertainty that were identified by the assessment.”

However if your company cannot afford new software Habashy recommends  The Gallop Strength Finder, a $22 book with a simple Web-based survey.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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