CBC

Employee Engagement Surveys (And Doing Them Well)

2015 was a really bad year for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). At the start of the year, business correspondent Amanda Lang was accused of being in a conflict of interest for her reporting on an issue involving the Royal Bank of Canada while having a personal relationship with a RBC executive. (Lang later left the CBC for a new job with Bloomberg TV.) Then radio host Jian Ghomeshi lost his job because of incidents that resulted in him being charged with one count of choking and five counts of sexual assault – and CBC management’s awkward handling of that situation led to the firing of two top executives. And then TV host Evan Solomon was fired after allegations that he exploited his work-related connections to sell high-priced artworks. (He found a new job on satellite radio and as a magazine columnist.)

There was one bright spot for the CBC in October when the decidedly anti-CBC Conservative party was defeated in the Canadian federal election. The potential for change in the CBC’s relationship with Canada’s federal government, which funds the CBC’s operations, was characterized by retired CBC journalist Linden MacIntyre as “the people that are the custodians of this publicly owned institution no longer seem[ing] to hate it” – but the CBC is still struggling with the fallout from the traumatic events that marred its reputation in the past year.

An external review of the CBC workplace was commissioned after (more…)

Friday Follow-Ups

Updates on two posts from earlier this year:

  • And on a related note, two weeks earlier the CBC ombudsman issued a ruling that Lang violated the CBC’s conflict of interest policy, by not revealing personal connections to the Royal Bank of Canada before she interviewed the bank’s CEO. The text of that ruling is here.

Amanda Lang, the CBC, and Journalistic Standards

Amanda Lang, CBC News’ “senior business correspondent” and the host of the CBC-TV show The Exchange with Amanda Lang, has recently been the subject of some controversy. In the last few weeks of 2014, it was alleged that she violated CBC’s conflict of interest policies by accepting paid speaking engagements from companies that she then “favourably” covered on her TV show. Then in early January it was alleged that she had lobbied within CBC News to downplay a story about the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) outsourcing jobs held by Canadian workers, when in the past she had given paid speeches at RBC-sponsored events. It also emerged that Lang was involved in a personal relationship with an RBC executive.

In a newspaper op-ed column, Lang denied the allegations of improper influence and defended her integrity – a response that was not well received. CBC subsequently banned its on-air staff from making paid appearances at non-CBC events, and, last week, announced that an “internal review” had found that Lang’s coverage did not violate CBC’s “journalistic standards”.

This series of events was deeply distressing to anyone who cares about the integrity of Canada’s publicly-funded national broadcaster – especially when the allegations involving Lang came directly after the allegations of workplace harassment by CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, followed by multiple criminal charges being laid against him. What was also distressing in Lang’s case was that both she and the CBC didn’t seem to understand that a perceived conflict of interest can be as damaging as an actual conflict of interest. Lang’s dismissing the allegations as “malevolent” and “utterly unwarranted” was ill-advised, and in my opinion only made the situation that much worse.

I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with much of Lang’s television work. But recently, while looking for something else entirely in the CBC’s online video archives, I came across a recent interview on her show that was so appalling (more…)

Human Resource Management and the CBC

One of the biggest stories in work & organizations in Canada right now is the ongoing workplace scandals at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. At first, attention was focused on the firing of former radio host Jian Ghomeshi.  In the first week of 2015, Ghomeshi was charged with three more counts of assault, and  two CBC executives were placed on indefinite “leaves of absence”. But now another controversy has arisen that involves a different CBC employee – senior business correspondent Amanda Lang. According to a report quoting another CBC reporter, Lang intervened in the CBC’s coverage of a news story involving a company that Lang was paid to give speeches to; she also had a personal relationship with an executive at that company.

Before last week, it might have been possible to attribute CBC management’s ineffective strategy of dealing with Ghomeshi – which seemed to be to ignore or downplay signs of trouble for as long as possible – to the challenges of an exceptional situation that even the most experienced executive would have trouble handling. But the news about Lang’s alleged behaviour – which the CBC again seemed to manage by denial and by downplaying dissent – raises the very serious possibility that CBC has a systemic and widespread problem with its workplace culture and its human resource management practices.

A reader of this blog contacted me to point out one part of the CBC story that has largely gone unnoticed. This part involves Todd Spencer, who is CBC’s “executive director, people and culture” and is one of the two executives currently on leave. (more…)

Executives and Harassment in Organizations: An Interview with David Yamada

The New Year has started off with new developments in the story of disgraced CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi. On January 5, the CBC announced that two of its executives – Chris Boyce, the executive director of CBC radio, and Todd Spencer, the “executive director of people and culture” for CBC’s English-language operations – had been placed “on leave until further notice”. Then on January 7, what was supposed to be a routine court appearance for Ghomeshi turned into something more, as three new criminal charges were laid against him – including one involving a former CBC employee.

Ghomeshi now faces seven charges of sexual assault and one charge of overcoming resistance by choking. He has pleaded not guilty to all eight counts, and his next court appearance is scheduled for early February.

When events like this involve a workplace, there’s always the issue of whether the organization responded appropriately to the behaviour in question. In most organizations, executive positions at Boyce and Spencer’s level have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring safety and respect in the workplace. But there might be many layers of responsibility and authority between that executive level and the level at which the unacceptable behaviour is taking place. So how accountable should executives be for workplace events which they might not have had direct control over?

To get some perspective on that question, (more…)

Protecting the Workplace “Star”

Last week, in light of the ongoing revelations in the story of former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi, the Financial Post ran a column entitled “Don’t be the CBC: How employers should handle allegations of violence and workplace harassment”. The column contained some good basic recommendations for employers on dealing with incidents of harassment or abuse against their employees: e.g. knowing the law, training front-line managers, involving unions, and using outside experts to conduct investigations and assessments. However, one of the column’s recommendations – “avoid protecting the ‘star’” – really deserves a column of its own. Because that recommendation touches on a key issue that’s often overlooked in identifying and preventing workplace harassment –  counteracting workplace cultures that implicitly support harassment and abuse.

The CBC, unfortunately, seems to be providing a very good example of how these sorts of workplace cultures can flourish. Although much of the discussion of the Ghomeshi story is around Ghomeshi’s non-work behaviour, one of the women who spoke out after his firing is a CBC employee. She alleges (more…)

Union Grievance Procedures and the Jian Ghomeshi Story

Just over three weeks ago, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) fired Jian Ghomeshi, the host of its radio show Q. The CBC stated that the reason for the firing was “information” that “preclud[ed]” it from continuing to employ him. Since then, a number of women have come forward with allegation that Ghomeshi physically attacked them while they were dating him. Three of these allegations are being investigated by the Toronto police. Ghomeshi is suing the CBC for $55 million for allegedly dismissing him on the basis of a “moral judgement” about his sex life. He also announced on Facebook that he would also be filing a grievance for reinstatement.

A big part of the discussion of this story is about Ghomeshi’s workplace behaviour – since one of the first allegations of abusive behaviour was from another CBC employee – and whether the CBC adequately fulfilled its responsibility as an employer to provide a safe, harassment-free work environment. However, there is a major difference between Ghomeshi’s employment situation and the employment situations of many other high-profile media personalities in Canada and elsewhere. Ghomeshi is a union member – and that means that his situation will likely be managed differently than if he wasn’t part of a union.

Some commentators on the Ghomeshi story – particularly those from outside Canada – apparently don’t understand how grievances work in unionized workplaces in Canada, how a grievance might relate to Ghomeshi’s lawsuit, or the responsibility of his union in representing him. I think it’s important to be clear on those issues, (more…)

A Missed Opportunity in the British Columbia Teachers’ Labour Dispute

As the Canadian readers of this blog know, British Columbia’s elementary and secondary school teachers are currently engaged in a series of rotating strikes, because of the lack of progress in negotiations for a new collective agreement. The British Columbia government has responded by declaring a partial lockout, in which teachers will have restricted access to school property. The government also instituted a 10% pay cut for teachers, claiming that the teachers are not carrying out all of their job duties. (The government and the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) spent an entire day in a hearing at the BC Labour Relations Board, arguing over the legality of the government’s actions; the LRB eventually dismissed the BCTF’s complaint, ruling that the government’s actions were within the parameters of the agreed-upon essential services guidelines.)

I’ve done (more…)