- The Office of the Ombud for Mental Health and Employee Well-Being
- A Message from the Ombud for Mental Health and Employee Well-Being
- 2020–2021 Annual Report: Executive summary and key recommendations
- A healthy and respectful workplace: Diversity and inclusion are key
- Diversity and inclusion in the public service
- Diversity and inclusion at ISED
- The ISED Ombud's first virtual Indigenous sharing circle
- Our programs and services: The 2020–2021 year in review
- COVID-19 and ISED: The ongoing impact on our employees
- ISED: COVID-19 and beyond
- Findings for 2020–2021 and recommendations for the future
- Meet the Ombud and Associate Ombud:
- We're here to help
The Office of the Ombud for Mental Health and Employee Well-Being
A passionate team of informal conflict management and harassment prevention professionals who provide an accessible, safe space for ISED employees to address difficulties in the workplace. Our team also includes dedicated employees supporting the programming of the Canadian Innovation Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace.
We strive to create a healthy, positive and productive work environment for all ISED employees, at all levels within the organization and from every part of Canada, and to share our best practices in mental health and employee well-being throughout the federal public service.
A federal public service that embraces authentic, open and stigma-free dialogue on mental health issues based on compassion.
A Message from the Ombud for Mental Health and Employee Well-Being
Keep calm and communicate, collaborate, care
As I reflected on the work of the Ombud's Office and my team over the course of the 2020–2021 fiscal year, I came to the realization that our work in the Ombud's Office will never be completed. This is not a bad thing. Organizations, like the people who are part of them, change constantly: We evolve and we adapt to our ever-changing world. After all, who could have predicted the titanic changes we have seen in the world since the COVID-19 pandemic altered every element of our lives? We can, however, hope, and our hope would be to influence positive culture change that drives us ever forward toward a healthy and productive—as well as diverse and inclusive—workplace.
In the Ombud's Office, statistics speak volumes about the value of resolving workplace conflicts or issues through informal services (mediation, coaching, consultations). I am encouraged to see how the Office is well positioned to provide support at any time, and even more so during the pandemic.
- 95% of clients would recommend the Ombud's Office as a resource to resolve conflict in the workplace.
- 96% of clients stated that the Ombud made them feel comfortable and that it was easy to have a conversation.
- Our mediation success rates have been above 90% over the past three years.
- More than 87% of Ombud clients have remained within ISED even if their initial intention during the first consultation was to leave ISED (40% expressed they wanted to find another job or leave no matter what happened).
- 8.5% of ISED employees and managers reached out to the Ombud or the CPER team to proactively resolve workplace issues.
- At ISED, the harassment rate went down from 16% in 2018 to 9% in 2020, lower than the Government of Canada average of 11% for 2020.
That being said, we will always have to pay attention to some areas where we could do better. This report speaks to the psychosocial factors we identified during confidential meetings as areas for improvement, such as how we provide psychological and social support to our employees and colleagues, how we get employees engaged through clear leadership expectations, how we support a culture of civility and respect, and how we foster an organizational culture where every employee feels their personal values are strongly aligned with the values of the department.
In this annual report, my third as Ombud for Mental Health and Employee Well-Being at ISED, we continue to look at how we can build a healthy and respectful workplace, but this year, we do so through the lens of diversity and inclusion (D&I). Our surveys and interactions with ISED employees are increasingly showing us how important this subject is to them. As we report, some 83% of employees who responded to the November 2020 Check-in Survey considered it important that ISED have a skilled and diverse workforce that is representative of the population we serve, while 76% place the same importance on representation in the executive cadre. Moreover, a full 92% want senior leaders to model inclusive behaviours and to take an active stance against racist or discriminatory behaviours or practices.
In addition to the pandemic, 2020–2021 also brought into sharper focus the critical importance of reconciliation here in Canada. In that spirit, I was very proud to have hosted the Ombud's first virtual Indigenous sharing circle with Associate Ombud Eve Nadeau in February 2021. In the tradition of sharing circles, providing a safe space for participants was crucial, and we were overwhelmed by the sincerity of those who shared their stories and their experiences as Indigenous public servants.
We were also honoured to partner with the Knowledge Circle for Indigenous Inclusion (KCII) for that sharing circle, as well as to offer guidance and support from our experience in creating the Ombud function to help KCII develop an Indigenous wellness strategy. My team and I also actively participated in the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the LGBTQ2+ Network; our CPER colleagues facilitated important conversations on diversity and inclusion–related issues throughout ISED teams, branches and sectors; and the Canadian Innovation Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace offered a number of presentations on a wide range of diversity and inclusion topics. Our interactions during all of these activities were both humbling and inspiring.
All of our work this fiscal year and our interactions with ISED employees, whether through individual and confidential consultations or group learning events focused on mental health, revealed a consistent theme: The key actions we all need to take to achieve our goals of helping each other and creating a healthy and respective workplace—not only at ISED but also across the federal public service—are continued communication, collaboration and caring. It is a theme that is relevant for employees at all levels because it affects everyone.
At the employee level, networks of all kinds are forming on a regular basis to address the various aspects of a healthy workplace, identify best practices to incorporate within our work units, and draw attention to and raise awareness of these areas.
At the core of this communicating and collaborating is, of course, caring. It is our humanity and our passions and our experiences of life that bind us—at home, at play and at work. Caring is also at the core of being a diverse and inclusive society, one in which respect for each other, regardless of our differences, is paramount.
So, while we may never reach the end goal of a perfect workplace or a perfect society, we must continue to make improvements. If we are to build better and be better, we must keep calm and continue to communicate, collaborate and care. Always.
Ombud for Mental Health and Employee Well-Being
ISED networks, communities and champions
Diversity and Inclusion
- Andrea Johnston
- Ellen Creighton
Public Service Pride and LGBTQ2+ Network
- Jason Bett
- Samra Rabie
- Surita Maddox
- Francis Bilodeau
- Eric Costen and Pier-Luc McAfee
- Kirwins Charles
InterConnex + Students
- Mark Schaan and Mary Gregory
- Eric Dagenais
Awards and Recognition
- Charles Vincent
- Steven Schwendt
- Paul Thompson
- Nipun Vats
2020–2021 Annual Report: Executive summary and key recommendations
Continued communication, collaboration and caring
Over the course of FY 2020–2021, the Ombud and the Associate Ombud met confidentially with 110 ISED employees who sought a wide range of Ombud services covering a variety of workplace-related issues; this brings the total number of consultations since the Office of the Ombud was created in October 2018 to 269.
In the majority of cases, employees were seeking advice on how to address specific situations in which they found themselves. Others wanted to make the Ombud and Associate Ombud aware of issues arising in their areas of work in the hope that some actions might be taken to make their situation better moving forward or to improve a way of conducting business within the department.
Our Conflict Prevention and Early Resolution (CPER) team engaged with 410 ISED employees over the course of the fiscal year in ways ranging from individual and team consultations to learning activities. The Canadian Innovation Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace welcomed some 25,000 federal public servants from across the country through a total of 76 virtual sessions delivered via WebEx, bringing the total number of participants to more than 40,000 since the Centre opened in May 2018.
Issues related to perceived harassment and interpersonal conflict remain the top two issues discussed during confidential consultation sessions, as they have been over the past three years of Ombud operations. In FY 2020–2021, however, we also registered double the number of conversations related to management style and mental health issues compared to the previous fiscal year. It appears that the pandemic has contributed to the rise in such cases and has resulted in some unusual and undesirable management practices, including increased micromanagement, abuse of management authority and lack of organization of work within units. This has led to some employees feeling helpless in how to manage their situations. Some clients indicated being in a worrying psychological state and sought help to identify an approach that would resolve the issue while not having negative consequences on their careers. As the Ombud's Office is characterized as a safe space, we were able to help clients address their issues without any fear of reprisals.
In November 2020, the Department conducted its second Employee COVID-19 Check-in Survey to measure the progress made since the first survey (conducted in April–May 2020), identify where further adjustments were needed to support employees, and open a dialogue on how we might work to advance diversity and inclusion within the organization. The survey also looked ahead to gather employees' views on the future of work. From the Ombuds' perspective, we were particularly interested in the state of ISED employees' mental health and well-being.
Overall, as in the first survey, the results confirmed that ISED employees remained highly engaged and confident in their ability to adapt, and a strong majority (75%) were satisfied with ISED's internal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the environment, differences that stood out in fall 2020 included the impacts of an increased workload vs capacity and an ongoing, heightened engagement in diversity and inclusion because of world and national events, including those related to Black Lives Matter and reconciliation.
Other notable differences include:
- reduced stress for employees with dependent children who had returned to school;
- an increased need for secondary equipment to improve productivity and a need for additional training in collaborative tools as use became more sophisticated; and
- an evolution in attitudes toward self-identification.
When asked in the second survey about a potential return to the office, a majority of employees (67%) indicated strong trust in senior management's approach to having appropriate safety measures in place for their return, with 11% neutral and 22% hesitant. On average, one third of employees were not comfortable with, or sufficiently informed of, return to the office plans; one third considered themselves informed; and a third were neutral. Concerns regarding office facilities were focused on common areas, elevators and air circulation, as well as public transport. Three quarters of staff (75%) said they had been satisfied with ISED's internal response to COVID-19.
In terms of transitioning and looking to what the future of work might look like, almost a quarter of employees (22%) said they were looking forward to returning to the office as soon as possible. That said, half (49%) did not expect to return until the following year, and most considered they would do so in phase three of a return to the office plan (53%). Three quarters of employees (73%) indicated their desire to continue with regular teleworking hours following a return to the office, while three quarters of employees (74%) would like the option to have flexible work arrangements moving forward.
In terms of the 13 psychosocial factors that make up the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, five main areas of vulnerability to our organization were revealed in 2020–2021:
- psychological and social support
- civility and respect
- organizational culture
- clear leadership and expectations
- professional growth and development
We look at each of these in more detail later in the report.
Our key recommendations for 2020–2021:
- Establish verbal and regular communications or check in with each of our employees in order to identify those who may need additional psychological or organizational support needs.
- Communicate proactively with employees who are regularly absent from work or who are absent for long periods. Their return to work will be accelerated and enhanced by proactive management measures, especially through open and regular communication.
- Encourage managers and employees to proactively consult with the Office of the Ombud as soon as they suspect a workplace issue may arise. Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms offer an informal and proactive way to effectively resolve workplace issues early on, before they escalate, and they help maintain the long-term professional relationship.
- Review and update the current ISED Values and Ethics Code with a view to addressing inappropriate sub-cultures that exist within the organization to better reflect organizational values, including increased diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
- Highlight and reinforce the key leadership competencies as set out by TBS to define the behaviours expected of ISED's and Canada's public service leaders—in particular, the examples of effective and ineffective behaviours for specific leadership roles (DMs, ADMs, DGs and directors).
- Implement regular and ongoing leadership communications about the organizational values of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada through multiple channels, including onboarding sessions for new executives, managers and employees.
"In the public service, it is very easy to ignore situations that are distressing and just move onto another job. However, reporting a situation that compromises your personal integrity in some way can help to prevent others from having to undergo something similar and can promote corrective measures."
A healthy and respectful workplace
Diversity and inclusion are key
In last year's annual report, we wrote: "There is no doubt that events of the past year, at home in Canada and around the world, have irreversibly changed the ways in which we live and work and interact. The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on the workforce and on how we work, as well as on employees' mental health. This crisis has added a whole new dimension to how we address both mental and physical health in the workplace and in our lives overall—neither will ever be the same again."
One year later, living with COVID-19 has become part of our everyday lives.
Yet the pandemic was not the only important social issue that pierced our conscious awareness over the course of the 2020–2021 fiscal year. Systemic racism led to the galvanization of the Black Lives Matter movement; Canadian media reported an increase in hate crimes against a variety of ethnic, racialized and religious communities; discrimination continued toward members of the LGBTQ2+ community; and the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada brought the need for reconciliation into sharp focus, among other issues.
One response was the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service from the Clerk of the Privy Council, Ian Shugart, in which he writes: "We must encourage and support the voices that have long been marginalized in our organizations. We must create opportunities where they have long been absent. We must take direct, practical actions to invoke change. This is a true test of leadership, and one we must meet head on. Now."
"Diversity and inclusion" defined
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is key to ensuring a healthy and respectful workplace. But what does "diversity and inclusion" mean?
The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion explains the concepts as follows:
- Diversity is about the individual. It is about the variety of unique dimensions, qualities and characteristics each of us possesses.
- Inclusion is about the collective. It is about creating a culture that strives for equity and embraces, respects, accepts and values difference.
- Diversity and inclusion is about recognizing the uniqueness of the individual, creating an environment that values and respects individuals for their talents, skills and abilities to the benefit of the collective.
"Diversity is being invited to the party.
Inclusion is being asked to dance."
Diversity and inclusion in the public service
Why is diversity and inclusion important?
In its 2017 final report, Building a Diverse and Inclusive Public Service, the Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion laid out the following six principles to help guide diversity and inclusion initiatives within the public service:
- Diversity and inclusion are indispensable in enhancing an organization's capacity to innovate and provide excellent service to all of Canada's people.
- A diverse workplace is one that is representative of and reflects all people in Canada.
- Promoting and supporting respect, mutual trust, equitable treatment, non-discrimination and diverse ideas is essential to achieving a healthy and productive workplace.
- An inclusive workplace is one that is bias-free and barrier-free and supports the well-being of all employees, including those who may be currently or historically disadvantaged.
- To establish an inclusive workplace, all managers must recognize individual skills, competencies, strengths and diverse work approaches and styles.
- There must be ongoing efforts to communicate, raise awareness and provide appropriate education to support diversity and inclusion across the entire organization, including engaging all employees.
Meet Jason Bett: "Public service proud"
Jason Bett is Director General of Communications with ISED and is the Champion for the department's LGBTQ2+ Network. He is also the Champion for Public Service Pride.
"It all started out as a team-building event to celebrate diversity during Ottawa Pride Weekend a few years ago," he reflects. He wanted to do something to recognize the importance of diversity, in the workplace especially, so he encouraged his team to wear Pride colours, share food and wear clothes to highlight individual employees' cultures, among other things. Afterwards, he began receiving calls about the event from colleagues in other government organizations, and from that grew the Public Service Pride Network.
"I want to help create a workplace where people can be themselves," he says, "in a culture where people's differences are respected." Jason wants people to have a voice, and if they feel they don't have one, he can help.
Help he did—and does. Jason and members of the Public Service Pride Network have been instrumental not only in creating the first Public Service Pride Week in 2019 but also in establishing the Public Service Pride Awards, which "showcase the dedication and incredible initiatives, collaborations and efforts of public servants across Canada and abroad to create a more diverse, safe, respectful, healthy and inclusive workplace for all LGBTQ2+ individuals."
Nevertheless, when Jason hears things like "we're not doing enough" or "we're not there yet," he balks and reminds us that "we are building on decades of slow yet persistent work by others who have forged the way for those of us working in the public service today; we're in a very different world now," he says. "We haven't had to live through the 'purge' as previous generations of public servants did; we just have to keep advancing issues for our community—as recently as five years ago, we didn't have Public Service Pride Week, let alone Public Service Pride Awards."
Jason also recognizes that it takes more than the LGBTQ2+ community to continue making progress, which is why he encourages everyone to join their departmental or public service-wide Pride networks. "We need proper back-up to advance files and policies," he says. "We need allies. Our networks need to be strong and visible across the entire public service."
Diversity and inclusion at ISED
In the second Employee COVID-19 Check-in Survey (November 2020), 83% of ISED employees who responded considered it important (52% said "very important") that ISED have a skilled and diverse workforce that is representative of the population it serves; 76% place the same importance on representation in the executive cadre. Moreover, 92% of survey respondents want senior leaders to model inclusive behaviours and to take an active stance against racist or discriminatory behaviours or practices.
Meet Michael Nadon: "Bridging the cultural divide"
CPER's Michael Nadon has been providing conflict-related services to management and employees in the public service since February 2006. In those 13 years, he has handled 270+ conflict resolution and ombud-related cases, which have involved approximately 430 consultations, 478 conflict coaching sessions, 120+ interviews in support of workplace assessments and their associated conflict analysis, 7 group interventions, 16 mediations, 8 informal facilitated discussions and 2 executive leadership coaching clients (under Laura Crawshaw's "Taming the Abrasive Manager" program).
A self-proclaimed "accommodator" by nature, Mike recognizes that this comes with both positives and negatives: "It means that nurturing relationships is a no-brainer, but being assertive and challenging others has been (and still is) difficult at times."
Mike's strong understanding and analysis of the science of conflict and the processes and skills necessary to help resolve conflicts and disputes have helped him address some of the work-related challenges he saw during the COVID-19 pandemic. "I had the opportunity to observe how the pandemic impacted others as part of my work," he says, adding: "The lack of human [in-person] contact created conflict in some. I was able to consider how the brain appeared to be responding to the new stimuli of constant video conferencing." From this observation, CPER was able, in its training, to bring forward tips and best practices to help colleagues adapt.
Initially, however, he and his colleagues weren't certain if their services of coaching, mediation and group work could successfully be accomplished in the new, virtual environment; they felt that a certain amount of human contact would be needed. It seems that people have adapted well, and success rates are similar to before the pandemic.
Coming out of the initial lockdown period, though, Mike recognized that you have to take care of yourself first. "Don't be resistant to getting the professional help you need and making the organization—and especially your colleagues—aware of your situation; the flexibility you will get with your recovery outstrips any feelings you may have of being exposed."
As a conflict management practitioner and a member of the Algonquin First Nation, Mike has included Indigenous processes in his work from time to time. "I have incorporated healing circles and have been guided through an Inuit approach," he says, "and I attempt to incorporate Aboriginal philosophy in my coaching, whenever it might be pertinent to the situation or the individual." But he is also open to trying processes from any culture, if they can help address and heal a situation.
"When I look back and think about my own childhood growing up and how my own culture was shaped, a lot of it was not realized in the moment, but thinking back on it, you can see how it can be impactful," he says. "I grew up in the west end of Ottawa in the 70s and 80s and was raised by a mother who was raised in the 40s and 50s on a reserve in Quebec. In those days, you did not let people know that you were French, and by the same token, you didn't let people know that you were Indian. I remember my mom saying, 'Don't tell anybody that you are Indian; there is no need for anybody to know.' There was never ever any mention or any acknowledgement of the Aboriginal culture."
Mike is encouraged to see the changes that are being made in this regard and how efforts are increasing to "address the cultural divide" between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, both in the public service and in broader Canadian society. These efforts are impacting and helping to expand our understanding of diversity and inclusion.
"Today, we are being influenced by a sweeping social trend toward eliminating discrimination and accepting diversity, and where being racist is no longer acceptable," he notes. "Microaggressions may be present, but I believe that most people are mostly curious and are trying to understand; we shouldn't be too quick to take offence at a faux pas but, rather, see such situations as an opportunity to educate."
He closes by reminding us that CPER delivers a "Civility and Respect" workshop that "touches on helping people better understand microaggressions and welcome more diversity and inclusion in all spheres of life."
The ISED Ombud's first virtual Indigenous sharing circle
In addition to a range of events presented by the Canadian Innovation Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, the Office of the Ombud delivered its first "virtual sharing circle," presented in collaboration with ISED's Indigenous Employees Network (IEN).
Some 10 ISED employees participated in this special event held on February 8, 2021, as a way of helping the Ombud and Associate Ombud better understand the challenges that Indigenous employees face in the workplace and as federal public servants. It also helped the IEN meet its goals of building and supporting "a more diverse, safe, respectful, healthy and inclusive workplace where all Indigenous employees from coast to coast feel welcomed and positively supported in their work environment." The sharing circle was particularly important in advancing not only the government's efforts toward ensuring a sincere and meaningful reconciliation but also a positive cultural shift within ISED.
The group was limited to a small number to encourage and ensure a safe space where participants were able to speak freely and share their stories. In the tradition of Indigenous sharing circles, principles such as confidentiality and absence of fear of recrimination were respected. Traditional sharing circle protocols were even adapted to the virtual world: As the traditional feather or talking stick could not be physically passed around, participants were asked to use something of personal significance in their place whenever they were speaking.
The Ombud and Associate Ombud were joined by Anna Fontaine, Visiting Executive with the Knowledge Circle for Indigenous Inclusion (KCII), who led the session, and Elder Lee Seto-Thomas, Director with the KCII, who opened and closed the circle.
Making reconciliation real: Partnering with the Knowledge Circle for Indigenous Inclusion
Reconciliation within the public service requires fundamental change and a government-wide commitment to action. That's why the Office of the Ombud for Mental Health and Employee Well-Being at ISED has partnered with the Knowledge Circle for Indigenous Inclusion (KCII).
The KCII works as a liaison between public service managers and Indigenous employees and provides "culturally competent guidance, support and advice to Indigenous employees and public service managers within a safe space. As a source of expertise, the KCII is building an inventory of smart practices in the areas of recruitment, retention, talent management, training and development, and career mobility."
Mandate of the KCII: "Supporting transformational change within the public service for Indigenous inclusion by leveraging cultural competency, collaboration and coherence"
Vision of the KCII: "A federal public service that welcomes, respects and supports Indigenous peoples in their public service career and demonstrates cultural competency, collaboration and coherence in people and talent management for Indigenous inclusion"
"I just want to say that this talk is amazing and so important. As a person of European descent, I am amazed at how much I am gaining spiritually, emotionally, from reconciliation. I hope that this type of presentation can help build allies and help heal us all."
Our programs and services: The 2020–2021 Year in Review
There are three components to ISED's integrated model for supporting the mental health and well-being of our employees: the Office of the Ombud, the Conflict Prevention and Early Resolution (CPER) unit, and the Canadian Innovation Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace.
The Office of the Ombud for Mental Health and Employee Well-Being
During the 2020–2021 fiscal year, the Ombud and the Associate Ombud met with 110 ISED employees during confidential consultations; these employees accessed a wide range of Ombud services to help them address an array of workplace issues.
In most situations, employees were seeking advice on how to address their own specific situations. Others wanted to bring to the attention of the Ombud and Associate Ombud those issues in their areas of work where actions might be taken to either improve their situation or find a better way of conducting business in the future.
Perceived harassment and interpersonal conflict remain the top two issues discussed during confidential consultation sessions, just as they have been over the past three years of Ombud operations. In FY 2020–2021, however, we also registered double the number of conversations related to management style and mental health issues compared to the previous fiscal year. It appears that the pandemic has contributed to the rise in such cases and has resulted in some unusual and undesirable management practices, including increased micromanagement, abuse of management authority and lack of organization of work within units. This has led to some employees feeling helpless in how to manage their situations. Some clients indicated being in a worrying psychological state and sought help to identify an approach that would resolve the issue while not having negative consequences on their careers.
"I find this office to be a very important resource for employees because it can guide employees in the right direction when they are confronted with discrimination, bullying, lack of understanding and/or the lack of will on the part of certain managers to resolve clear accommodation situations (especially for cases with medical limitations)."
While some of the main issues have remained consistent over the past two fiscal years, with minor increases or decreases, others show significant change. Harassment/bullying remains the number one reason for consultations with the Ombud and Associate Ombud; however, the number of cases was reduced from 38 in FY 2019–2020 to 32 in FY 2020–2021. Other significant changes are in the area of conflict of interest, which saw a nine-point decrease over the two fiscal years, while, as noted above, the number of management style and mental health issues doubled. The first full year of the pandemic and working remotely had significant impacts on ISED employees who sought our help.
Over the course of the 2020–2021 fiscal year, the Office of the Ombud not only delivered its own support services to ISED employees but also directed clients to other appropriate resources to help address their specific situations, including referring to other internal and external services, sharing with senior leaders and DMs when they needed to be made aware of situations (without identifying specifics to maintain confidentiality with clients), and liaising with other parts of the organization.
ISED managers accounted for 36% of clients who consulted the Ombud's Office during the reporting period. Some managers consulted proactively in cases involving them, often seeking coaching on how to address their specific issues. Others came to disclose situations to the Ombud, while others consulted with the Ombud's Office prior to retirement or moving to another position, in a way similar to an exit interview. Many also sought ideas and recommendations on how to implement some change in their unit that would allow them to improve the work environment and make it healthier, with the proactive goal of positively influencing the next Public Service Employee Survey results for their sector. Reaching out proactively to the Ombud's Office, either as an employee or a manager, is highly encouraged.
One of the questions we ask clients seeking our advice is what their intentions might be if their workplace issue is not resolved. As previously noted, close to 40% of Ombud clients indicated that their initial intention was to leave or find another job, regardless of the outcome. However, after either one consultation, or a series of consultations, with the Ombud's Office, 87% of them decided to remain within ISED. These statistics illustrate the importance of not suffering in silence and show that reaching out to the Ombud's Office helps to solve issues early on.
As in previous fiscal years, outreach activities played a large part in informing ISED employees, and other federal public servants, about the programs and services of the Office of the Ombud for Mental Health and Employee Well-Being. The range of activities, all of which were virtual in nature because of the pandemic and our new ways of working, enabled us to register over 6,000 participants for discussions, presentations and workshops on a variety of mental health and workplace well-being issues. We were particularly pleased to have almost 140 people at our monthly CaféOmbud sessions covering such topics as microaggression and racism, social connections, and best practices for a healthy and engaged workplace. We also held our first virtual Indigenous sharing circle with members of the ISED Indigenous Employees Network (IEN).
Conflict Prevention and Early Resolution
Reporting to the Ombud, the Conflict Prevention and Early Resolution (CPER) team's conflict management practitioners provide confidential and impartial conflict resolution services to individuals and groups, which helps to prevent and manage conflicts. More broadly, they support the creation of a cohesive, respectful, healthy and inclusive workplace. Services provided include consultations, one-on-one coaching, facilitated discussions, mediation, workplace assessments and group interventions, as well as workplace restoration following formal complaint processes.
"I learned the importance of understanding intentions—mine and how we interpret those of others—and how to focus on needs, namely the outcome I aim to achieve through a conversation plus the importance of meeting others' needs, thereby accommodating them and me and our respective needs. I was reminded to express how I feel/respond in a situation rather than making statements about others or their behaviour. I valued the encouragement to plan for difficult conversations and ideas for the type of language and sentence structures to use."
During a confidential conversation, an experienced practitioner listens to the client without judgment and assists them in exploring and articulating their needs. Based on the information shared and the client's objectives, the practitioner will explore with the client the range of service options available to address the issue.
Issues brought by employees generally deal with damaged interpersonal and work relationships (between peers, between employees and management, and within and between groups), lack of civility and respect, management practices, performance management discussions, negotiations on accommodations, human resources and organizational issues, and harassment/bullying.
"Joyce [Abarbanel] was great and I wish I had used CPER services earlier. The coaching sessions helped me to have the various conversations I needed to have in a constructive way and with clear objectives, so I actually got concrete results."
CPER team members served 2,041 clients in 2020–2021, providing 561 professional service sessions (consultations, coaching, facilitated discussions, etc.) and delivering 33 workshops. In FY 2020–2021, CPER also conducted 17 mediations, 16 of which resulted in successful agreement between the parties; the remaining mediation achieved partial agreement, bringing the mediation success rate to 94%. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team continued to deliver training workshops aimed at helping employees and managers adapt to the new working realities of managing teams remotely, delivering performance feedback in a virtual context, and building trust in a way that optimizes organizational effectiveness.
Some highlights of FY 2020–2021 for CPER:
- Delivery of Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ-i) coaching to a cohort of 35 managers at EX minus-1 and EX minus-2 levels based on the success of CPER's pilot program launched in 2019–2020
- Presentation of International Conflict Resolution Day (October 17, 2020) events, organized and delivered by CPER in collaboration with the Federal Informal Conflict Management System network and the Canadian Innovation Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, involving 343 participants in an English session and 92 in a French one
- Provision of safe space environments and conversations for teams of different sizes within ISED sectors, allowing the participants to create an atmosphere where they could share their lived experiences on issues such as microaggressions, diversity and inclusion, and workplace harassment
- Active participation in the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the LGBTQ2+ Network, as well as facilitating conversations addressing diversity and inclusion–related issues within ISED teams, branches and sectors
"From the coaching, I have been applying changes in terms of how I prepare for and navigate charged conversations, recognizing situations where what I value is different than what others value (and figuring out how to navigate this), listening more and talking less, focusing on how I want to be perceived in the workplace, debriefing (with myself, with trusted others) when things don't quite go as I would like them to have gone..."
Canadian Innovation Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace
Now in its third year, the Canadian Innovation Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace (the Centre) has proven itself to be a valuable resource for supporting the mental health and well-being of thousands of federal public servants as well as for equipping managers and leaders with tools and resources in areas that are essential for providing psychologically safe workplaces.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring of 2020, the Centre has moved to a digital platform to deliver practical workshops led by world-class mental health and well-being experts. These webinars are usually 60–90 minutes in length and include question-and-answer sessions.
"These sessions are one of the best things that came from the pandemic!"
The Centre initiative complements the offerings of the Canada School of Public Service, the Centre of Expertise for Mental Health in the Workplace at the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer of the Treasury Board Secretariat, and Health Canada—our federal strategic partners in the areas of employee mental health and well-being.
In 2021, an advisory group with diverse representation was assembled to provide the Centre with guidance on emerging issues in mental health and employee wellness, recommendations on topics that should be addressed in programing, and assistance in identifying gaps in current programming as well as in the selection of leading-edge speakers.
Using a cost-sharing model developed in 2019–2020, the Centre was able to increase the number of departments and organizations providing funding to the Centre from 4 in 2019–2020 to 14 in 2020–2021.
The Canadian Innovation Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace is empowering and equipping employees and managers to support the Federal Public Service Workplace Mental Health Strategy by driving engagement, delivering programming couched in the 13 psychosocial factors that make up the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, presenting leading-edge speakers and experts in mental health and wellness, and capturing insights from event participants.
Centre funding partners 2020–2021
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
- Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
- Canada Border Services Agency
- Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada
- Employment and Social Development Canada
- Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
- Finance Canada (Department of)
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
- Library and Archives Canada
- National Research Council Canada
- Office of the Ombudsman of Mental Health and Well-being for Small Departments and Agencies
- Privy Council Office
- Public Service Commission of Canada
In fiscal year 2020–2021, the Centre welcomed 25,000 federal public servants from coast to coast to coast for a total of 76 virtual sessions delivered via WebEx, bringing the total number of participants to more than 40,000 since the Centre's opening in May 2018.
"I had the opportunity to attend a number of sessions provided by the [Canadian Innovation Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace], and the speakers were always exceptional. I have received the same feedback from employees who also participated in those sessions."
Programming couched in the 13 psychosocial factors from the National Standard
The basis for programming at the Centre is the 13 psychosocial factors that make up the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Some examples of events linked to the factors include:
- Leadership, Mobilization and Interpersonal Skills
- Taking Care of Mental Health During COVID-19
- Thriving in COVID-19: Leadership Toolkit with Dr. Bill Howatt
- Skills for Enhancing Psychological Safety in Teams
- Mental Health During a Pandemic: A Shared Responsibility
- Workplace Mental Health: From Disability Management to Building Organizational and Individual Resiliency Pathway
"Wanted to say this was an excellent presentation and I heard a lot of great ideas that I will try to implement in my personal and work lives to increase my energy level, reduce my stress, improve my sleep, and change my attitude, etc. Many of the 'bad' things he mentioned that you shouldn't do are things I currently do in my life, but I never really thought about it until now. His concepts made sense and were clearly explained. Thank you so much!"
Leading-edge speakers and experts in mental health and wellness
At the core of the Centre's planning and operations is the identification and presentation of high-profile speakers who are experts in their fields and in a wide array of subjects, topics and themes related to employee mental health and wellness. Programming at the centre in FY 2020–2021 has also aligned with the ongoing dialogue within the public service about the "future of work."
In the second quarter of FY 2020–2021, the Centre began conducting post-event participant satisfaction surveys. An average of 88% of respondents indicated they were satisfied with the sessions they attended, and 81% of respondents felt that the sessions provided them with useful information they could apply in their workplace. In the fourth quarter, questions were added specifically on whether or not the sessions supported mental wellness: 74% of respondents believed the sessions contributed to their own personal mental wellness, while 72% indicated that the sessions equipped them to support the mental wellness of their teams, colleagues or others around them.
Canadian Innovation Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace Participant Satisfaction
COVID-19 and ISED: The Ongoing Impact on Our Employees
Employee check-in surveys paint the pandemic picture
We thank our colleagues in the Human Resources Branch and Strategic Communications and Marketing Sector for providing the following information resulting from the department's two Employee COVID-19 Check-in surveys conducted in April–May 2020 and November 2020.
In April–May 2020, the department conducted its first Employee COVID-19 Check-in Survey, which helped pinpoint where immediate action was required to improve or adjust tools, resources and guidance to better support employees in the first months of the pandemic. It also provided an opportunity to check on how the pandemic was affecting their well-being, from both a personal and a work perspective. We noted in last year's Ombud Annual Report that 71% of employees who responded to the survey reported that psychosocial factors, such as stress, anxiety and mental health issues as a result of the pandemic, affected their ability to deliver on their work.
In November 2020, the department conducted its second Employee COVID-19 Check-in Survey to measure the progress made since the first survey, identify where further adjustments were needed to support employees, and open a dialogue on how we might work to advance diversity and inclusion within the organization. The survey also looked ahead to gather employees' views on the future of work.
From the Ombuds' perspective, we were particularly interested in the state of ISED employees' mental health and well-being.
Comparison of results
Overall, as in the first survey, the results confirmed that ISED employees remained highly engaged and confident in their ability to adapt, and a strong majority (75%) were satisfied with ISED's internal response to COVID-19. Given the environment, differences that stood out in fall 2020 included the impacts of an increased workload vs capacity and an ongoing, heightened engagement in diversity and inclusion because of world and national events, including many related to Black Lives Matter and reconciliation.
Other notable differences include:
- reduced stress for employees with dependent children who had returned to school
- an increased need for secondary equipment to improve productivity and a need for increased training on collaborative tools as use became more sophisticated
- an evolution in attitudes toward self-identification
Employee mental health and well-being
In the second survey, close to 7 in 10 employees (68%) rated their mental health as good (33%), very good (24%) or excellent (11%), while (30%) rated their mental health at the time as only fair (23%) or poor (7%). Some 58% agreed that their workplace was psychologically healthy, compared to 66% from the 2019 Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) results, while 15% disagreed (compared with 17% who disagreed in the 2019 PSES). The largest factor affecting well-being was identified as workload.
Workload and well-being
Of those ISED employees who responded to the second survey, 43% felt that the pressure to deliver work had affected their well-being. This compares with 26% who felt this pressure in the spring (a 17% increase), and it was the largest factor affecting wellness. Only 40% of managers agreed that there was sufficient capacity within their teams to deliver work without incurring overtime, and 62% of managers indicated that they had taken on extra work to compensate for their team's capacity to deliver. Almost half of employees (47%) felt equipped and able to complete their work within their regular workday, while nearly one third of employees (30%) reported completing their required hours within a flexible schedule; almost one in four (23%) needed to work extra hours to complete their work.
"I just want to say thank you for getting me through November and December of 2020; it was a very tough period in my career, but now I'm full of excitement and energy!"
Support for employee well-being
The percentage of employees who reported feeling comfortable talking to their manager about their well-being remained constant at 65%; 84% of managers reported feeling concerned for the well-being of their staff, with 70% feeling they could adequately support their team's mental health needs, while 74% of managers believed the flexible work arrangements they had approved for their teams worked well and were sustainable.
Mental health services
Nine in ten employees agreed or strongly agreed that ISED had clearly communicated mental health services and resources available to them, with 60% indicating they believed those resources could effectively meet their needs. However, between 68% and 86% indicated that they had never used the services available to them, and 59% indicated that they did not require the resources at the time of the survey. Reasons for not accessing the resources/services vary. Some employees expressed anxiety about access to resources; some gave a blunter assessment: "I have no excuse, I should [use these resources]"; and others shared good self-care and personal resources and supports they had found most useful. However, privacy is the most often cited concern. Close to one quarter of employees also felt they did not have the time to access the resources available.
ISED: COVID-19 and beyond
Return to work
When asked in the second Employee COVID-19 Check-in Survey about a potential return to the office, a majority of employees (67%) indicated strong trust in senior management's approach to having appropriate safety measures in place for their return, with 11% neutral and 22% hesitant. On average, one third of employees were not comfortable with or sufficiently informed of the return to the office plans, one third considered themselves informed, and a third were neutral. Concerns regarding the office facilities were focused on common areas, elevators and air circulation. Employees also had concerns about public transport. Three quarters of staff (75%) said they were satisfied with ISED's internal response to COVID-19.
The future of work
Almost a quarter of ISED employees (22%) who participated in the survey reported looking forward to returning to the office as soon as possible. However, half (49%) were not expecting to return until the following year, and most considered they would do so in phase three of a return to the office plan (53%). About three quarters (73%) of employees hoped to continue to have regular teleworking hours as part of their work regimen, while three quarters (74%) would like the option to have flexible work arrangements in the future.
Findings for 2020–2021 and recommendations for the future
Continued communication, collaboration and caring
The Office of the Ombud responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting over 100 employees and managers who, in addition to dealing with difficult workplace situations, were impacted to varying degrees by the public health crisis. As multiple issues in the workplace were combined with psychological distress related to personal life, the feeling of isolation, the family reality at home, and family members (including children) directly affected by the virus, we found that several clients preferred to speak directly to the Ombud and the Associate Ombud even before turning to psychological assistance services such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
The Ombud and Associate Ombud are privileged witnesses to the specific issues that employees face. Beyond the employee surveys conducted internally or across the entire federal public service, we heard the stories and narratives of employees with whom we work collaboratively to analyze and discuss possible solutions. However, we need to take the pandemic into account when we consider the psychosocial factors that have affected employees in FY 2020–2021.
At any given time, the Mental Health Continuum can help us identify the psychological state of employees and managers, ranging from "healthy" to "reacting," "injured" or "ill." It is important to regularly "self check" as to where we are on this continuum and seek help when needed. It is also key to maintaining our mental health that we can speak to our supervisors openly about where we are on this continuum and what support we can get to address our specific situations. We need to overcome the mental barriers preventing us from having such open discussions. The second ISED Employee COVID-19 Check-in Survey revealed that only 35% of ISED employees remain uncomfortable in openly discussing their mental health with their supervisors; we still must pursue our efforts in promoting more open dialogue.
Considering current pandemic realities, it is even more important to stay abreast of the mental health of our employees, to establish more regular verbal communications and to offer support to colleagues, employees, managers and directors. Indeed, all are affected.
The Office of the Ombud will continue to provide advice and coaching on open communications, clear leadership direction and expectations, ensuring that employees are involved and engaged, have a voice and are able to offer their professional views, all while embracing a growth mindset. We must be agile in the way we work together and find ways for employees and managers to feel they can bring their full contributions to their teams and to their work. The social contract that is entered into upon hiring has to be fully aligned with the employee experience in their day-to-day work.
We hope that all employees and managers will continue to embrace best practices to equip themselves to address the gaps identified below. Responsibility for a healthy work environment rests with everyone, regardless of level or role within the organization.
"While I tried my best to solve the issue on my own by going to my director and explaining the impact of this issue on my mental health, the Ombud's services were not mentioned once in our conversations. I would recommend this resource to others as the consultation and coaching offer many avenues to solve these issues. I believe that the Ombud's office should be the first step when dealing with conflict. My director did not deal with my issue or help me to resolve it like the Ombud's office [did]."
Our observations: The top five psychosocial factors
The findings that follow are based on issues raised during our confidential consultations throughout the year and are linked to the 13 psychosocial factors that make up the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.
When considering these factors in fiscal year 2020–-2021, we find five main areas of vulnerability to our organization. They are:
- Psychological and organizational support
- Civility and respect
- Organizational culture
- Clear leadership and expectations
- Growth and development
Of the issues discussed with the Office of the Ombud during consultations in fiscal 2020–2021, 24% were related to the psychological and organizational support factor, 17% to civility and respect, 14% to organizational culture, 13% to clear leadership and expectations, 11% to professional growth and development.
Top five issues based on psychosocial factors by fiscal year
|Civility and respect||26%|
|Psychological and organizational support||20%|
|Clear leadership and expectations||10%|
|Psychological and organizational support||24%|
|Civility and respect||17%|
|Clear leadership and expectations||13%|
|Growth and development||11%|
1. Psychological and organizational supportFootnote 1
"Psychological and [organizational] support comprises all supportive social interactions available at work, either with co-workers or supervisors. It refers to the degree of social and emotional integration and trust among co-workers and supervisors. It refers also to the level of help and assistance provided by others when one is performing tasks. Equally important are the workers' perceptions and awareness of organizational support. When workers perceive organizational support, it means they believe their organization values their contributions, is committed to ensuring their psychological well-being, and provides meaningful support if this well-being is compromised.
"An organization with good psychological and [organizational] support would be able to state that:
- the organization offers services or benefits that address worker psychological and mental health
- workers feel part of a community and that the people they are working with are helpful in fulfilling the job requirements
- the organization has a process in place to intervene if an employee looks distressed while at work
- workers feel supported by the organization when they are dealing with personal or family issues
- the organization supports workers who are returning to work after time off due to a mental health condition
- people in the organization have a good understanding of the importance of worker mental health."
Factor #2, National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety:
Psychological and [Organizational] Support
1.1 Our observations:
The pandemic has left many employees feeling lonely and isolated from their colleagues and supervisors. Some clients reaching out to the Ombud's office expressed that they suffered from the absence of virtual open camera communications for several days in a row; their only interactions were limited to email exchanges. This highly affects the psychosocial factors associated with employee engagement, involvement and influence, and recognition and reward.
Teleworking has also highlighted the failure of electronic communication tools such as emails, text messages, MS Teams chats, etc., in enabling us to detect the state of mind of our employees, or worse, their distress. Furthermore, electronic tools cannot systematically replace a discussion or an exchange on the tasks to be accomplished, or even on how the work could be prioritized, managed and/or delivered.
We have observed that, in some cases, a phone call or conference on MS Teams would have been an investment and a time saver to clarify the tasks at hand. Similar to what was revealed in the second Employee COVID-19 Check-in Survey, Ombud clients indicated a desire for clear and frequent communication with their immediate supervisor so that they could have a clear understanding of the expectations of leadership and an awareness of how their work contributes to the larger mandate of the department. They would have liked more regular bilateral meetings, clearer direction on priorities and an open discussion with their manager regarding their specific realities (family and other) during the pandemic.
Over the course of the pandemic, these shortcomings in direct communication between employees and supervisors led to discomfort, disagreements or an inability to understand each other. Sometimes, after a few unsuccessful attempts at discussions, people can feel like they are not being heard and feel powerless to communicate their needs while maintaining their positive professional relationship with their supervisor; any professional bond that has been created can gradually crumble and trust is undermined.
We also found that some Ombud clients took long-term sick leave for reasons of psychological distress. They engaged with the Ombud's Office so they could be heard, with the hope of re-establishing their professional relationships; they wanted to return to a healthy work environment, which is often essential to their psychological safety.
Mental health issues present a dual responsibility: Employees have a duty to inform their managers when they face specific mental health issues so that the employer can consider concrete actions to address those issues, and managers have a duty to investigate the situation further when they observe any potential issues their employees may be facing. To achieve the goal of maintaining a healthy and productive work environment, there needs to be open, transparent and respectful two-way communication.
"I wanted coaching because I had a difficult employee and I struggled with having a difficult conversation with him. The conflict management practitioner offered me a lot of tips and support and coached me through that difficult conversation. Her support and advice were truly incredible, and without her I would not have succeeded so well in that conversation."
We were surprised to find that bilateral meetings between employees and their supervisors are not systematically offered to all employees and, worse yet, performance feedback is delivered less than twice a year; at times, it is not even delivered verbally before it is entered in the performance management module.
- Establish verbal and regular communications with each of our employees to identify those who may need additional psychological or organizational support.
- Communicate proactively with employees who are regularly absent from work or who are absent for long periods. Their return to work will be accelerated and enhanced by proactive management measures, especially through open and regular communication. Seek support from the Workplace Accommodation Centre (email@example.com) if specific employee needs have to be addressed.
2. Civility and respect
"Civility and respect are present in a work environment where workers are respectful and considerate in their interactions with one another, as well as with customers, clients, and the public. Civility and respect are based on showing esteem, care, and consideration for others, and acknowledging their dignity.
"An organization with good civility and respect would be able to state that:
- people treat each other with respect and consideration in the workplace
- the organization effectively handles conflicts between stakeholders (workers, customers, clients, public, suppliers, etc.)
- workers from all backgrounds are treated fairly in our workplace
- the organization has effective ways of addressing inappropriate behaviour by customers or clients."
Factor #4, National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety:
Civility and Respect
2.1 Our observations:
Civility and respect are integral parts of the ISED Values and Ethics Code as well as the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. Reading and adhering to the Code is a condition of employment and is found in letters of offer for every employee of the department and the public service. Certain behaviours, actions, gestures or words, voluntary or involuntary, can have negative repercussions on the mental health of employees. We have observed employees who were in severe distress because of derogatory comments, negative or destructive exchanges during performance feedback sessions, and behaviours designed to dismiss or ignore them.
Most of our confidential consultations in FY 2020–2021 were with employees facing intimidating behaviours from a colleague, subordinate or supervisor. All were seeking to resolve the situation and get guidance on possible options, including formal mechanisms or informal channels. In some cases, because of a fear of reprisal, the options were limited by the need for anonymity; many of these clients were uncomfortable communicating the impact of the other employee's behaviour as they did not have the adequate tools to do so.
Following coaching sessions at the Ombud's office, clients leave with the tools and steps needed to meet their goal of resolving a situation confidently and as quickly as possible. The ability to directly manage an issue with the person involved will have the best impact toward a lasting resolution, while preserving the working relationship. The more the conflict remains at the lowest possible level between the people involved, the better the chances of resolution.
Managers and employees should be encouraged to proactively consult with the Office of the Ombud as soon as they suspect a workplace issue may arise. Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms offer an informal and proactive way to effectively resolve workplace issues early on, before they can escalate. The Ombud's Office supports both employees and managers: Employees are provided with advice, guidance, tools and resources that offer the best options for addressing their issue, and managers can get the help and encouragement they need to best support their employees.
3. Organizational culture
"Organizational culture is a mix of norms, values, beliefs, meanings, and expectations that group members hold in common and that they use as behavioural and problem-solving cues. Organizational culture could enhance the psychological safety and health of the workplace and the workforce when it is characterized by trust, honesty, respect, civility, and fairness or when it values, for example, psychological and social support, recognition, and reward.
"An organization with good organizational culture would be able to state that:
- all people in the workplace are held accountable for their actions
- people at work show sincere respect for others' ideas, values, and beliefs
- difficult situations at work are addressed effectively
- workers feel that they are part of a community at work
- workers and management trust one another."
Factor #1, National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety:
Several issues addressed by the Office of the Ombud involved situations related to specific organizational cultures within certain units of the department. Over time, these units have developed their own unwritten codes of behaviour that have become somewhat of an "accepted standard" and are not challenged, but they are not aligned with either the ISED Values and Ethics Code or the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector.
In these situations, some clients needed to get a second opinion or required a sounding board to gauge what behaviours were acceptable and identify those that were not aligned with departmental or public service values. Some behaviours had negative impacts on employees' psychological health.
3.1 Our observations:
- Hierarchy and power: Not all employees have the right to speak during meetings, based on their level in the organizational hierarchy. They may have been censured for expressing their views during meetings with external stakeholders and other government departments. In short, in some specific units, opinions are not welcome; this goes against the entire concept of a healthy workplace.
- Non-transparency: Employees in some sectors have complained about the lack of transparency in staffing, in shaping the strategic vision of the sector, and in management intentions regarding the organizational structure. This culture of non-transparency is uncomfortable for employees who wish to participate fully in defining strategic directions and in offering their opinions and advice; it also has negative repercussions for employee engagement.
- Cliques and groups of privileged, influential employees: Some employees complained that within certain units, particular employees were given unique access to information and had more power than others to influence leadership and decisions; some employees have also benefited from acting positions without transparent communications or explanations.
- Broken promises – a disconnect between the "social contract" and the work realities: Employees expect the employment contract ("social contract") that they sign at the start of their employment to align with their experiences on the job. If the value proposition at hiring—that the employee will be working in an innovative environment where they can contribute their ideas—doesn't translate into reality, it becomes only a question of time before the employee will search for other opportunities.
- Review and update the current ISED Values and Ethics Code with a view to addressing inappropriate sub-cultures that exist within the organization to better reflect the organizational values, including increased diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
- Highlight and reinforce the key leadership competencies as set out by TBS to define the behaviours expected of Canada's—and ISED's—public service leaders, in particular, the examples of effective and ineffective behaviours for specific leadership roles (DMs, ADMs, DGs and directors).
- Implement regular and ongoing communications from leadership about the organizational values of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada through multiple channels, including onboarding sessions for new executives, managers and employees.
"The Ombud's Office is another ISED tool for both managers and employees to access for informal advice and guidance. In my instance, they were able to offer unbiased advice on how to deal with a difficult situation, but mostly they made me feel like I was not alone in dealing with this particular matter. Very appreciated and I would recommend them as a resource."
Meet the Ombud and Associate Ombud
Mario Baril and Ève Nadeau
Mario Baril has been the Ombud for Mental Health and Employee Well-Being at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada since October 2018. During his career in the Government of Canada, Mario has held several executive positions, including Chief of Staff in the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Director of Strategic and Business Communications at Public Services and Procurement Canada, and Executive Director for the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX).
Mario demonstrates a profound interest in a committed, diversified, agile and productive public service. He brings extensive experience in developing strategic partnerships and initiatives to foster a healthy workplace, especially as a result of his participation in an International Ombud Association working group on equity, diversity and inclusion.
Mario has a master's degree in public administration from L'École nationale d'administration publique (ENAP), a bachelor's degree in economics and public administration from the University of Ottawa, and a college diploma in journalism. He also has an ombud certification from Osgoode Hall in the Faculty of Law at York University, as well as training in mediation from the Faculty of Law at the Université de Sherbrooke and Saint Paul University.
In his spare time, Mario practises many outdoor sports, including downhill skiing, swimming, canoeing, cycling and mountain climbing, especially at Mont-Tremblant in the Laurentians. His passion for travel has brought him to several countries, along with his wife, Danielle, and his two sons, Alexandre and Samuel, allowing him to encounter amazing people and diverse cultures from around the world.
ISED's Associate Ombud for Mental Health and Employee Well-Being is Eve Nadeau, who has held the position since November 2018. Eve joined the department after occupying the positions of manager of the Values and Ethics and Harassment Prevention programs at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, and manager of Respect in the Workplace at Justice Canada. For eight years prior to this, in addition to being the manager, Eve was also a senior conflict management advisor at Public Services and Procurement Canada. In her role as a mediator, she developed a departmental harassment prevention initiative, designed various organization-specific trainings, and created group intervention processes and harassment and sexual harassment prevention tools.
In her role today, Eve continues to focus on raising awareness about mental health, harassment prevention, conflict resolution and workplace well-being.
Eve joined the federal public service in 2006 and worked in the field of labour relations as a senior advisor at Public Services and Procurement Canada, Correctional Services Canada, and the Canada Border Services Agency. Prior to this, she worked for 10 years as a social worker and as a probation officer with the Government of Quebec.
In addition to being trained as a specialized coach in conflict management and certified as a group facilitator and a mediator by Saint Paul University and by the Faculty of Law at the Université de Sherbrooke, Eve has an ombud certification from the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University. Eve also holds a bachelor's degree in criminology from the University of Ottawa, a bachelor's degree in social work from the Université du Québec à Hull, and a master's degree in public administration from the École nationale d'administration publique (ENAP).
Eve's passions include the neuropsychology of human relations, dance and walks in the forest. Eve enjoys her family life and loves to support her 13-year-old son, who lives with a pervasive developmental disorder, is in scouts and participates in field hockey, horseback riding and swimming.
We're here to help
Mario Baril, Ombud343-291-3053
Ombud confidential email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Eve Nadeau,Associate Ombud
Conflict Prevention and Early Resolution (CPER)
CPER confidential email: email@example.com