Steer clear of workplace minefields


I have been a retired executive for many years now but I keep in touch with professionals in many diverse fields. 

I am finding it alarming that toxic and vindictive workplaces are becoming more and more prevalent. 

We did have our fair share of entitled staff turning against co-workers over the decades that I served as leader, but today, with more stress in people’s lives, more technology, more litigious environments, more feelings of entitlement and a horde of media headliners who have made bad behaviour the norm, I think that toxicity in the workplace has become dangerous. 

I remember over decades telling my team members that they must always speak and act in an ethical manner and always as if they are being taped even if they are not. 

And today we are seeing, splashed across newspapers, examples of unethical taping of confidential professional conversations.

So, what can workers, regardless of rank, do to survive in these toxic working environments? 

First and foremost, workers need to behave ethically. 

Do not indulge in gossip, rumour, innuendos and temper tantrums. 

Go to work, do your honest day’s work, be polite, serve the client with dignity and go home to family. There is no need for too much of socializing at work because often socializing, drinking and gossiping leads to misunderstandings that fester. 

Do not listen to co-workers who constantly gripe. 

If you think the person has a genuine concern or if they are confiding in you that they are being subjected to a human rights violation, point them to human resources and stay out of the conflict.

It is a good idea to carry a notebook at work. Date the start on the outside cover and date each page so the notebook becomes a chronicle of all your meetings and encounters. 

Store these completed notebooks in a filing cabinet preferably at home. 

Make brief notes at meetings, writing down who said what and what decisions are made, what tasks are assigned and what follow-up needs to occur. 

Do not ever go back and edit these notes and change what you have written days and weeks later. 

This compromises your integrity and looks as though you are making up falsities. 

In the event of a workplace investigation of anyone in the office, you may be interviewed and asked what you remember. 

If you are a unionized worker, always inform your union and follow their advice. 

Your notes will serve as your reminders. Occasionally you may be asked to show your notes to an investigator. Again, follow the advice of your union. 

If you are a manager, you will need to make that decision on your own. 

As a person of integrity your notes would be clean and you may decide to share it openly with the investigator, but as a caution, especially if it is a serious investigation, you may wish to get legal advice.

With regards to taping conversations, this is a very serious step. 

If a meeting, conversation, teleconference or telephone call is being taped, the person(s) in the conversation must be informed that they are being taped. 

If you are a member in that conversation you must be an active speaking participant. 

Secret tapings are regarded as entrapment and breach of trust. Even though Canadian law permits recordings in certain circumstances, there are serious consequences. 

A search on Google Scholar for “secret tapings of meetings” will give you detailed advice on how, when and why taping is allowed. 

It is a path of last resort after all collegial approaches have been tried. 

I know that there are many workplaces that are caring and healthy where managers and co-workers treat one another with respect, dignity and integrity. But it seems that as more and more workplaces become exponentially larger and more competitive, negativity creeps in from all directions. 

It is best for workers to know policies and procedures well and keep themselves informed and safe. 

• Dr Vicki Bismilla is a retired Superintendent of Schools and retired college Vice-President, Academic, and Chief Learning Officer. She has authored two books.


DEAR DIDI, Do I have to send a gift  for a wedding I was not invited to?


Dear Didi,

There’s a family wedding coming up in India this year and everyone except me has been invited. The reason given for excluding me was that I live too far away to attend anyway. But not everyone – even those in India – will be able to make it whereas I have gone to others all the way from here in the past. I feel it’s a courtesy that should have been extended to me and am feeling very hurt. Would it be okay for me to not send a gift, then?  – LEFT OUT

In South Asian culture, we are used to having big, elaborate weddings where we invite the world... literally. Usually, the couple doesn’t really have a say in who is on the invitation list and how big it gets; however, it is a given that all the family, immediate and extended, will be invited. 

Your question is a bit unusual since most of the time, people grumble about invitations to weddings of  a distant cousin or massi’s husband’s niece’s daughter – someone they don’t even know. But you are right, it absolutely was a courtesy that should have been extended to you. I understand that you feel hurt, but it may be a blessing in disguise. It can be a costly proposition going to a family wedding in India with the cost of travel, wedding outfits to purchase, gifts for family and not to forget the vacation time taken to participate. 

I come from a big family and I’m the only one that lives on the other side of the country from everyone. When it comes to weddings, it has always been an expensive proposition for us to travel to Vancouver to attend weddings, especially being a  single-income family. Maybe not as expensive as India, but all the same things apply – travel, car, the gift. Recently one of my nephews had a destination wedding in Mexico. It was an expensive proposition for us and I had to be honest with him and tell him that if we do come (and we had to figure out the financial feasibility of the trip first), we couldn’t afford a gift, too. He was absolutely lovely about it so we were able to go without feeling like we weren’t supporting them by not taking a gift. We had a wonderful time and it was a great way to make memories that will last a lifetime. 

However, we were invited and, therefore, we needed to have that conversation to ensure that expectations and reality would align. In your case, I really do consider it a no-brainer – no invitation, no gift! In all honesty, if you hadn’t been told about the wedding from other family members it wouldn’t be on your radar so there is no need to worry about marking the occasion with a gift. Keep your money and spend it on those that do include you in their big events... and enjoy those to the fullest.





“What!” you  say, “Praying for rain? We’ve had lots of rain! Please, enough!”

I know what you are saying. But I’m talking about a different kind of rain. It’s dry, very dry. There’s a drought throughout our beautiful country. The hearts of people are very dry. Hearts have become very hard. There is no life in their eyes. There is no spring in their steps. There is no joy in their speech and no music in their ears.

Rather, people are weeping. Curse and judgment are everywhere. The blood of the unborn soaks the earth. People are dying from medically induced injections. “Save the planet!” is the cry of another. The foundations of our homes are crumbling; homes are falling apart. “More money for our health care and education!” cry our politicians! 

There’s no rain. There are only stones for bread.

We need life-giving rain from heaven. I’m talking about rain that refreshes and renews. Showers of blessings we need. We need a life giving rain that brings laughter, joy and blessing to our homes; song, dance and beauty. Many would go through sewers to obtain it. 

But Christ freely offers it. He is the true and living One. He is the blessing from heaven. He is the rain. But we must go to Him for the rain to renew our lives. 

He is the bread so that we may hunger no more. He is the living water so that we may thirst no more. He satisfies. He quenches our thirst. He is the Source. He is the fountain. Out of Him flow rivers of living water! This life-giving water renews all creation. Hear this beautiful description from the Bible: “The lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground will become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water...”

For all who want rain in their lives, know this: Christ took the curse and judgment for sins upon Himself on the cross for all who trust on Him. 

In exchange, He freely gives His blessing and life. But we have to turn to Him for it and leave behind the life of famine. He answers the prayer for rain.  

 • Reverend Tony Zekveld can be reached at Hope Centre at 416-740-0543 and

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