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Community Services workers no happy campers, survey shows

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Every two years the government conducts an Employee Engagement Survey, asking staff hundreds of questions about a variety of topics that all have to do with job satisfaction. The latest round took place in 2015.

The survey shows that people who work for government aren’t very happy. Relative to government overall Community Services employees are especially unhappy, a summary report suggest.

As well, the survey shows that 1 in 5 Community Services employees experienced bullying behaviour in the last year.

Not many employees think senior management cares enough to fix the problems they raise.

Minister Joanne Bernard. 45% of staff have confidence in their senior leader. Photo Community Services.

Workers not happy

Only 47%  of Community Services workers are satisfied with their department, and just 48% are proud to tell people they work there. A mere 39% say they feel valued as an employee.

49% says that their workload is manageable.

Workers don’t think highly of the department’s senior leadership, the minister, deputy minister and executive directors.

Just 36% feel that the department senior leadership are genuinely interested in their well-being. 32% thinks leaders make timely decisions, and 36% that information flows effectively from staff to senior leadership.

Only 45% say that they have confidence in their senior leader, presumably the minister.

All these stats compare unfavourably with numbers as they apply to government overall.

But it’s not all negative.

Workers are happy with their job (64%), co-worker relationship (68%), and a diverse, inclusive and respectful work environment (64%).

We don’t know how provincial government employees compare with the private sector. The government deserves credit both for asking, and for posting the results online.

Bullying and discrimination  

Some numbers that should concern the department speak to bullying and discrimination.

20% of workers stated that they experienced harassment/bullying behaviour at work during the last twelve months. Insults, rumours, verbal abuse, and exclusion are most frequently mentioned.

26% of workers said they experienced these activities from somebody in management. 6% said this behaviour came from a client. Most abusive behaviour came from colleagues though (31%).

6% of Community Service workers experienced discrimination during the year, most mentioned reasons are skin colour and age. Colleagues and management were most frequently mentioned as the source of the discrimination..

Government response

“We take these results very seriously. We care about our employees and we recognize the job that they do is not an easy one. The results indicate that we need to make improvements. We are listening and have developed an action plan to address the gaps,” writes Heather Fairbairn, spokesperson for the department.

“We have been making important workplace improvements to help ensure employees are more informed and engaged in what’s happening in the department,” she writes.

“Bullying and harassment of any kind is not acceptable – period,” writes Fairbairn, who points to government’s Respectful Workplace training program, and efforts by its Diversity Committee as potential remedies.

We have French and Mi’kmaq caseworkers and we are currently in the process of hiring an Arabic-speaking caseworker for our ESIA program. We offer a diverse and supportive environment for clients and we expect the same for our employees,” Fairbairn writes.

Convincing workers may be a bit of an uphill battle.   

Only 39% believe that senior leadership will make a genuine effort to address the issues raised by employees in the survey.

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One Comment

  1. It’s time for senior leadership to wake up. The front line, and supervisors have been writing these things in the “How’s Work Going Survey ” for years but no change seems to happen except the province expects Frontline managers and supervisors to fix it. Expectations on staff keep increasing but there in no money for more staffing. THERE IS LOW MORALE because the process to hold someone accountable is so cumbersome no one has time to do it. Poor performance is rewarded with less work and high performers get more. I could go on and on. I worked there 15 years and tried to make things better for citizens and coworkers only to be shoved back to where I started out because of cut backs. Foster parents get nothing for working 24/7 and now there are few Foster parents and kids are being sent to group homes. We saw this coming 20 years ago but no one listened,. The work is important but social workers have so much responsibility and are overworked so they leave. Not because they don’t like their work but there is too much.
    I am speaking on behalf of all the child welfare staff I know from my 15 years because they cannot speak out against their employer. They cannot stand up and don’t have time or energy to fight via union action. I left a government job and pension over these issues. I loved my work and co workers. I saw many come and go. Sadly, many were wonderful employees, dedicated and hard workers.
    Minister Bernard, please, please listen. Someone in government needs to take on this problem for the sake of the children and families .

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