A Kind of, Sort of Eulogy for the Declarative Sentence

The following is a reprint of an article by Brett & Kate McKay that appears in the Art of Manliness web site.

The use of “kind of” and “sort of” to moderate the degree of what comes after (“I was kind of afraid but not really”), or to describe something of a nature that can’t be pinpointed with exactness (“The device was sort of shaped like a sphere”) has been around since the 19th century. But the popularity of these colloquial phrases, especially “sort of,” has grown exponentially over the last few decades.

This is true both of the written and the spoken word. The rise of “kind of/sort of” in the former can be seen when one runs these phrases through Google Ngram – a feature which scans Google’s vast repository of books and charts the frequency with which any word or words appear within it. Here’s how “kind of/sort of” tracks over the last two hundred years:

graph-640x238

The Libraries of Famous Men: Abraham Lincoln

The following is a reprint of an article that appears in the Art of Manliness web site.

The eminent men of history were often voracious readers and their own philosophy represents a distillation of all the great works they fed into their minds. This series seeks to trace the stream of their thinking back to the source. For, as David Leach, a now retired business executive put it: “Don’t follow your mentors; follow your mentors’ mentors.”

While many of America’s presidents came from prominent, educated homes, one of our most famous — Abraham Lincoln — did not. Growing up in the backwoods of Kentucky and then Indiana, Lincoln rarely enjoyed the privilege of full-time schooling. His formal education, in his own words, came “by littles,” “did not amount to one year,” and was thoroughly “defective.”

And yet Honest Abe rose in society to become a shop owner, lawyer, and of course, President of the United States. How did he do this without much in the way of formal education?

He taught himself, becoming the consummate autodidact.

What One Company Learned from Forcing Employees to Use Their Vacation Time

Have you ever felt burned out at work after a vacation? I’m not talking about being exhausted from fighting with your family at Walt Disney World all week. I’m talking about how you knew, the whole time walking around Epcot, that a world of work was waiting for you upon your return.

Our vacation systems are completely broken. They don’t work.

The classic corporate vacation system goes something like this: You get a set number of vacation days a year (often only two to three weeks), you fill out some 1996-era form to apply for time off, you get your boss’s signature, and then you file it with a team assistant or log it in some terrible database. It’s an administrative headache. Then most people have to frantically cram extra work into the week(s) before they leave for vacation in order to actually extract themselves from the office. By the time we finally turn on our out-of-office messages, we’re beyond stressed, and we know that we’ll have an even bigger pile of work waiting for us when we return. What a nightmare.

For most of us, it’s hard to actually use vacation time to recharge. So it’s no wonder that absenteeism remains a massive problem for most companies, with payrolls dotted with sick leaves, disability leaves, and stress leaves. In the UK, the Department for Work and Pensions says that absenteeism costs the country’s economy more than £100 billion per year. A white paper published by the Workforce Institute and produced by Circadian, a workforce solutions company, calls absenteeism a bottom-line killer that costs employers $3,600 per hourly employee and $2,650 per salaried employee per year. It doesn’t help that, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the United States is the only country out of 21 wealthy countries that doesn’t require employers to offer paid vacation time. (Check out this world map on Wikipedia to see where your country stacks up.)

Would it help if we got more paid vacation? Not necessarily. According to a study from the U.S. Travel Association and GfK, a market research firm, just over 40% of Americans plan not to use all their paid time off anyway.

So what’s the progressive approach? Is it the Adobe, Netflix, or Twitter policies that say take as much vacation as you want, whenever you want it? Open-ended, unlimited vacation sounds great on paper, doesn’t it? Very progressive, right? No, that approach is broken too.

What happens in practice with unlimited vacation time? Warrior mentality. Peer pressure. Social signals that say you’re a slacker if you’re not in the office. Mathias Meyer, the CEO of German tech company Travis CI, wrote a blog post about his company abandoning its unlimited vacation policy: “When people are uncertain about how many days it’s okay to take off, you’ll see curious things happen. People will hesitate to take a vacation as they don’t want to seem like that person who’s taking the most vacation days. It’s a race to the bottom instead of a race towards a well rested and happy team.”

The point is that in unlimited vacation time systems, you probably won’t actually take a few weeks to travel through South America after your wedding, because there’s too much social pressure against going away for so long. Work objectives, goals, and deadlines are demanding. You look at your peers and see that nobody is backpacking through China this summer, so you don’t go either. You don’t want to let your team down, so your dream of visiting Machu Picchu sits on the shelf forever.

What’s the solution?

Recurring, scheduled mandatory vacation.

Employee Properly Fired For Workplace Violence Threats, Despite His Mental Disability: Appeal Court

An employee's mental disability, unknown to his employer at the time of dismissal, played no role in the reason he was fired. He was fired because he made violent threats against coworkers, the Ontario Court of Appeal has held. Read More...

Court Finds Abandonment For Failure To Return To Work Or Provide Medical

dis mgt
Disability management is a challenging issue for HR professionals. An employee with a disability may require an extended absence from work due to their medical condition. Where an employer provides disability benefits, the employee will be required to show that they meet the definition of disability under the insurance policy, which will require the disclosure of medical information. A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court addresses the issue of when an employee is considered to have abandoned their employment where they fail to comply with requests for medical information and also refuse to return to work. Read More...

The Court Weighs In: Termination For Social Media Misconduct

Over a decade had passed since Ellen Simonetti, dubbed the "Queen of the Sky" was fired by Delta Air Lines after her infamous "Diary of a Dysfunctional Flight Attendant" blog. Simonetti wasn't fired simply for blogging about her interesting lifestyle or worldwide travel as a flight attendant. According to Delta Airlines she was terminated for associating her blog with the company and for including, what the company deemed to be, inappropriate pictures and material.

While that decision was settled out of court, it did stoke a debate between employees' freedom of expression and employers' rights to control the dissemination of their sensitive information and protect their reputation and brand.

This debate was rekindled recently in the British Columba Supreme Court decision in
Kim v International Triathlon Union, 2014 BCSC 2151. Kim, a manager at International Triathlon Union (ITU), was terminated after making several negative blog, Facebook and tweet posts about her employer and her direct supervisor. In one blog, Kim compared her relationship with her supervisor to her alleged mistreatment as a child, saying she felt "like that kid all over again; beaten, discouraged, alone and scared." Read More...

SCC finds standard of review re arbitrator interpreting enabling legislation (whether dispute arbitrable) is reasonableness.

"The Health Insurance Act (“Act”) provides that the remuneration and working conditions of health care professionals are to be established by way of a collective bargaining mechanism that resulted, in this case, in the Accord‑cadre entre le ministre de la Santé et des Services sociaux et la Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec aux fins de l’application de la Loi sur l’assurance maladie (“Framework Agreement”). The Fédération and the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (collectively, “negotiating parties”) created a digitization fee to encourage radiologists to modernize their equipment. This fee is reserved for laboratories that the negotiating parties jointly recognize and designate, following a procedure and applying criteria they themselves have provided for in the Protocole concernant la radiologie diagnostique (“Protocol”), one of the schedules to the Framework Agreement. Section 54 of the Act provides that a “dispute resulting from the interpretation or application of [the Framework Agreement] is submitted to a council of arbitration, to the exclusion of any court of civil jurisdiction”. A distinction is made in the Framework Agreement between a [translation] “dispute with respect to fees” raised by a physician and a “collective dispute” raised by the Fédération.

G, a radiologist who is a member of the Fédération, applied to the negotiating parties for a declaration that certain clinics were eligible for the digitization fee. His application was denied. G contested that decision by submitting a dispute to the council of arbitration. The arbitrator, who was appointed to perform the functions of the council of arbitration on his own, found that he lacked jurisdiction to grant G the declaration being sought and that, at any rate, G did not have standing to submit the dispute. The motion judge granted G’s motion for judicial review, finding that the arbitrator’s decision was unreasonable. The majority of the Court of Appeal upheld the motion judge’s decision."

S.C.C. held (6:1, with joint reasons by Wagner and Gascon JJ., separate Joint Reasons [concurring in the result] by Brown and Rowe JJ., and dissenting reasons by Côté J.) that the appeal is allowed and the award of the council of arbitration restored. Read More...

How to Fire Someone

The following is a reprint of an article by Jeremy Anderberg that appears in the Art of Manliness web site.

Every boss (with the exception, of course, of Donald Trump) will say that one of the worst parts of their job is having to fire people. Even when you’re letting someone go purely for financial reasons rather than performance, it’s an unenviable task, as it obviously drastically changes the former employee’s life and is among the most stressful events he or she can experience. And yet it’s a necessary part of business, especially when you’re in a supervisory role. Firing an employee will be awkward and uncomfortable no matter what, but there are a few things you can keep in mind to make it a little less painful for everyone involved. You also want to protect your legal and financial interests, which can easily be forgotten in this process. Below you’ll find tips gleaned from seasoned executives, as well as logistics to think about, that will help guide you through the process. Read More...

SCC confirms that corporate directors can be liable personally for oppression.

"From 2005 to 2007, A was the President, the Chief Executive Officer, a significant minority shareholder and a director of Wi2Wi Corporation (“Wi2Wi”). In March 2007, in negotiating the merger of Wi2Wi with another corporation, A also agreed to sell it some of his common shares and signed a share purchase agreement to that effect without notifying Wi2Wi’s Board. When the Board found out about the existence of the agreement, A was censured for concealing the deal and failing to disclose the potential conflict of interest. Consequently, A resigned from his functions. W, a member of Wi2Wi’s Board and audit committee, became its President and CEO. Neither the merger nor the share purchase occurred.

In September 2007, in response to Wi2Wi’s continuing financial difficulties, the Board decided to issue a private placement of convertible secured notes (“Private Placement”) to its existing common shareholders. Prior to the Private Placement, the Board accelerated the conversion of Class C Convertible Preferred Shares, beneficially held by an investment company for W, into common shares. It did so despite doubts as to whether or not the financial test for C Share conversion had been met. However, A’s Class A and B Convertible Preferred Shares were never converted into common shares, notwithstanding that they met the relevant conversion tests. In Board meetings, W and another director, B, advocated against converting A’s A and B Shares on the basis of A’s conduct and involvement in the parallel share purchase negotiation when he was President. Consequently, A did not participate in the Private Placement and the value of his A and B Shares and the proportion of his common shares in Wi2Wi were substantially reduced. A then filed an application under s. 241 of the Canada Business Corporations Act for oppression against four of Wi2Wi’s directors, including W.

The trial judge granted the application in part. He held W and B solidarily liable for the oppression and ordered them to pay A compensation. The Court of Appeal dismissed W and B’s appeal. It held that the imposition of personal liability was justified and that the pleadings did not preclude it. W now appeals to the Court, challenging the trial judge’s conclusion that it was fit to hold him personally liable for the oppressive conduct."

The S.C.C. (9 : 0)
dismissed the appeal.

Men and Status: An Introduction

The following is a reprint of an article by Brett McKay that appears in the Art of Manliness web site.

You’re talking to an attractive woman, when suddenly she pretends to wave to a friend behind you, and without even excusing herself, she walks away. You cringe in the moment, and continue to cringe for months afterward when you lie in bed and replay the encounter in your head.

Your brother, a Marine, wants you to hang out with his platoon buddies and you spend the night feeling like an outsider looking in. As they share their combat stories, you have nothing to add, and nobody wants to hear about your accounting job. You can’t help feeling rather less-than, like a suburban wuss.

You were laid off two months ago and you still haven’t been able to find a job. You haven’t even gotten called in for a single interview. You find yourself sinking into a deep depression and are plagued by feelings of worthlessness.

While all these scenarios are different, the feelings they can garner are similar — a deep, visceral sinking and pit in your stomach, a disorientation in your mind, or a heavy weight on your chest. The feelings can seem disproportionate to what’s actually happened, and your logical, rational mind tells you not to make such a big deal of things — that she doesn’t matter, that you live a relatively decent life, that you’re not your job. But it seems impossible to think away the vise that seems to clench your heart.

The reason these seemingly inexplicable reactions can be so difficult to deal with is that they’re rooted in a topic modern culture doesn’t address and doesn’t explain: status.

No General Right For Grievors To Remain Unidentified In Labour Arbitration Decisions

The British Columbia Court of Appeal (in a recent case identified as United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Local 1518 v. Sunrise Poultry Processors Ltd.) has confirmed that there is no general right for grievors or witnesses to avoid having their names disclosed in labour arbitration awards. The Court concluded that labour arbitrators are bound by the requirements of the Personal Information Protection Act ("PIPA"), but that they are not required to obtain consent from grievors or witnesses to disclose personal information about those individuals in arbitral awards. Read More...