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Canada Rideau Hall was 'toxic workplace' with 'screaming, aggressive conduct,' workers told Payette workplace review

03:06  28 january  2021
03:06  28 january  2021 Source:   nationalpost.com

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Complainants who took part in an independent review into claims of a toxic workplace culture at Rideau Hall claim former governor general Julie Payette 's verbal harassment toward staff crossed over into instances of physical contact, CBC News has learned. The claims of physical contact were reported in testimony given to Quintet Consulting during interviews and will be included in the final report, multiple sources said. Several sources with direct knowledge of the final report say Payette 's workplace behaviour went beyond screaming at, belittling and publicly humiliating employees — and

Gen. Julie Payette has created a toxic environment at Rideau Hall by verbally harassing employees to the point where some have been reduced to tears or have left the office altogether, sources tell CBC News. Four members of Payette 's communications team have departed during the pandemic period The sources say Payette has yelled at, belittled and publicly humiliated employees. They accuse her of throwing tantrums in the office and, on one occasion, tossing an employee's work aside and calling it "shit." On a single day, multiple people were seen leaving Payette 's office with tears in their eyes after

Julie Payette standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Former Governor General Julie Payette in 2018. © Provided by National Post Former Governor General Julie Payette in 2018.

OTTAWA — People who worked at Rideau Hall allege it was a “toxic workplace” with incidents of “yelling, screaming, aggressive conduct, demeaning comments and public humiliation,” according to a heavily redacted report released by the government Wednesday evening.

The workplace review was ordered by the Privy Council Office after it was alleged in the media that former governor general Julie Payette — who resigned on Thursday — had created an atmosphere of verbal abuse and bullying.

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Julie Payette and her secretary, Assunta di Lorenzo, are resigning after an outside workplace review of Rideau Hall found that the pair presided over a toxic work environment. Last year, an independent consulting firm was hired by the Privy Council Office (PCO) to review reports that President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada Dominic LeBlanc told CBC's Vassy Kapelos the federal government received the final report late last week, which he said offered some "disturbing" and "worrisome" conclusions. LeBlanc said Payette indicated her intention to resign during a meeting with Prime

Payette and her Rideau Hall office are now at the centre of an unprecedented third-party investigation launched by the Privy Council Office. In July, a CBC News report quoted a dozen confidential public servants and former employees who claim the Governor General belittled, berated and publicly humiliated Rideau Hall staff. CBC News spoke to 15 confidential sources who worked with Payette , including current and former employees and board members at the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Montreal Science Centre, the Canada Lands Company and the Canadian Space Agency.

The redacted version of the report does not disclose details on who is alleged to have committed specific acts. But it draws many larger conclusions about the overall workplace.

“As summarized in the Report, many participants reported conduct that, if it occurred, would lead to a toxic workplace,” says the report by Quintet Consulting. “Reports included allegations of yelling, screaming, aggressive conduct demeaning comments and public humiliation. Therefore, by any objective standard, including that set by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), the reported conduct summarized in the Report, if it occurred as alleged, would lead to a toxic workplace.”

The report says it conducted 92 interviews with participants between Oct. 19 and Nov. 23, 2020. The participants included current employees, former employees and “knowledgeable individuals.”

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The second-in-command at Rideau Hall has sent a memo to staff promising to improve working conditions in the Governor General's office after CBC News reported allegations of harassment by the vice-regal. Julie Payette 's secretary and longtime friend, Assunta Di Lorenzo — the most senior manager in this branch of government — thanked staff for the work they've done so far and pledged to do more to protect workers in a workplace that has been described by sources as a "house of horrors."

Rideau Hall 's workplace environment is under review by the Privy Council Office, which is finalizing the terms for hiring an external third party to conduct a "thorough, independent and impartial" probe that will include confidential interviews with current and former employees. "Rest assured that I take workplace harassment very seriously and fully support the review of our practices and the continuation of concrete actions to ensure a healthy and safe work environment for everyone, at all times and in all circumstances," Payette told staff in the memo.

“The overwhelming majority participated confidentially to raise concerns about the work environment and/or their individual treatment,” the report says, followed by a redaction. “Forty-three participants described the general work environment as hostile or negative or used other words to that effect. Twenty-six participants used the words ‘toxic’ or ‘poisoned’ to describe the general work atmosphere at (Rideau Hall) during the current mandate.”

It says 20 participants “reported having witnessed harassment in their workplace or referred to harassing behaviours in the workplace.” However, the report also says Quintet did not receive any formal complaints of harassment.

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Rideau Hall has spent more than 0,000 in public money so far on legal representation in response to allegations of a toxic workplace and verbal harassment at the Governor General's office, Radio-Canada has learned. That sum is larger than the original value of the contract the federal Rideau Hall hired former NDP national director Karl Bélanger and his firm, Traxxion Strategies, in August to provide strategic communications counsel and media relations support to Payette . The public relations and communications firm has been paid under ,000 for its services so far, according to Payette 's

Payette 's secrecy and resistance to working with the RCMP routinely sends her protective detail scrambling to fulfil last-minute requests and drives up spending on overtime, hotel and plane tickets, multiple sources told CBC News. At a staff barbecue at Rideau Hall early in her mandate, Payette took to the microphone to thank employees and share how much she appreciated their work , but singled out the RCMP and said they weren't friends yet, according to the same former employee.

The report cautions that it should not be considered an “investigation” into the alleged conduct.

“Quintet did not investigate the veracity of the concerns and allegations raised by participants,” it says. “For example, Quintet did not test the quality of the evidence gathered, or assess participants’ credibility. It follows, importantly, that the description of alleged conduct in this Report does not establish that such conduct occurred.”

Even so, the report concludes there is “a serious problem” that requires the Privy Council Office’s “immediate attention.”

“In reaching this conclusion, Quintet respects the unproven nature of the reported concerns and draws on its decades of experience in the field of conflict management and prevention,” the report says.

The report says the government provided Quintet in September with an initial list of 197 employees and their email addresses. However, by Oct. 6 the firm had received “more than 81 requests for interviews from current employees, former employees, and those presenting themselves as having relevant information.”

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“This was substantially more than anticipated,” the report notes.

Julie Payette who is smiling and looking at the camera:  Governor General Julie Payette during an Order of Canada ceremony outside Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Sept. 6, 2018. © Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press Governor General Julie Payette during an Order of Canada ceremony outside Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Sept. 6, 2018.

The report notes a series of words also used by participants to describe the atmosphere within Rideau Hall, such as : “humiliation,” “disrespect,” “condescension,” “a non-inclusive workplace,” and “the definition of a poisoned work environment” where employees are “stressed out” and “worn out.”

The report also notes no less than 12-pages worth of “serious” and “oft-repeated” behaviours that would lead to a toxic workplace. However, every single example noted by participants was redacted by PCO. One unredacted portion notes that the examples spanned the entirety of Julie Payette’s mandate and described behaviours “that were in most cases repeated and persistent”.

The report includes a response from the management of the Office to the Secretary to the Governor General (OSGG). It does not say who specifically the response is from, however the management was overseen by Secretary to the Governor General Assunta di Lorenzo, a former Montreal corporate lawyer and a longtime friend of Payette’s.

In the report, OSGG management spelled out measures adopted to “improve the health of the workplace,” such as conducting a “World Café” all-staff meeting in the fall of 2018, adopting a first-ever Workplace Well-being and Harassment Prevention Action Plan and organizing training session on “Respect in the Workplace” and “Working Minds.”

Report into Julie Payette’s conduct says staff reported ‘toxic’, ‘poisoned’ work atmosphere

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“OSGG management specifically spoke about the challenges associated with needing to modernize some aspects of the OSGG, including related to HR policies, technology and the system of honours,” the report says. “They reported that some OSGG staff were quite resistant to these changes that were taking place…Representatives of OSGG management also stated that reports of harassment at the OSGG predated the current mandate, and they had, in recent years, taken many important steps to improve the health of the workplace.”

The reviewed was ordered last summer after a CBC report cited a dozen confidential sources alleging Payette and di Lorenzo had created a toxic workplace and were verbally abusive towards Rideau Hall staff, belittling them and sometimes leaving them in tears.

The report was submitted to the government on Jan. 4, 2021. According to a source, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Payette on Wednesday and requested her resignation as governor general. Both Payette and di Lorenzo resigned on Thursday.

• Email: bplatt@postmedia.com | Twitter: btaplatt

• Email: cnardi@postmedia.com | Twitter: ChrisGNardi

Rideau Hall won’t say how much Canadians paid for travel by spouses of former GGs .
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This is interesting!