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WFOmbuds Office
Workplace Fairness West
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Blaine Donais

Workplaces that Work

Workplaces That Work: A Guide to Conflict Management Systems in Union and Non-Union Workplaces is a practical book that offers quantitative solutions to managing workplace conflict. Practitioners are provided with a set of instruments to aid them in a thorough diagnostic test of their workplace. This book addresses:

  • The cost of conflict to your company.
  • How to save money by managing workplace conflict better.
  • How to uncover workplace conflict.
  • How to define workplace culture.
  • Options for an effective workplace fairness system.
  • How to test your present workplace system.
  • How to assess the value of your workplace system.
  • How to build consensus around change.
  • How to ensure the system remains effective.
  • How you can engage unions and employers to support change.

Workplaces That Work introduces the idea of "fairness" into conflict management systems.


So what is "workplace fairness"?

There are two dominant themes for workplace conflict management. The Due Process Systems movement advocates workplace "justice" and the Integrated Conflict Management Systems movement studies "efficiency". Workplaces That Work reaches beyond "justice and efficiency' to consider "engagement and resource sufficiency" as critical parts of a system that manages workplace conflict. This is called "workplace fairness".

Does workplace fairness really matter?

The workplace is an extension of our society wherein all participants follow certain rules and ascribe to certain authority structures. Everyone has a role to play and the success of the whole relies on individual contribution. Just as effective societies engage their citizens, so must a competitive company engage its employees. Modern companies cannot afford to be veritable autocracies without concern for the treatment of their participants.

What does an employer have to do to achieve a balance between employee satisfaction and productivity?

Workplace fairness is the key. To motivate productivity and loyalty, the new employee needs visible workplace fairness.

How can you measure workplace fairness?

Workplaces That Work offers a new approach to the study of conflict management – the Donais Fairness Theory. According to this theory, workplace conflict management systems can be measured for fairness. If your accountant can measure and predict the company's financial forecast, why not use experience and informed decision-making to assess your company's fairness system? The Testing Instrument for Fairness Systems (TIFFS) presented in this book will allow you to diagnose and modify your fairness system. The Fairness Cost Analysis Tool (FCAT) will help you make informed decisions to improve your company's bottom line. This book explores the "science" of fairness.

Achieving Fairness Excellence

The Donais Fairness Theory also argues that workplaces can achieve "fairness excellence" in their systems for managing conflict. Whether you are a manager, CEO, human resources professional, union leader or any other workplace participant, there is value in understanding workplace conflict and having tools to effectively manage it. This book is based on the theory that good processes lead to good results. Through an accurate understanding of the nature of conflict, the options available and the proper diagnostic tools, every workplace can achieve fairness excellence.

Engaging the Stakeholders

This process is designed to engage stakeholders and vest them with responsibility for fairness in their workplace. Workplace participants are invited to become stakeholders in developing the system. This will have a positive impact on trust levels between employees and organizational leaders. We begin, then, from the premise that there is a symbiotic relationship between trust and consensus-building.

The CD-ROM will make the diagnostics for your business faster by providing you with:

  • Diagnostic tools – such as the Testing Instrument For Fairness Systems and the Fairness Cost Analysis that allow you to take a thorough diagnostic test of your workplace
  • Checklists – that help you organize and summarize complicated information into an accessible format
  • Templates – offering fast, efficient solutions for conflict management
  • Surveys – that allow system designers to solicit feedback from workplace participants … and more!

What Practitioners are saying:

“A wonderful resource for anyone interested in workplace fairness and conflict management.”
Douglas Stone
Co-author of Difficult Conversations
Partner at Triad Consulting

“The book provides a framework for understanding and tools for evaluating the relative fairness of the conflict management system within a company. This focus on measurement would be very useful when trying to justify expenditures in this area to senior management who do not have a complete understanding of such systems or of their value to the company.”
Brian Story
Former Vice President of Labour Relations
Ontario Power Generation Inc.
Labour Relations Consultant

“This book will be of great benefit to everyone who deals with workplace disputes… This book will also be a tremendous resource for alternative dispute resolution practitioners who deal with workplace conflicts and for those who do system design consultation for clients who wish to improve workplace fairness.”
Brian Cook
Vice-Chair,Workplace Safety and
Insurance Appeals Tribunal
President,Dispute Resolution Services

“A valuable, practical addition to a serious ADR professional’s “tool kit”.”
Nalini Jugnundan B.A. ,LL.B., LL.M.
President - Access Dispute Resolution

“This book is a must if you want a comprehensive, practical guide to developing conflict management systems in the workplace. I have used it. It works!”
Richard Moore,
President MDR Associates Conflict Resolution Inc.

“Workplaces That Work is a valuable tool for HR professionals, union representatives, and all stakeholders in the analysis or design of a conflict system. It furthers our understanding of the underlying causes of organizational conflict and its resolution, and the necessary integration of the fairness imperative.”
Lisa Tenace
Department of National Defense Office of the Ombudsman

“Workplaces That Work is a terrific resource for union, management and ADR professionals who are reviewing or designing a conflict management system.  The ‘fairness’ theme runs right through this book making it a ‘must have’ resource.   This book will be a very valuable resource in my library!”
Roger Alton CHRP C.Med
President Just Resolutions

“The ADR field is flooded with literature, mostly theory.  This practical, pragmatic piece of work really is a unique contribution to the literature.  The beauty of it is that it applies theory in a clever and practical way.”
Elaine Newman
Labour Mediator and Arbitrator

“The book shows that it is more cost-effective to have a system than to pretend the conflict is not here.”
Richard Long
Canada Industrial Relations Board

“Exploring the “science of fairness,” the book will show you how to diagnose and modify your fairness system, as well as helping you to make informed decisions to improve your company’s bottom line.”
Workplace News November/December 2006


The Author’s instrument helps achieve three key factors:
1) Provides a tool to Analyze workplaces to define and assess current conflict management systems (CMS) and how to achieve sustainable improvements
2) Demonstrates that the model is applicable in ANY workplace and is translatable to almost any culture and/or country.
3) Exemplifies how even unionized environments can have effective CMS provided that the union facilitates buy-in and inclusion of its working members.
Debra Dupree
Pulse Institute
ACR Co-Chair, Workplace Section 2005-2007

Download brochure for WORKPLACES THAT WORK >>

Read book reviews

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ADRIO book review by Elaine Newman >>

CIIAN book review by Lisa Tenace >>

How to Order

Workplaces That Work is published through Canada Law Book. A copy of the book can be ordered from Canada Law Book by clicking the link below:

Order Here >>

Engaging Unionized Employees

Book Preview:
Engaging Unionized Employees: Employee Morale and Productivity

(Aurora: Canada Law Book, 2010)

Employee engagement has become a primary measure of success for modern workplaces.
Business leaders argue that employee engagement is the best way to give their companies the competitive advantage they need to survive difficult economic times. 
When employees are engaged they devote their discretionary effort to the success of the workplace. 
It should come as no surprise that engaging unionized employees poses unique challenges for modern workplaces.
But where there are challenges there are also potential rewards.  Effective support from a union offers more opportunities for a higher level of engagement than is possible in the average workplace.
Engaging Unionized Employees is an insightful guide to understanding how unionized employees become engaged through the support of their union.

In Depth Chapter Review:
Engaging Unionized Employees explores unions, their motivation and history, their internal challenges and external positioning.   It offers tools to guide you through the process of engaging unionized employees.  Take hold of the competitive advantage waiting for you in your unionized work environment.
This book explains:

  • Why it is important to consider the role of unions in the workplace
  • How involving the union leadership in the operations of the organization will help build trust, morale and productivity among employees
  • How unions operate as democratic organizations
  • How to build trust with the union leadership and ensure that positive working relationships are institutionalized in the organization
  • How to work with union leaders to reinvent relationships and processes in the workplace that respect and honor the role of unions in the workplace
  • Why unions should not be seen as obstacles but as important partners in change management in any organization.

Engaging Unionized Employees, is built on the principle that unionization is a positive state for employment relationships in North America.   Through democratic and effective representation of the needs and interests of employees, unionization can lead to increased voice and loyalty in the workplace.  It can also lead to innovation and increased profits for employers. 

This book is based upon 15 years of research and experience with the concept of “employee engagement” in a unionized environment.  It covers six essential topics:

  • Why involve unions in employee engagement?
  • The role of unions in the workplace
  • Understanding how unions operate
  • Five levels of union involvement
  • When does involvement work?
  • Getting started with engagement through involvement

Chapter 1 - Why Involve Unions in Employee Engagement?
The first chapter explores both the downside of failing to involve unions and the upside of choosing to involve them.  On the downside, research has consistently shown that employee engagement attempts in unionized workplaces are a complete failure when the union is not involved.  The legal and social position of unions in the workplace and the trust they enjoy among their membership, makes it nearly impossible for an employer to do a “work around” when it comes to employee engagement.  Employees will view any “engagement” attempts with suspicion unless the union blesses the process.  Employees expect their union to look after their interest, and by in large, no longer trust employer actors to do so. 

But this is the very reason why it can be easier to engage employees in a unionized environment than a non-union environment.  The upside of involving unions relates directly to the union’s relationship with their own membership.  Through union involvement there will be:

  • better communication with employees,
  • more trust placed in the efforts because the union has vetted the process to ensure no improper motivations from the employer, and
  • process feedback from the unions that will be useful to improving the quality of the program.

Chapter 2 - The Role of Unions in the Workplace
After setting out why it’s a good idea to involve the union leadership, the book describes the various roles that unions play both in the workplace and in our societies.  In addition to the obvious functions like bargaining and enforcing terms and conditions employment, unions play a more subtle social role.  They encourage the inclusion of democratic principles into the workplace.  This makes unionized employees more vocal, but also more aware of the conditions around them.  This is an important parallel to our greater societies.  We all know that democracies are more productive than tyrannies.  The same principle applies to workplaces.  By bringing concepts of democracy (justice and voice) to the workplace, unions make citizens out of employees – citizens with civic duties and responsibilities who are engaged in a way that not union employees could never be.

This chapter also explores the role unions play in the sustenance of our entire liberal and social democratic political systems in the Western world.  Unions act as a balance to corporate power, both in the workplace and in our larger societies.  Understanding this greater societal role should lead employers to consider the value of unions in dictating social and economic policies.  Often smart employers ask unions to participate in economic and industry policy debates.  This is because they realize the value of union voice in such matters.

Chapter 3 - Understanding How Unions Operate
Most employer actors are mystified by the operations of their unions.  Many don’t understand the political pressures that their union counterparts face.  They assume that a good management idea speaks for itself.  But they do not comprehend the political risks that union leaders take in appearing to cooperate with their employer – no matter how good the idea is.  This chapter offers a detailed exposure into the internal workings of unions as democratic organizations.  It explores the roles of various union actors all the way from the shop steward/delegate to the national or even international president.  It also sets out how decisions are typically made, and the challenges that local leaderships face. 

Chapter 4 - Five Levels of Union Involvement
Many employers and union leaders see involvement as akin to “co-management” and both have a generally strong aversion to such an idea.  In reality, however, “involvement” is a natural and expected part of any union-management relationship.  For example, “joint decision-making” is required under all grievance processes.  The decision to settle a grievance is a joint decision. 

There are a number of forms of involvement that do not include “co-management”.  As set out in the diagram below, involvement can include information sharing, consultation, recommendations and decisions in addition to co-management.  This chapter explores the difference between the five levels of involvement.  Based on research and experience, different levels of involvement might be more appropriate in different circumstances.  For both unions and employers, it is important to distinguish between these different levels of involvement so that involvement in general is not dismissed as “co-management”. 

Chapter 5 - When Does Involvement Work?
Why do so many attempts at involvement and engagement fail?  And why do some succeed?  These questions are explored in this chapter.  After a review of most of the high profile involvement processes like Saturn, Corning, Kaiser Permanente, Magna, Harley Davidson and other groups, a number of principles for success have been uncovered.  These principles fall into three broad categories: Process Management, Relationship Management and Change Management.  This chapter explores each of these areas and arrives at a list of advice for the reader who wants to engage unionized employees.

Chapter 6 - Getting Started with Engagement through Involvement
Where there are some employers who don’t even want to bother, there are others who would like to improve morale and productivity but don’t know how to get started.  This chapter sets out a simple four step process for any union and employer who would like to get started.  This process includes designing goals, defining the existing state of involvement, and moving toward the desired state.  The appendix at the end of the book, takes this process to a much deeper level for larger workplaces.  It sets out how to charter teams and sets out four phases for any strategy including assessment, design, implementation and monitoring.  There are a number of convenient check-lists and tools to help the parties make the most of this effort to engage unionized employees.

Engaging Unionized Employees, offers employers a different perspective on how best to get the best out of their employees in a unionized workplace.  The book encourages employers to stay away from the traditional carrot and stick approach and to recognize that dignity, respect, fair treatment and involvement are the real keys to effective employee engagement.  Unions can play a fundamental role in achieving these results.  Any employer that recognizes this fact will have a considerable advantage over those who do not.  

Engaging Unionized Employees
is published through Canada Law Book can be ordered by clicking this link:
Order here >>



The Art and Science of Workplace Mediation


This new book provides a much needed resource on how to integrate mediation into the workplace, for non-unionized and unionized settings. It will discuss the different uses of mediation in the workplace rather than just the very narrow approach of "grievance mediation". The book discusses the specific aspects of mediation in the labour context, the employment (wrongful dismissal) context, and in the context of resolving general workplace issues. "Workplace Mediation" provides legal practitioners, as well as managers, HR departments, and union representatives with tools and theory to analyze how to best approach mediation, including how to design mediation systems that are fair, efficient, and cost-effective. Anyone with an interest in resolving workplace disputes will benefit from this book.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 The Cost of Workplace Conflict and the Value of Mediation Alternatives
Chapter 2 Mediation’s Role in a Healthy Workplace
Chapter 3 The Mediation Process Defined
Chapter 4 Mediation Approaches
Chapter 5 Workplace Mediation Ethics and Competencies
Chapter 6 Designing and Implementing Grievance Mediation Processes
Chapter 7 Workplace Fairness Model for Workplace Mediation
Chapter 8 Integrating Mediation into Collective Bargaining and Union-Management Relationships
Chapter 9 Workplace/Organizational Restorations


How to Order

The Art and Science of Workplace Mediation is published through the Carswell Store. A copy of the book can be ordered by clicking the link below:

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WFI WHITE PAPER Concerning Workplace Conflict Management in Canada, 2010

by Blaine Donais

Available in print.

This 120 page perfect bound book is the culmination of approximately five years of clinical research into private forms of conflict management in Canadian workplaces.  It is the first of its kind to take the theory of workplace conflict management beyond “dispute resolution” into the depths of conflict theory, to explore conflict management options at play in workplaces.
The WFI WHITE PAPER describes public and private forms of conflict management in union and non-union workplaces in Canada by:

  • Introducing the Canadian system of labour and employment relations;
  • Setting out a list of conflict management options that are used in many Canadian workplaces to fill the gap between public and private forms of conflict management;
  • Using an evaluative model to describe the effectiveness of various conflict management systems;
  • Sharing the results of a quantitative analysis of workplace conflict management systems in Canada; and,
  • Recommending conflict management options that work well in Canada and other countries.

The WFI WHITE PAPER further analyzes the differences between:

  • Union and non-union work environments;
  • Workplace with and without Ombuds functions;
  • Old and new economy workplaces; and
  • Predominantly female and male gendered workplaces.

Academics and practitioners researching workplace governance, organizational behavior, labour and employment law, human resources and union-management relations will find this work to be of great value in describing how conflict is managed in Canadian workplaces and how it could be better managed in workplaces across the world.

To order a copy of the WFI WHITE PAPER Concerning Workplace Conflict Management in Canada, contact the Workplace Fairness Institute at:


Order Here >>



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