Consider this. You’re at work, seemingly just doing your job. You’re tasked with looking into a matter that you know would negatively affect a client or vendor or colleague – mainly because they did something wrong. Your boss steps in and tries to influence your decision or nudge you along in such a way that makes you feel like you don’t have a choice and should alter that negative decision on your boss’ behalf.
It might be considered a toxic work environment. You may go to HR to discuss your options and/or you may have a whistleblower hotline at your company for such situations. But what if you are the justice minister of Canada and the Prime Minister asked you to look into the SNC-Lavalin case to revisit the question of the company’s pending criminal prosecution on fraud and corruption charges. What then?
In Jody Wilson-Raybould’s case, we know she resigned her cabinet post and is somewhat limited in what she can say publically about the case and what she was asked to do. But it brings up an interesting question about the different workplaces we can encounter. Although government is different, and the justice minister is an elected official, there are still workplace mechanisms, rules and regulations that govern workplace decorum. We are all governed by human rights regulations, labour codes and employment equity acts. But as we can see, not all workplaces are created equally. Governments and leaders would be well advised to remember that, while they may be there temporarily, they still have a duty to lead by example and conduct the business of government in the most transparent and fair way possible – much like they have regulated the private sector to do. A workplace is a workplace, and placing undue influence on a subordinate should be properly scrutinized in the public and private sectors.