June 4th, 2017
People send us brown envelopes. They’re usually stuffed with Canadian Standards Association (CSA) documents, sent by sympathetic insiders. It’s incredibly useful, this stuff, but you might wonder why CSA employees work with us at all.
Well, some CSA employees are worried about liability, in that they know they’re prosecutable for violations of law, no matter whose orders they were following. Some are suffering insufferable managers and are sick of it. Still others are affronted by CSA’s unethical conduct and they want the whole place cleaned up.
A lot of what we receive can’t be published, mainly to protect the whistleblowers themselves. While still valuable information, especially with governments in recovery efforts, the fact that we can’t publish a lot of it makes it harder to convey the CSA employment experience.
That’s where Glassdoor helps us out. The Glassdoor website is a bit like RateMD, or Yelp, or Tripadvisor.com. It’s a site where employees of companies can anonymously rate their employers and tell the world what its really like to work there. The CSA’s employees have posted comments on Glassdoor too.
What are they saying?
“Management needs to have more business experience”
“Disapproves of CEO”
“Advice to management - change management style”
Employee’s reviews of CSA are usually a bit blunt, sometimes bitter, and often entertaining.
One employee, for instance, complained that “some local managers are technicians who were promoted with zero previous management experience and exposure to the real world of business, effective communications and problem solving techniques.” These newly minted managers are “more interested in covering their backs and worried to keep their jobs than […] growing the local office and still live in their silos.”
That’s blunt. Others were bitter;
“Promotions are political; need a godfather to advance”
“Bad company, bad management”
“Bad management (without training and qualification for position), clustered in pyramid structure with brown nose orientation. No award system in place for proactive and hard working employees. Unreasonable expectations. If you can switch-off yourself to see and say nothing, or if you are part of UNION this is ideal place for you.” [emphasis in original]
Like any such rating site, Glassdoor surely has its trolls, people who post in order to boost one company or another. Dan Lyons’ book Disrupted noted this problem. His employer made sure their staff rated their own company in glowing terms all over the place. It was part of their PR program.
That said, all these reviews start to average out, and the trolling gets buried in the trends. And there are trends to discern through CSA’s employee reviews.
Here’s one; “Management needs to have more business experience.”
And another; “Reduce your management staff and get more managers who can produce and not just fib.”
Similar comments; “[needs] stronger management, fewer management layers,” “there are far too many levels of management creating friction between departments and staff,” “mismanaged,” demands that CSA “train your managers on how to manage the employees,” “lack of competent senior employees,” “unjustified promotions,” “managers - no experience needed; advice - train your managers, they have no managerial skills,” “disorganization of management,” and advice to “verify the credentials of who you promote.”
Are you sensing a trend?
“It’s a place,” said one employee “that’s full of issues and inefficiencies that never really get resolved because management is too slow to respond or too constrained by operating procedures / policies. Innovation is not well-received. The company is headquartered in Toronto / Cleveland, and all decision-making (though it’s a stretch to call it that) is done out there. So if you work in a satellite office you kind of feel like you have no say in what happens at work, and you don’t feel very empowered. They say they want self-starters and self-motivated people, but what they really want are people who won’t rock the boat. I’ve found that it’s an extremely frustrating and depressing environment and I personally felt let down by CSA, as I came here wanting to make the world a safer place, but they don’t really enable me to do that.”
Actually, the CSA’s disappointed a lot their people by pitching social good, only to prioritize enrichment. Or, as CSA leadership put it, “the bottom line is revenue generation,” not safety.
We have published articles on the yawning chasm separating CSA’s words and their deeds, and indeed separating some CSA words from other of their words. We have learned that CSA statements, even under oath, are meaningless. To actually live in that environment can be soul crushing.
“Management works on principle of do as I say not as I do, different rules for management, and regular staff who are disrespected. Most of the management have been promoted on who they know not on their knowledge, so basically you get no support, however you have to get the work done”.
Said another; “Unstable governance and uncertainty in management ranks is affecting the morale of front line employees. Very weak, highly political HR department.”
And another; “‘See no evil hear no evil’ attitude silently promoted. If you propose any changes or recommend improvements you are labelled as troublemaker. The executive team doesn’t seem to adhere to the core values they so eagerly promote (respect, integrity, mutual respect and understanding to name the few).”
And yet another; “The visible set of core values are displayed (key chains, bulletin boards, etc.) are recited by senior management often, but true adherence to them across the board is inconsistent at best.”
There seems an unfortunate atmosphere at CSA, long the product of unqualified, underperforming leadership ordering unethical and underhand activities. That kind of environment devalues actual performance and elevates political decision making.
“The delegation of blame and petty office politics is made worse by this, and has created a noted atmosphere.” Indeed.
Some insiders aren’t even sure of CSA’s legal status. One very senior leader confided that they’d learned that CSA was maintaining its government Agency status only after they had been hired. The CSA’s human resources group had glossed the whole issue. For some employees, the issue is still unsettled.
“Not sure if its a non-profit or [an] actual business” Well, actually, it’s neither, the CSA is an Agency of the Federal Government. Either way though, this employee described CSA as “very political, middle managers are all long-timers”.
Said another; “Certain departments continue to underperform. Senior management knows EXACTLY which departments these are. Sweeping changes are necessary. In one department, they need to replace the VP, most of middle management, and some of the technical people. I could tell them which department that is, but they already know. And yet turf and budgets continue to be the top priority. To sum it all up: Stop acting like a government agency or a social club.” [emphasis in original]
See? This employee isn’t aware that CSA is actually still a Crown Agency, and behaving as a no-accountability, luxurious social club is the whole point. Safety is merely the excuse to access the funding.
“A fair percentage of upper management consists of people who did not perform well in the for-profit sector. CSA is very much like a government agency. Management defends turf and budgets, with little regard for managing the business in a competitive way. Most of the company’s obstacles are self-imposed.”
Yes. Yes, they are. The entire RestoreCSA newsfeed was brought about by CSA’s needless and baseless picking on PS Knight Co. The exposures that they have suffered in the last five years, not to mention the millions that they have spent in litigation during that period, have been entirely self imposed.
What is publicly posted on Glassdoor is mirrored in the materials that we’ve received from CSA employees, it’s a perfect match. When a CSA employee reviews their Agency as “bureaucracy at its worst,” we’ve heard the complaint already. When their employees decry “autocratic management [saying] their way or the highway,” we’ve heard that too. When they say it’s “too old, slow and bureaucratic,” we’ve known that for some years now.
It’s the frustration of the staff that’s the most pronounced. We’ve sat across from CSA employees, usually in quiet restaurants at least an hour from their jobsite, taking notes as they vent their exasperation with the CSA environment, their problems with advancement, with performance reviews -the lot. There doesn’t seem much of the Agency that’s competently run.
There is “very little possibility for advancement, unless you are willing to drink the KoolAid. Best not to stay more than a few years as the experience is not very transferable. For a not-for-profit that tries to portray a touchy-feely-safety culture, they have a very aggressive ‘March Madness’ program every year where they gratuitously fire about 10% of people for mostly vindictive reasons, totally demotivating everyone else for months. Management [is] easily fooled into spending huge amounts of money on unnecessary IT (SAP etc.) and passé management fads (Kaizen, Employee Engagement etc.) instead of just developing competent managers. Most senior management do not respect the membership of the association and spent most of their efforts on advancing their own careers.”
That’s a pretty typical report, CSA insiders usually give similar reviews; “a leadership team that would rather die a slow, painful death than change,” “disgruntled staff, lazy staff,” “they will bleed the life out of you,” “employees are not the priority, we are just a means to get the money in,” the CSA needs to “review your HR staff carefully” because “many people don’t trust” the HR staff they’ve got now.
“The path to longevity is achieved by not making waves and avoiding ‘March Madness’.”
Or how’s this for a review; “The whole place is run like a corrupt third world country. You can do everything right or wrong, and it only matters that you are doing it like everyone else. If you step out of line; that is to say whichever side of the line the person directly ahead of you is not on, they discover an excuse to let you go. Right or wrong.”
Finally, our favourite insiders’ review of CSA; “Labs very outdated. Certain classes of Employees (i.e., Technical Advisors) horribly overworked. Seems to be major shift in corporate direction with every CEO. Also, read up on the site restorecsa.com.” It’s always nice to get an advert from the inside.
This is the reality for CSA leadership. They know better than most of their staff that RestoreCSA articles are researched and accurate and that the reporting herein is witness to the significance of the sources for our articles. Leadership knows that we know what they’re doing, and they know we have proven it already, and that with every new article the cumulative weight of evidence against them becomes a heavier burden to bear and too big a story to suppress.
To everyone still toiling at CSA, you have our sympathies for your situation and our respect for your contributions to cleaning up and restoring CSA to public service.