Big Ideas in IDEA

CCDI Consulting's Monthly Newsletter for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility.

Finding Balance and Celebrating Truth

Despite the never-ending stream of busyness and bad news, this month, I am being intentional in choosing to find balance and celebrate truth. Finding balance, for me, looks like setting new work-life boundaries, having open conversations with my colleagues, and enjoying my first few sips of tea in the morning. And celebrating truth, for me, looks like being honest with myself about what I know, do not know, and hope to know, as well as creating moments to hear other people's truths. 

In this newsletter, we bring to you three articles on disability inclusion, psychological safety, and Indigenous inclusion,  and on how taking the time to reflect on your intentions and the work that you do can help to pave the path forward for a healthier, more inclusive, and more authentic workplace.


Assessing Your Feelings of Psychological Safety at Work

When life gets busy, or we find ourselves experiencing unexpected difficulties, it may be challenging for us to recognize how our work is being affected. An organizational culture that promotes psychological safety will make it easier for individuals and their team leaders to navigate through these obstacles.

In our last article on psychological safety, we shared with you 3 tips for leaders to improve psychological safety within their teams. In this edition, we bring to you 3 questions that all team members can reflect on, to assess their current state of psychological safety in the workplace.

What am I responsible for? What is expected of me? How do I feel about them?

While our team leaders hold much of the responsibility when it comes to creating a culture that fosters psychological safety, regularly checking in with ourselves is equally as important. An ideal, psychologically safe work environment is one characterized by “interpersonal trust and mutual respect, in which people are comfortable being themselves”. A key component of this is knowing how you function within your team. What is expected of you? What are you responsible for? How do you feel about your responsibilities?

If you are feeling unclear or unhappy about the answers to any of these questions, those feelings of confusion or dissatisfaction are likely to seep into other areas of your work and can also impact the relationships you have with your fellow team members. Not knowing what you need to do, or what is expected of you, can cause discomfort and increased stress. After all, how can you do your job well, if you do not know what you need to do?

Asking yourself this three-part question can help you to gain insight into the aspects of your role that you like, dislike, or need clarity around, as well as help you to better understand your career goals and the suitability of this position for your long-term career path. It is also a good conversation starter. At any given point, you can ask yourself this and/or meet with your team leader, to gain clarity, assess progress, and build the role and the relationship with your team that will support you in doing your best work.

How do I feel, when asking for help or collaborating with other team members?
While asking for help or collaborating with other team members can be, at times, challenging, if and when everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities, it is generally much easier to work with one another. In a team that is built on a foundation of psychological safety, supporting and collaborating with one another tends to happen more organically. You can ask simple and hard questions, without fear of being judged. You can offer your own opinions or suggestions without fear of being shut down. And you can ask for help when you need it, without fear of being perceived as a burden or incompetent.

On the other hand, when there is a lack of clarity on an individual’s roles and responsibilities, as well as when there is a lack of interpersonal trust and mutual respect, you might experience ‘head butting’ with your colleagues, more often than not, as well as a sense of competition – rather than collaboration – within your own team.

What is a recent mistake that you made? How was it received by your team? What did you learn from it?

While no one likes to make mistakes, they are inevitable and are (or should be considered to be) opportunities for learning and improvement. When you realized you made the mistake, were you worried about admitting it? How was it received by your team? And what did you learn from it?

If the key takeaway from that experience is that another slip-up will cost you your job (of course, depending on the type of mistake that was made), then that is an indication that you do not feel safe in your role. Following that event, you will likely be more cautious, and while caution can be a good thing, it can also have a negative impact on your job and on your mental health, if it leads to you feeling constantly on edge, stressed, worried, or uneasy about performing your daily tasks.

But if you walked away from the experience with the knowledge that there is something that you can do differently or a skill you can improve on, and you were met by your team with support rather than harsh criticism, then the opposite may be true: you will feel more comfortable asking for help and receiving feedback from your team, less stressed about future tasks and their outcomes, and more willing to take on new roles and tasks that you might not have had much experience in before.

Team leaders want to create an environment that supports their team members in the best way possible, not just when they are at the top of their game so to say, but also when they are going through challenging times. And members of a team want to excel in an environment that values them, supports them, and challenges them to grow. These are all signs of a healthy workplace culture that prioritizes psychological safety.

If you find that you have been under more stress than normal, or perhaps less productive, consider asking yourself these questions as a launching point. And as mentioned above – it is important to remember that while team leaders are responsible for fostering psychological safety in the workplace, as employees and team members, we are responsible for checking in with ourselves, and that involves being honest and communicating our needs. If we do not share our experiences and concerns with our teams – including when we are experiencing challenges (either personally or professionally) – then it is impractical and unrealistic to expect that things will change, or that we will receive the support that we are looking for. Psychological safety is built on interpersonal trust and mutual respect and requires an open line of communication between all members of the team, and ideally the organization.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: A Time to Reflect, A Time to Learn

By: Roy Pogorzelski

I am sitting here at my home in the lands of the Blackfoot people thinking about the importance of the next couple of weeks. In a couple of days, it will be the 2nd annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, formerly known as Orange Shirt Day. I have completed five presentations already this week, and have five more to go - needless to say, it is a very busy week. In each presentation, I pay homage to Phyllis Webstad who bravely shared her story about having her orange shirt taken away when she was forced to attend a residential school in British Columbia. Her story led to a national movement of education, awareness, and an emphasis on the importance of lived experience that reminds us of the “Truth” necessary to advance reconciliation.

A gentleman in one of my sessions stated that he did not like the term reconciliation as it pertains to repairing relationships to the times when they were good, but he added that there were never really times when the relationship was good. Perhaps there is another term rooted in Indigenous languages that would better explain the action around repairing relationships, redressing history, unlearning elements of our history and being open to re-learning the truthful history of Canada. I thought this was a very critically engaging thought. It is one that I have heard before, and it makes me think of my own family’s history: no matter how challenging or difficult it was for them, they kept fighting to find their place in Canadian society.

As I continue to write, my mind often drifts to my late Grandmother, Dora Morin. She is a Métis/Cree woman who was born in Green Lake, Saskatchewan in the 1930s. My grandmother spoke Cree and Michif, and spent much of her childhood trapping, gathering and picking berries on the land. She was a strong and resilient Indigenous woman who taught me so much about my culture, my identity, and about our family. My grandfather, Freddy Morin, born in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan passed away when I was eleven years old, and with him a library of knowledge about our culture and family. I am so fortunate, I got to spend time with my grandmother into her late eighties as she always told me the greatest stories and had the best sense of humour. When I was feeling sad, she would always lighten my day with a joke or a funny story, and she took great pride in her family.

My grandmother, as our matriarch, was a tough woman. She never talked about the negative aspects of the church schools in Green Lake, Saskatchewan. She was too focused on keeping the family united and ensuring that her grandchildren were taken care of. I remember one afternoon, we had sat down at Smitty’s for our regular meal (Grandma loved eating at Smitty’s). During this visit, she started talking about her experience in the church school, which caught me by surprise. I was silent, I did not know what to say. To see a single tear start to run down the cheek of my hero caught me off guard, but I listened with great intensity to her bravely sharing her experiences with me. I had known my Mother Audrey Morin’s (born Meadow Lake 1956) experience with education as a young Indigenous woman, and this too was a very difficult story to internalize, but I had never heard my grandma talk about her experience.

I am grateful for every moment I got to spend with my grandma, her resilience, courage, perseverance, humour, and lifestyle guided me on my journey. She lived by her Indigenous values and teachings and is a role model to so many people. At her funeral, I had the distinct pleasure of giving the eulogy in front of our family members, one of the greatest honours I have ever received. Naturally, I was flooded with emotions. How do you provide a eulogy for one of the greatest people you have ever known? I wanted it to be perfect, but I have always been taught in life that there is no such thing as perfect, but rather to lead with my heart, speak from a place of passion with intention, meaning and purpose and the right words will come. My heart shattered with every word said, but I knew that my grandma was proud of me.

My mom moved to Blackfoot territory about three months ago to live with me and we keep the conversations about grandma ongoing. I am learning a lot about grandma from my mother and see many of the same values and teachings instilled in my mom. I look at my mom with admiration for always moving forward, for keeping such a positive attitude and for bringing kindness, empathy, and open-mindedness to everything she does. Recently, she has gone back to Saskatchewan to be with her twin sister as she battles the late stages of cancer, and I am happy they can be together during this time. As I was writing this story, she messaged me to say hello, it must be kismet, perhaps she could feel me writing about grandma.

On the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, I hope that Canadians take this opportunity to learn about not only the lived experiences of Indigenous people in Canada but as an ally, be a scholar to personalize knowledge and continue the journey to learning our authentic history. As well, it is my hope that many Canadians across the country will observe the sisters in Spirit Vigils held annually on October 4th to honour and remember those Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse individuals that have gone missing or have been murdered. It is an opportunity to raise awareness, become better educated and speak up about the injustice and the Human Rights Crisis that has impacted the women in our Indigenous communities. It is a time to call out the justice system for the lack of specific data, for the inactive investigations and for the lack of will in the justice system to value Indigenous lives.

The time for change is now and it is important that we continue to heal within our families and our communities. I want to thank all the active allies out there for all the unlearning and re-learning you do, and the support and advocacy you provide to a growing Indigenous rights movement in Canada.

[Note to the readers: This article was written during the last week of September, before the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which takes place annually on September 30th. It is the reflections of one of our associates and Indigenous Inclusion leaders at CCDI Consulting, Roy Pogorzelski. For more information about Roy, click here]. 

Disability Employment Awareness Month: An Under-Utilized Labour Market

By: External Contributor, Sydney Elaine Butler, Founder of Accessible Creates

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This month serves as a time to acknowledge the contributions of disabled individuals in the workplace, while also acknowledging that there is still so much work to be done to remove workplace barriers to people with disabilities. Although disability inclusion has improved in the workplace, people living with disabilities still face challenges and barriers in getting jobs that they are qualified for, being compensated equally and fairly, as well as other jobs, location, and industry-specific barriers.

There are many events taking place this month to promote disability inclusion. I will be hosting one virtually (you can register here), and I encourage you to look at the events in your area and/or industry and to attend at least one event this month.

Disability and the Labour Market

People with disabilities are the most under-utilized labour market. Did you know that:

• In Canada, over 400,000 working-age adults living with physical or mental disabilities are currently unemployed, despite being willing and able to participate in the paid labour force (Till et al. 2015).

• In 2017, one in five (22%) Canadians aged 15 years and over – or about 6.2 million individuals – had one or more disabilities.

• Among those aged 25 to 64 years, persons with disabilities were less likely to be employed (59%) than those without disabilities (80%).

• Despite numerous positive stories and experiences, persons with disabilities remain less likely than others to be employed, both in Canada and other parts of the world.

• Approximately 1 in 2 university graduates, with or without a disability, held a professional occupation; however, graduates with a disability were less likely to hold a management position and earned less than those without a disability - especially among men.

Making an Inclusive Hiring Process

Many hiring and recruiting practices and processes that are considered ‘traditional’ have a lot of barriers rooted throughout for people with disabilities. Examples include:

• Vague and/or inaccessible language used in job descriptions and ads,
• Requiring employees to have a valid driver’s license, and
• Asking questions exclusively through verbal communication in interviews.

In each of these examples, a few helpful questions to consider while assessing the inclusivity of hiring and recruitment practices are:

• Does the job description clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of the position? Are the job requirements distinguishable from the nice-to-haves? Does the job description include a statement about being an equal-opportunity employer?

• Does the person have to drive a car to fulfill their job duties? Or is driving required only for getting to the office?

• Do interviews take place solely in person? Or is the option to have a remote interview included? In remote interviews, are closed captions enabled for all attendees? Are questions provided in advance of the interview, to allow time for processing?
Improving disability inclusion in the workplace begins with inclusive hiring practices.

Ableism and the Barriers it Creates

While inclusive hiring practices make jobs more accessible for those living with disabilities, ableism remains a huge problem in the workplace and creates a lot of barriers to long-term employment. Ableism is the conscious and unconscious discrimination against those with disabilities, in favour of able-bodied individuals.

There is a lot of unconscious bias against people with disabilities that undermine their abilities in the workplace. Even the language used in the workplace among co-workers or management can be ableist. For example, a person might say, “You're acting so bipolar today,” to their colleague, who may or may not be living with a disability. This is a case of mental ableism, which is also commonly ignored, as many people do not consider mental health issues a disability. Further, these terms have been thrown around for so long, that people often do not realize the impact that statements such as these have.

Benefits of Hiring and Retaining Disabled Talent

There are many benefits to hiring disabled talent. Some of the benefits include:

  • Enhanced job performance and work quality,
  • An inclusive workplace attracts the best and brightest employees,
  • Increases company morale, and
  • Access to more diverse markets and customers.

And while there are benefits to hiring disabled talent, retaining them is just as important and advantageous, for employers as well as employees. Everyone should be given a chance to demonstrate how their unique offerings and skills can enable them to contribute to a company and industry, while also being able to be themselves, without fear of discrimination or judgment for their disability.

When companies retain their diverse and disabled talent, some of the benefits they can expect to see are:

• Increased innovation,
• Improved productivity,
• Reduce turnover rates,
• Competitive advantages, and
• Increased revenue growth.

This is not a comprehensive list of the benefits of retaining disabled talent in the workplace, as there are so many more benefits beyond this list. But at the end of the day, striving to retain disabled talent is the bare minimum that an organization can do to improve their inclusion practices.

About Accessible Creates

For more tips, tricks, and training, feel free to reach out to me at or review offerings at I provide remote workshops and consulting for companies all across Canada, to help them become more accessible and inclusive. I am passionate about issues of neurodiversity, disabilities, and accessibility through a human approach and human resources and intersectional lens.

NOTE: In an effort to shed light on a variety of topics and from various perspectives within the IDEA space, we have collaborated with external contributors. As such, the views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those held by CCDI Consulting Inc. 


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