Embracing Office Romance

Why bosses need not fear love among the cubicles

IT’S THE INFAMOUS DISASTERS THAT PRESERVE the chill around workplace romance: Bill Clinton and the intern, David Letterman and his assistant, former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz and the communications staffer. Even here in the real world, there’s no shortage of gossip about the CEO and the underling, shunted to a dreary regional outpost under mysterious circumstances. But what about a 25-year-old marketing manager and his colleague down the hall? They’re around the same age, they’re into the same music and they understand each others’ lives better than any outsider could. Need their employer fear these flying sparks in the vicinity of the serious business of work? Continue reading


Maple Leaf Foods Goes Lean

After surviving the kind of tainted-meat tragedy that brings companies down, Maple Leaf Foods is now fighting to stay alive in a par-dollar world.

IF MAPLE LEAF FOODS WAS A SCHLUBBY middle-aged guy, he would have recently told his buddies he was finally going to lose that 20 pounds, move out of his mother’s house and take control of his life. It’s the sort of bold and overdue makeover the food giant announced in October that will see it shed aging meat factories, modernize operations and catch up to its leaner, more productive U.S. competitors. The $560-million investment—the largest in the Canadian food industry—is the third and final phase of a sweeping $1.3-billion restructuring strategy the company launched in 2006, which has since reached every corner of operations, from hog rendering to baked goods and now, finally, prepared meats. Continue reading

Getting the Most Out of Perfectionists

Perfectionism is that unoffending weakness oft-cited in job interviews, but managers beware.

THERE’S ONE IN EVERY OFFICE: the guy who’s forever working but struggles to meet deadlines; someone who nitpicks her colleagues’ work but won’t let anyone near her own until it’s gleaming. Perfectionism is that unoffending weakness oft-cited in job interviews, and a quality lately glamorized by all the frothing tributes to today’s most famous perfectionist, the late Steve Jobs. Continue reading

How Bosses Really Feel About Mat Leave

Employers talk honestly about parental leave

TEN YEARS AGO, WHEN OTTAWA INCREASED parental leave from 10 weeks to 35, bosses across the country quietly panicked. Combined with 15 weeks of maternity leave, the legislative change meant that companies would have to reserve a mother’s job for a year. In an anonymous survey conducted in Alberta at the time, anxious employers predicted heightened workplace tensions and potential discrimination against young job seekers. “People in childbearing years will be at a disadvantage when it comes to new positions opening up,” warned one, while another admitted, “We have learned to avoid hiring people we feel will be having families.” Continue reading

The Rise of DavidsTea

Has a pair of Montreal cousins created the Starbucks of tea?

FOR PURVEYORS OF A TYPICALLY SOOTHING, grandmotherly beverage, the DavidsTea head office is buzzing with young, overly cheerful go-getters marching around with purpose. Periodically, they congregate at the office’s fully stocked tea counter to brew their favourite blend or discuss the merits of matcha, a powdery green tea that must be whisked like a French sauce. Currently, there is more staff than office space, so the company is spilling into another building nearby, while expanding its warehouse for the second time. Since launching its first tea shop in 2008, DavidsTea has been consistently bursting its seams. Last year, the chain went from eight to 40 locations across the country, from Vancouver to Halifax. This year, at least 20 more will open, signalling a concerted push in the company’s quest to dominate the burgeoning retail tea market. Continue reading

Better Working Through Living

How companies are luring staff with new work-life balance perks

AS THE CORPORATE WORKPLACE GETS YOUNGER and more mobile, companies are figuring out that keeping staff happy will require more than simply good pay and vacation time. Increasingly, employers are also ensuring their people are exercised, well-fed, entertained and given ample autonomy – all in the name of work-life balance. Along with flex-time and parental leave, today there’s on-site gyms, massages, concierge services and even rules about after-hours email so people don’t feel tied to their Blackberry. Continue reading

Managing the Older Workforce

As today’s retirees linger in the workforce, gen-Xers will find themselves in the tricky position of being their managers

MARILYN FRYER IS 73 AND STILL WORKS AS A BOOKKEEPER. She could work from home, but prefers to go to her clients’ offices three days a week for the “social scene” and to “keep up the grooming.” If her body aches with age, she tries not to show it. When everyone is talking about the latest movie or Lady Gaga video, she listens with amusement. After 30 years in the business, she sees no need to retire, and plans to work as long as she still can. Continue reading

An Introvert’s Guide to Schmoozing

How to get ahead in an extrovert’s world

IT WAS DURING HER YEARS ON WALL STREET that Nancy Ancowitz figured out she was an introvert. She did the famous Myers-Briggs personality assessment, which confirmed that she is the type to feel drained after too much socializing, and relishes alone time. For Ancowitz, then a marketing executive, the results explained so much – why she needed to collect herself in a quiet room before a big meeting, or had to walk the block in the middle of the day, or dreaded the aimless chitchat of work functions. Continue reading

Tim Hortons Takes Manhattan

Tim Hortons’ slow and stealthy invasion of America has taken on new urgency

AT 6 p.m. ON A FRIDAY LAST JULY, nine Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants throughout Manhattan closed shop quietly — a little early, but otherwise inconspicuously. Over the next 56 hours, an army of contractors and designers gutted, rebuilt and re-equipped the spaces. By Monday morning, sporting red balloons and free coffee, the stores reopened as Tim Hortons outlets. The New York media jumped on the story, declaring a “donut war” and speculating how an unfamiliar Canadian brand would fare against not just big-name coffee chains like Dunkin’ and Starbucks, but with finicky, choice-saturated New Yorkers in general. Continue reading