Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Hate conflict? Just follow these steps"/ toxic work environment

Feb. 14, 2016 Inline image"Hate conflict?  Just follow these steps": I cut out this article by Harvey Schacter in the Globe and Mail on Feb. 23, 2015.  These are helpful tips on how to deal with conflict in a constructive way:

Conflict confounds us. Inevitably, we come away from tense conversations feeling that we might have done better if only we had been less emotional and steadier. But Dana Caspersen, who has a master’s degree in conflict studies and combines coaching with her career as a dancer and performer, says that what we need to do is practise 17 simple principles.

Ms. Caspersen, who divides her time between Germany and Vermont, notes that there are many moments of relatively low-level conflict during the day that allow such practice. After learning the principles, you can apply them in such situations, evaluating your performance and making adjustments for the next instance. You could also set a theme for a day, such as “when listening, avoiding making suggestions.”

We usually think that being successful at handling conflict depends heavily, if not entirely, on the other person, which might make personal practice seem irrelevant. But she says we can take the lead, practising certain actions that will change our behaviour and will tend to change the direction of the conversation.

In her book Changing the Conversation, she sets out the 17 principles in three broad sections.

Facilitate learning and speaking

1. Don’t hear the attack. Listen for what is behind the words.

2. Resist the urge to attack. Change the conversation from inside the conflict.

3. Talk to the other person’s best self.

4. Differentiate needs, interests, and strategies.

5. Acknowledge emotions. See them as signals.

6. Differentiate between acknowledgment and agreement.

7. When listening, avoid making suggestions.

8. Differentiate between evaluation and observation.

9. Test your assumptions. Relinquish them if they prove to be false.

Change the conversation

10. Develop curiosity in difficult situations.

11. Assume useful dialogue is possible, even when it seems unlikely.

12. If you are making things worse, stop.

13. Figure out what is happening, not whose fault it is.

Look for ways forward

14. Acknowledge conflict. Talk to the right people about the real problem.

15. Assume undiscovered options exist. Seek solutions people willingly support.

16. Be explicit about agreements. Be explicit when they change.

17. Expect and plan for future conflict.

Each principle breaks conflict down into a series of decisions. You don’t have to change your personality or emotional deftness. You can just follow these steps.

Asked to highlight the most important or difficult ones, she starts with the very first.

It isn’t urging you to become a martyr or allow the other individual to get away with wildly unacceptable behaviour. But you must listen for what is being said, even if it is hurtful, so you can steer the conversation back to the issue at hand.

“Don’t become emotional. Take a step back and refocus on the important point. The other person will probably respond in kind – at least, they are more likely to,” she said in the interview. It’s not likely you will be emotionless but the idea is to dampen such feelings while staying locked on the informational content. State what you are hearing – what seems to be important to the other person. We all want to be heard in a conflict, and these informational statements will help keep things on track.

The second principle builds upon that and is where we often go wrong. No matter how bad it gets – no matter how frustrated or angry you are – don’t attack.

It’s fine to state your feelings, such as, “I feel frustrated because it’s important to me [that] we patch up this situation,” but stay focused on the informational aspects, what you have seen and what you would like to achieve. “It seems really tricky to do this at first. But the more we practise, the better we can be,” she said.

Often in conflict, we assume the worst of the other person, fearing they will overreact to anything we say. Instead, approach the other individual with respect and goodwill, according to the third principle. “Somewhere inside, the person is someone capable of having a useful dialogue,” she insisted.

Often, emotions get heightened in conflict and we want to suppress them completely. But she says emotions are part of the way we think – they aren’t optional. At the same time, they are signals, indicating how we and the other person think.

“Emotions are frowned upon in the Western world. But it can be useful to say, ‘I see you’re furious about this.’ It’s a signal that helps both of you get down to what’s really important,” she said.

She reminds us that we can acknowledge what the other person is saying – indeed, should do so – without necessarily agreeing. If you start disagreeing immediately, that shifts the focus to you. Acknowledging keeps the focus on the other individual, indicates he or she is being heard, and then you can move on to your own thoughts and feelings.

Over all, her message is you don’t need to change yourself to be good at conflict – you just need to learn these principles, and change your actions accordingly, with practice.

"I feel threatened in this toxic work environment": I cut out this article in the Globe and Mail on Feb. 23, 2015:


I work at a methadone clinic in Ontario that is open 365 days a year and has very few staff. Recently a patient harassed a nurse outside our clinic and a complaint was filed with management and a doctor. No action was taken. When management was asked again if they would follow up with any support to staff or disciplinary action with the patient as per policies, a barrage of e-mail from the director of operations ensued, focusing blame on and undermining staff. I replied to the e-mails with the response of “expected,” as I and all other staff members anticipated the answers. The director of operations has stated that I must explain what “expected” means. I have replied twice with very simple replies, to the effect of “we expected your response and that is my answer.” I have been told that if I don’t have a better explanation that disciplinary action will follow. What or how should reply?

Greg Conner
Principal, Human Capital Dynamics

While your question is very specific, for me, the bigger picture is that there are classic signs of a workplace in serious trouble. Unfortunately, and somewhat paradoxically, it is not uncommon for those in the helping community to end up working in a toxic environment.

It doesn’t appear there is a Health and Safety plan that is robust enough to anticipate and adequately deal with the types of problems that led to the current situation. Having worked in this environment, I understand the stress on staff (and patients), and clear boundaries need to be set and maintained as to acceptable behaviours and actions.

You need a working committee comprised of representatives from management and staff to deal with these and the other obvious management/employee issues. At the end of the day everyone wants the same thing. A safe environment where clients are cared for and everyone is respected. Not too much to ask for, in my opinion. If your working committee keeps focused on those key principles, things will improve dramatically in so many ways.

Having said that, with respect to your specific question, were I you, I would respond with a request (and provincial health and safety legislation would support) that a meeting be held to discuss workplace health and safety issues. Also, having spent 25 years practising progressive employee relations, I would never support a manager threatening disciplinary action in this or any similar situation. We don’t punish people for expressing valid concerns, even if we don’t like how they expressed them.

Hon. Sheila Copps
Former deputy prime minister

No one should have to put up with harassment on the job. Given the added volatility of working in a methadone clinic, you should exercise your right to a harassment-free workplace.

However you also need to be clear and explicit about just what has transpired and what should be done about it.
Your terse e-mail did not offer any information about the nature of the harassment. It was also dripping with sarcasm and simply reinforced your lack of confidence in your supervisor’s ability to problem solve.
Now you have become the issue.

To turn it around, you need to communicate in clear terms to your boss and include their supervisor in the exchanges.
Set down in writing your specific expectations to abolish harassment and ask for a written response.
Keep everyone in the loop and do not turn this issue into an attack on your boss.
After all, everyone working at the clinic shares a common goal: a harassment-free workplace.

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David G. Lewis 353 days ago
It is a good article, but none of this will work with the kind of person who looks at every confrontation as a way to win and to always be right.

"Closures spell trouble for student employees"/ "Dealing with job gaps"

Feb. 14, 2016 "Closures spell trouble for student employees": I cut out this article in the Metro on Feb. 23, 2015.  It talks about how there are these stores like Target and Mexx closing down, and then it's harder for students to find jobs in retail.

Hershi Rubinoff, president of career site CPG Connect:

"Young people should be diversifying their job searches and looking to different sectors for potential opportunities."

Lauren Friese, founder of Talent Egg says:

Being resourceful, creating, and taking action.

"Being resourceful starts with being very organized and figuring out all the different types of resources that are out there to help you, whether they're in the online world or the offline world.

Bright Ideas- an online initiative aimed at crowdsourcing solutions to improve Canada's youth employment.

"Once you graduate and enter into 'the real world' you don't get those opportunities to take career sabbaticals.  You don't get those opportunities to just try something new."

"You commit to something and you're expected to stay there long-term.  And if you do jump around a lot, you're thought of as a job-hopper that's not sure of what they want to do.

If you do it while you're still in school it's a completely different impression."

My opinion: That reminds me of my late teens and early 20s where I like trying new jobs.  However, after the first yr of Professional Writing, the summer of 2007 I had a lot of jobs.  I quit a couple because I didn't like it.  Call Centre #3 dismissed me after 1 day saying that they didn't really hire me because they found someone who doesn't need as much training as I did.

Then in 2009 I got hired back at Call Centre #3.

Feb. 15, 2016 "Dealing with job gaps": I cut out this article by Joanne Richard in 24 News n Dec. 17, 2012.  It's an old article, but it's still relevant.  This on epress reader so I can't copy and paste the article and have to type it. 

Nan Russel is a career consultant to

Lots of people have job gaps for schools and family caregiving. 

Why has the gap occurred, how long it was, and how often does it happen?

3 questions:

1. What have you learned as a result of the job gap or the reason for it?

2. What have you done?

Did you enhance your current skills?

3. What are you now able to do, accomplish, or achieve that you weren't before all this happened?

Resume: Tailor your resume to reflect skills vs. chronology.

The time in the gap:

-take online classes
-take temp jobs
-stay in touch with professional contacts

My opinion: I like the resume tip the most.  It reminds me of my old resume back in 2008 when it was chronological.  Then I sent my resume to all my friends to look at.  Angela then made it look really good by grouping similar jobs like call centres together and retail together.

The old resume said it seemed kind of repetitive like this:

Call Centre #1
Call Centre #2

"New year brings new job-search opportunities": I cut out this article by Moshin Manji on Jan. 16, 2012.  He is from HRInmotion.  I can't find the article on the internet, so I will have to type it up.

Narrow your search- stop applying for jobs that you're not qualified for or don't have a real interest in.  It's great to be willing to learn, but employers don't want to train.

My opinion: Sometimes you have to apply for jobs that you are not that interested in because you just need a job.

Know exactly what you want- Make a list of things you excel at and one of the skills you like to use most.

Re-evaluate your skills- if you can not find a job that match your skills, you may have to go back to school.  There is government funding or other out-of-work programs for job seekers.

Set your goals- setting short-term, specific job search goals for the year will make you evaluate your progress.

Stand out from the competition- find the name of the hiring manager or someone in HR department and email that person directly.

Research the company and press releases.

Sell yourself- start a website to showcase your talent and skills.  Go on Linked In.

Keep current- read trade publications, industry blogs, emerging technologies.

A job search will always have its frustrations, because things don't always happen when or how we want them to happen.

Seek criticism on the job, not just praise: I cut out this article by Tim Ryan in 24 News on Jan. 7, 2013.

Look beyond your inner-circle- ask for feedback from people who aren't close to you.

Don't be satisfied with a B- you can settle for a B, or you can get an A from some constructive feedback.

Look for reaction- if your work doesn't create a positive for negative reaction, you haven't tried hard enough.  A good job will create a debate.

Education apps to put your academic career over the top: I cut out this article by Linda White in 24 News on Jan. 7, 2013:

Dragon Dictation- you speak and it instantly types up what you say.  Good for poor typists or people with physical disabilities.

GFlash- flash cards

inClass- free app.  Record audio, take text and video notes.

ihomework- organize your school work.

iSpeechTTS-  speech recognition software converts text to natural sounding voice recognition online.

iTunesU-  free education content.

Khan Academy- video library, interactive challenges and assessments.

MindMeister- businesses, academic institutions, and creative consumers who brainstorm together. it helps create a budget.

Mututo Live Tutor- connect to a real tutor in real time.  First session is free and a nominal fee per session. online learning community where anyone can learn and teach any topic.

TED talks- video podcasts with leading thinkers.

My opinion: I find this is a good and helpful article.  This is not just for college students, but anyone can use these helpful apps.

I felt kind of inspired to create an app that helps people.

"What not to wear to an interview"/ "My job brings me joy"

Jul. 7, 2015 "What not to wear to an interview": I cut out this article by William Wolfe- Wylie in 24 News on Aug. 30, 2011.  It's about how interviewers are judgmental about the people they hire.  If a woman wears an engagement ring, then she may be more committed to her marriage and possible family than the job.

Though it could also mean she's stable and committed to a job.  Here's the whole article:

Since the recession, it's been an employer's market. Job hunters are bending over backwards just to get an interview, and now the rules are changing for even for that process. In some online job-hunter forums, women are being told to leave their diamond engagement rings at home, sparking controversy and discussion.

A woman in the U.S. had her salary cut by $20,000 per year while she was on maternity leave. When she inquired about how she might regain her previous earnings, she was told that she didn't need it because she had a nice engagement ring.

Meanwhile, a hiring manager posted a controversial piece of advice at, urging women to leave diamond engagement rings at home during job interviews, lest they offend or give the wrong impression to would-be employers.

Penny Calhoun, a career counsellor who asked that her name be changed so as to protect the identity of her clients, says rings can mean different things to different employers. An engagement ring can mean absence from the workplace, changing priorities and a future family, notes Calhoun.

"But it can also mean stability, longevity, and dedication to a relationship - the same dedication [employers] hope for in a candidate."

It's these small details that matter a lot in a job interview, whether or not the resume is outstanding.

"Your qualifications get you into an interview, your fit gets you the job," Calhoun says. Fit, she explains, is the sum total of a job applicant's personality, goals, professionalism, style, and friendliness.

For Surranna Sandy, President of Surcorp Resume Solutions - one of Canada's largest career management companies - these distinctions is nothing new. And it's always been worse on women than it has on men.

"Depending on the role, if a woman is perceived as being aggressive, people may use that against her," says Sandy. "Whereas a male, the aggression could be a value-add for the position."

The same is true when it comes to displays of wealth or style, like engagement rings.

"If a woman shows up in a $1,000 suit for a job that pays $30,000, the may see her as above that status. If a man were to do the same thing, [interviewers] don't really draw that as an issue."

Sandy says the easiest way around the problem is to scout out the company in advance. Look them up on LinkedIn and see who you know who works there. Walk through their workspace, if it's public, or their lobby, if it's not. See how people act, how they dress and what kind of decorum is observed.

Just don't change anything about yourself based on what you learn, she says.

"You do the research not because you can become something new," Sandy stresses. "You do the research to determine if the values of the organization align with your values. You can't sustain [changing yourself]."

That's so unfair

Wearing a diamond ring can cost a job applicant everything. But, fair or not, that's the reality.

For Surranna Sandy, president of one of Canada's largest career management firms, job applicants need to decide if the company they're applying to is likely to judge them on such frivolities, and if that's something they care about as an applicant.

"We see a big diamond. We do something every human being does every moment of the day. We make judgments. We make judgments all the time."

Those factors can even extend to sex, weight, language, personality or style. An employer would never say that out loud - that is, in fact, illegal - but when 400 people are applying for one job, employers are free to pick the person who fits the company's ideals most.

"We have to be more aware. We live in a little bubble sometimes. Make adjustments as necessary, adjustments you can live with that remain true to who you are and your values."

Nothing but nails

Penny Calhoun, a career counsellor who asked that her name be changed to protect her clients, says even small cues can be enough to turn an employer off.

"I once worked with a woman who had fingernails that were about two inches long and always had sparkly diamonds stuck on them. Part of her job was data entry. You can imagine that the length of her fingernails slowed the process down to the point where I would have to manage half of her work and all of mine to complete projects on time.

"Sometimes, when I'm interviewing someone with long fingernails, I think of that woman, how ill-suited she was to her job based on her personal style, and how that personal style made her at odds with the company and its productivity."

"My job brings me joy": I cut out this article by Lisa Wright in the Metro on Jul. 28, 2014.  Here's a happy article compared to the above:

Most Canadian workers really like their jobs, and they’re proud to say so.

According to a new Capital One survey, Canadians are very satisfied employees indeed — so much so that 69 per cent say they are not only proud to work for their current employer but enjoy telling people what they do for a living and would like to stick around for few years.

Recruiters take note, though: nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of workers say that given the choice, they would stay with their current employer for at least two or three more years, reveals the report released Thursday.

The results refute the belief that Millennials, those aged 18 to 34, lack commitment and prefer frequent job-hopping, with two-thirds of younger Canadians saying they would be more than happy to stay put for the next three years, noted Jenny Winter, who heads human resources at Capital One.

“It’s interesting and validating,” said Winter, whose firm employs a substantial number of young workers.

“With the job market looking increasingly unstable and the high Baby Boomer population struggling with job security, Millennials are clearly looking for stability and have a strong desire to stay in their jobs,” said Winter.

After being named one of the 50 best large workplaces in Canada this year by the Great Place to Work Institute, Capital One wanted to get a better sense of what Canadians value in an employer in order to attract and maintain top talent in the competitive financial services sector, Winter explained.

The survey of 1,500 people across the country found that titles are overrated. Only one in 10 people surveyed put a promotion at the top of their wish list, while regular bonuses and annual pay increases were number one with 37 per cent of respondents.

While compensation is a top priority for employees, the study found that more than half of Canadians (51 per cent) believe work/life balance is more important than money. Forty-four per cent cited flexible working hours and the ability to work remotely as one of the top three things employers can do to increase job satisfaction.

Personal and professional development were also revealed as important motivators, with 41 per cent saying they prefer having opportunities to take courses and attend conferences related to their professional development to increase job satisfaction.

Twenty-four per cent also said that mentoring from senior staff who are committed to their career growth is most likely to keep them content at work.

The top three things employers do to make workers consider quitting their job include bad workplace morale at 18 per cent, constantly increasing workload without financial reward at 17 per cent and not feeling appreciated at 13 per cent.

“People are looking to contribute and to be involved,” said Winter.

Apr. 15, 2016:

The week from Apr. 10-15.  I worked a couple of more days at the first restaurant job.

MTV Movie Awards: I saw this on Sun. and it was really fun and funny to watch.  The best part was probably Ryan Reynolds and him winning best fight for Deadpool.

The other part was when Seth Rogen and Zac Efron come on stage to present an award.

Rogen: ...with Ryan f----ing Reynolds.
Cut to Reynolds in the audience.  You see him mouth the words "What the f--- did I do?"

TV shows: I watched 3 Talking Dead episodes I recorded.  It's a show where they discuss the recent The Walking Dead episode.

Apr. 19, 2016 Shades of Blue: Over the weekend I finished watching the first season of the TV show Shades of Blue.  I saw the pilot when it came out.  It seemed to be pretty good so I recorded all the episodes.  After it ended I watched it all in a row.

I saw eps 2 and 3 and I was kind of "eh" with it.  I thought it was average.  Then I watched the rest of it and it was really good.  If you like crime- drama, then you'll like this.

Apr. 20, 2016 Containment TV show: I just finished watching the Containment pilot.  I recorded it last night and watched it early this morning.  I tweeted to the actor Chris Wood who's in it and plays the cop Jake Riley.

Tracy Au@TracyAu2 1m1 minute ago
@ChristophrWood I love the Containment pilot.

The show will be available in Canada on Mon. Apr. 25 on Global.

I'm really happy and excited right now.  I'm looking forward to next week on Mon.  I saw the episode on CW.  I hope all of you guys watch it.

It starts off with Day 13 and how in Atlanta, Georgia it is complete chaos.  I like to see how it gets there.  It kind of reminds me of the TV show Between where a small town is quarantined and people older than 22 yrs old are dying off.
It stars one of my favorite Edmonton actors Kyle Mac.

Chris Wood: I love him.  When he was on The Vampire Diaries, he wasn't really built.  His character didn't have to do a lot of physical stunts.  Now he's a cop on Containment.  When I saw the promo of him in a muscle shirt (in the pilot), I thought he was really built.

Here's a 10 sec funny video:

Cut to Chris Wood sitting in a chair.

Wood: Promise me this is forever.
Camera zooms out and Hanna Mangan Lawrence is fanning him.
Wood: Do you promise?
Lawrence: I promise. 
Wood: Thank you.
He takes a sip of his coffee.

Apr. 26, 2016: I watched the second episode of Containment this morning.  I recorded it from Global.  It's really good and the tension and drama has intensified.

Apr. 28, 2016: When I watch this show, I actually feel scared.  When I read about the Zika virus in the news, it's not really scary because there is this distance from it.