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Le blogue de Solutions & Co.

Le blogue de Solutions & Co.

Open Office Environment: How to Make it Work

There is an ongoing debate about the pros and cons of open offices. Some research indicates they are a playground for collaboration, innovation, creativity and camaraderie where ideas flow and problems get solved quickly. On the other hand, newer studies suggest that open offices are a distracting environment, detrimental to productivity and a source of stress, conflict, and turnover. More than ever people in open office environments seem to avoid one another, isolating themselves and using instant messaging or email to interact.

The open office environment began with good intentions, but it is full of distractions and can become a daytime nightmare. People talking while you are on the phone, noisy background when you need to focus, co-workers having loud conversations, people laughing, coughing, screaming, cell phones constantly chirping … Staying focused in a noisy open office is a real challenge.

As companies increasingly adopt an open layout, it is important to develop survival strategies in order to stay productive while avoiding tensions. Here are some suggestions:

Have a team talk

Have a conversation with your manager and your team about how you can all work optimally in an open office. Define together some “agreed-upon” rules and norms.  For example:

  • When one colleague is on the phone, the rest will speak with a low voice.
  • When the phone rings, the conversation stops.
  • Speakerphone conversations should be done in conference rooms.
  • Moving to a different environment when sharing and collaborating.
  • Establish a “earbud code” to signify the level of focus.
  • Use "Library Rules".

Have dedicated "Quiet" Space

Once in a while it’s good to get away to a quiet place within your workspace. Quiet rooms have grown so popular, some companies incorporate dedicated "Private work rooms" within their office layout. While empty conference rooms make for a great quiet space, they are not always available.  Investigate and identify private spaces in your office where you can isolate yourself, to be alone and silent, somewhere you can think and focus free of distraction.

Have a dedicated "Collaboration" Space

When it’s time to collaborate or brainstorm, moving to a different environment can help shift gears. Delegate a larger central “community” table where conversation and ideas can flow freely. And encourage co-workers to go there when chatter amongst neighboring desks begins.

Create a “Virtual Wall”

Use signs and signals —If you frequently require uninterrupted periods of time with which to complete your work, consider making some kind of sign or signal that serve as a visual cue to your colleagues that you’re not to be disturbed unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Purchase a set of noise-canceling headphones – for those times when you are working on something that requires concentration. You can listen to white noise or classical music or whatever it is that helps you feel and perform at your best. The best sounds for concentration are natural and unpredictable. Ambient electronic music tends to work well at blocking out noise yet it doesn’t create a distraction.

Use a common code for headphones – Earphones serve as a visual cue to your colleagues so they do not bother you unless absolutely necessary. Have a common "code" that symbolizes the unavailability.


  • Two earpieces mean "Leave me alone. I'm focusing. "
  • Only one earpiece means "Ask before interrupting me. "
  • Without earphones means "You can interrupt me"

 Reserve a “Do Not Disturb” block of time

Trying to get things done and simultaneously be available for others imposes a heavy “cognitive load”. To counteract this, set aside a block of time every day when you’re not to be disturbed so you can concentrate on your work without distraction and focus on your top priorities. You can go to the "Quiet" space or put on your headphones. You can collaborate with and help colleagues during the rest of the day.

Be green

Well-placed plants have proven effective in reducing noise levels in an open office setting. The larger the plant, the bigger the impact - not to mention the appeasing benefits and overall impact on air quality.

Raise the issue with tact

When the “agreed-upon” rules and norms are not followed don’t suffer in silence, but don’t snap by screaming “Can you just shut up” either, try a gentle:

  • “Can you take it down a notch please? "
  • "Please keep it down. I know you probably don't realize it, but it's really distracting."
  • "I’m having trouble concentrating while you are talking. I’d be so grateful if you could take the conversation down the hall."

.. most of the time, people don’t realize how loud they’re being, and they'll probably appreciate a gentle reminder. Do it with a smile, and in just about every occasion, no one will get offended. Be direct and diplomatic, but never attack someone personally.

Encourage a compromise

This doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. If you have tried these suggestions but haven’t gotten the results you were hoping for, you don’t need to hand over your resignation letter. It might be time to start a conversation with your manager about finding a happy medium.  A solution that can improve your productivity while still being part of the team. Maybe doing some of the work remotely, having flexible hours to come in earlier or staying later, or simply moving desks. Finding an alternative might be a challenge, but it’s not impossible.

  49 lectures
49 lectures

Working in a Multicultural Environment

Working in a multicultural environment can be a satisfying and rewarding professional experience. You can broaden your horizons by learning various skills and communicational approaches when you interact with people from other parts of the world. However, working with people from different cultural backgrounds requires a degree of tact and a willingness to learn and to adapt.

There is a wide multitude of cultural differences, ranging from beliefs to cultural norms. People from diverse cultural backgrounds bring personal and professional practices into the work environment that may differ in terms of being socially acceptable. These are neither right nor wrong…only different. Whether you agree with them or not, it is important to understand these differences.

Customers and co-workers come from a variety of backgrounds, and their habits, customs, reasoning, behaviours, values, and communication styles vary according to their background. Our cultural understandings, as well as our prejudices, are challenged by demographic changes that bring us face-to-face with new people and unfamiliar notions.


Cultural awareness is the understanding of the differences between oneself and people from other countries or backgrounds, especially differences in behaviour and values.

Cultural awareness is the very foundation of communication, involving the ability to step back and become aware of our cultural values, beliefs and perceptions. Why do we act this way? How do we see the world? Why do we react in such a way, specifically? Cultural awareness becomes key when we have to interact with people from different cultures.

People see, interpret and evaluate things differently. What is considered appropriate behaviour for one culture is often inappropriate for another. Misunderstandings occur when a person uses their own frame of reference when trying to understand another person’s reality.


Cultural skills refer to the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultures and to successfully manage intercultural situations. It is the on-going process of seeking cultural awareness, knowledge and skills that will enable you to respond to people from different cultures in a respectful and effective way, so that their value is recognized, affirmed and valued.

Lack of multicultural knowledge can lead to misinterpretation, misunderstanding or even involuntary insult. Skills such as cultural awareness, flexibility and effective communication are essential to manage the expectations of people from different cultures. The more you understand culture, the more successful you will be in a wide variety of interpersonal interactions.

Our modern workspace is very multicultural, multilingual, intergenerational, etc. It requires the ability to see different perspectives, in order to make the best decisions and to create an inclusive system that enables everyone to be successful in the workplace.

Communicating with different cultures can sometimes be challenging. When we are dealing with people from unfamiliar cultures, it is easy to misinterpret meanings and intentions. This can lead to confusion, discontent and frustration. For communication to be effective, one person must understand the other person’s meaning and intent. The skills associated with effective and successful intercultural communication may seem vague to anyone lacking experience in this form of interaction.

The more you understand the influence of culture, the more effective communication will be.

  87 lectures
87 lectures


To continue where the article entitled THE ABILITY TO ACT… AT THE HEART OF PERFORMANCE AND EXCELLENCE left off, let’s begin by defining the term “competence” in a professional context:  the notion of competence means to demonstrate having the ability – that is the knowledge, skills and attitudes – to mobilize and leverage the different kinds of knowledge required to carry out a professional activity, enabling an individual to successfully perform their role and responsibilities. These competencies are the tools that enable you to be effective and to achieve your desired goals.

Just like two sides of a coin, these competencies fall into two broad categories: operational competencies and relational competence.

Operational Competencies

This is the “technical” component. These are task-related competencies, therefore specific to a particular profession, and they include:

  • Knowledge is the set of theoretical, technical or tactical professional knowledge, including procedures, data, rules, standards, requirements, methods and tools. These are the intellectual skills learned through study and acquiring information, which are required to exercise a profession.
  • Know-how is the set of practices related to having strong operational vision, technical skills, knowledge of the methods, and mastery of the practical skills (experience, practicality, efficiency) required to perform a task depending on the situation and the environment.

These skills help us do our jobs efficiently.

Relational Competencies

This is the “human” component. These are the competencies relating to people, which are useful in all professions, in principle. They are sometimes called “soft skills”, and are the set of professional qualities such as attitudes, aptitudes and behaviours that a person demonstrates when performing a task, and they include:

  • Know-how-to-be, which is the set of emotional skills involving attitudes like assuredness, autonomy, enthusiasm, integrity, and self-control, which enable a person to enter into a relationship with themself.
  • Know-how-to-interact is the set of social skills such as respect, courtesy, diplomacy and empathy, enabling you to enter into relationships with others, including co-workers, customers and suppliers.

These competencies enable us do our work in an enjoyable way.

They are called personal competencies, or intra-personal and interpersonal skills, or even “soft skills”. They are indeed competencies, but they are not soft!

Relational competence is a professional competence in its own right and it is desirable to develop it on equal footing with the intellectual and technical competencies.   

But it is not only the operational skills (which make you efficient) or the relational skills (which make you pleasant) that guarantee professional effectiveness.


We agree that operational competencies are essential, that hiring coders who do not know how to code, doctors who do not know how to treat or chefs who do not know how to cook, is a quick path to failure. These skills are the backbone of the HR process. But how do you explain why organizations that hire people with similar operational skills end up with very different results?

By distorting the term “professional competencies” and by focussing on seemingly “essential” skills, we have diminished the value of competencies that really matter. Most of the textbooks that students consult, and the tests and exams that they do, relate to these operational competencies – it’s simply copy and paste!

When we call other skills “soft” and imply that they are optional, we give them little respect and importance.

It turns out that the difference between successful organizations and struggling organizations are the attitudes, aptitudes and skills of the people doing the work, which are sometimes difficult to measure.


When we consider which competencies are useful to an individual to maximize their professional effectiveness (Knowledge, Know-how, Know-how-to-be and Know-how-to-interact), there is much less opportunity to learn them.

We learn Knowledge and Know-how in the school classrooms, in an institutional way and through experience, but we are not taught to affirm ourselves, to inspire confidence, to influence, to communicate and to collaborate with others. These behaviours are therefore acquired in varying degrees, often quite informally, by imitation or by learning on the job.

Traditional schools focus on acquiring knowledge and intellectual development, but neglect coursework on relational competencies. Training individuals to understand and apply interpersonal skills can help them improve their professional and social lives.

Current employers and customers demand more than just operational competencies, hence the importance of investing in this kind of learning for better professional effectiveness, or to realize a person’s full potential.


We have all, at one time, worked with someone who was extremely efficient because they relied on their knowledge and know-how. These people can be brilliant, hardworking, meticulous and confident. Despite these competencies, working with these people can sometimes be unpleasant. They can be perceived as being arrogant, impatient, contemptuous, cold or closed-minded. Working with them can sometimes leave an after-taste.

Similarly, we have all had the opportunity to work with extremely pleasant people, who rely on their emotional and social skills. They are receptive, sociable, caring, pleasant and attentive… But it can a struggle to get something from them promptly, to make them respect deadlines, to follow their logic while they speak and to find yourself pulled into their disorganized worlds.

When we consider the duality of these two dimensions, we realize that when our strengths are overexploited or misused, they can become weaknesses as they can limit opportunities for agreement and professional effectiveness.

  121 lectures
121 lectures


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

- Aristotle

“The ability to act” is the intentional and effective leveraging of a “set of knowledge” (acquired, integrated, mobilized and used) to deal with a given situation. It’s the winning combination that enables an individual to successfully perform their role and responsibilities in a context of action…In short, to be effective!

For many of us, work takes up the bulk of our days. It is a source of great satisfaction or frustration, and the stage for our emotions and our challenges. It’s the place where, in front of everyone, we evaluate our successes and failures.

What are the factors of a successful professional career? Why do some people succeed while others are simply functional for the duration of their careers, or, worse, only barely survive? Obviously, having some luck or getting a degree does contribute to some people’s success, but this only explains a tiny part of these successes. What happens to those who have had the same opportunities or obtained the same diplomas but who, despite everything, don’t reach the same heights?

We all know lawyers, accountants, engineers, receptionists, administrative clerks, salespeople, customer service representatives, IT technicians, analysts, masons, contractors, chefs or hairstylists. Whether they have chosen a profession, a trade, a career or a vocation, some do very well and others fall to the back of the pack and watch those in the front succeed.

What are the skills enabling one individual to be different from the many others, to separate themselves from the masses and to succeed professionally?


In order to succeed in any professional context you must have a toolbox. A Doctor has a toolbox… A Mechanic has a toolbox… A baker has a toolbox… Not all tools are concrete and tangible like hammers, adjustable wrenches or stethoscopes… Our tools are often intangible… They are our professional skills!

Let’s define the term “competence” in a professional context:  the notion of competence means to demonstrate having the ability – that is, knowledge, skills and attitudes – to mobilize and accomplish a set of "knowledge" required to carry out a professional activity, enabling an individual to perform their role and responsibilities successfully. These skills are the tools that help you to be effective and to achieve the desired goals.

We will discuss these skills in more detail in the next article, but for now, let’s remember that they are all skills that are valued in the workplace and essential to our professional success. Cultivating good professional skills requires mastery of a number of skills that go beyond a simple “taxonomy of professional skills”. The ability to act unfolds simultaneously in 4 dimensions: relationship to knowledge, relationship to task, relationship to oneself and relationship to others.


However, just because we have accumulated these skills doesn’t mean that we will be able to act accordingly. In other words, the skills are our tools, but the goal is to put them into practice, to transform them into action… To have the ability to act!

Knowing how to act requires having learned to combine other knowledge in a context-specific and orderly way to take an effective action. It is a matter of being able to draw on your repertoire of various kinds of knowledge, to choose the kind that is the most suitable for the situation, and to know how to apply it. It's the ability to consider appropriate actions and their influence on your performance.

The ability to act is a set of “action” skills, such as having good standards of judgment, coping skills, communication skills, management skills, etc., which enable you to take suitable actions leading to a balance of critical elements (relationships, environment, etc.) in relation to the desired results.

Having the ability to act is to know how to…

  • Work in a team
  • Communicate effectively
  • Demonstrate professionalism
  • Adapt yourself
  • Manage your emotions
  • Manage time and priorities
  • Manage stress
  • Take ownership of change
  • Influence
  • Manage conflicts
  • Innovate
  • Develop friendly business relationships
  • Be diplomatic
  • Etc…
  • In this era of change occurring at breathtaking speed, knowing how to act in real-time becomes the seal of effectiveness at all levels and for all types of organizations. As complexity increases, individuals, teams and organizations must continually be able to update their knowledge and skills in order to remain competitive in fast moving, often-ambiguous environments in which there are multiple ways to accomplish your goals.

    In the next article we will explore the notion of professional competence in greater detail. Until next time!

      233 lectures
    233 lectures

    Newsletters - Professionalism – Knowing How to Act



    The ability and commitment to adopt the right behaviour in the workplace – to behave in a way that reflects favourably on the profession. Professionalism encompasses a series of attitudes, skills, behavioural and moral norms, attributes and values that are expected from a specialized individual in a defined sector or practicing a profession or trade.




    Whoever you are, whatever your expertise, and whatever ambitions you have, your professionalism is an asset for your career. Not only does it affect positively your workplace, it affects the way your clients, colleagues, superiors, subordinates and all your professional relations perceive you.

    People constantly observe your behaviour and form an opinion on your competence, your character, and your engagement, which is rapidly cast throughout your workplace. The way you act will determine how everyone you interact with perceives you.

    To be "professional" is a prestigious and enviable reputation, and is a way to demonstrate that you are a true asset for the team, for your organization and for your profession. If you want to succeed, to be taken seriously and respected, knowing how to act in a professional manner is vital.

    The more you behave professionally, the better your chances are to build a positive reputation for yourself. Professional people are the first to be taken into consideration for promotions and to be given gratifying projects that will also allow them to benefit of better self-esteem and distinction.

    This can be translated by a salary increase, an improvement of your career prospects, respect from peers and upper management, and a decrease in risk to be affected by layoffs. In short, professional individuals are generally successful in their careers. 

    A professional individual is a competent individual, someone we appreciate and we look up to.




    It is essential to show professionalism if you wish to succeed. But what does it mean?

    After all, professionalism is rarely taught – you are supposed to learn it as it goes through a combination of observations, mistakes, interpretation and absorption. However, it’s not always easy to do and learning it can be full of obstacles, since you’re not always conscious of your own mistakes.

    For some, being professional could mean dressing appropriately for work, or doing a good job. For others, it means having diplomas or certifications. Professionalism does include all these attributes. But it also includes many more.

    The challenge in defining "professional" is that it remains vague and evasive since it carries many implicit connotations and meanings. It means different things to people. What we interpret as professional behaviour or good judgment can differ from one person to the next.

    To act as a professional means doing what is needed in order to be perceived as a reliable, respectful and competent person. Depending on where you work and the job you have, professionalism can take different shapes. Professionalism is not explicit to a profession or a sector in particular, it’s something that applies to all professional activities in their singularity and uniqueness.

    Professionalism does not try to dictate every word or every gesture, but trace the outline of an ideal to which professionals can aspire throughout their career.

    We find three elements in professionalism:

    1.            An individual that masters knowledge and skills tied to his profession.

    2.            His ability to act as expected in his profession, adapted to his environment and that match expectations in all professional activities.

    3.            Characterized by the commitment and motivation to accomplish quality work.

    Professionalism is not limited to competence. Competence is one of the important aspects of your work, but you’ll also need to learn how to act professionally at work. You can be the best in the technical execution of your work, but also lack professionalism. It has less to do with what you do (the results you produce) and a lot more with the way you produce those results.

    In assessing professionalism at any degree within an organization, you must always ask yourself three questions:

    •             Do you have the necessary operational skills to be considered professional? Do you have the knowledge, comprehension, facts, notions and experience you need to do the work efficiently?

    •             Do you have the necessary rational skills to be considered professional? Do you have the skills, behaviour, traits and virtues that others (shareholders, employees, clients, suppliers) perceive as being important and use to determine if you are being professional?

    •             Do you have the necessary commitment to be professional? Do you have the necessary drive, motivation and intention? Are you ready to do the necessary work?

    Professionalism is reflected in your daily actions. Adopt a strategic and proactive approach, since it can be learned and developed. Let’s not forget that beyond being professional, there is a need to actually want to be professional!

      870 lectures
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    Xavier Aymé, Chef des opérations | Mercator Canada Inc.

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