The CEO Poll: No ringing endorsement

Canadian business leaders find cell phones disruptive.

Business leaders give the federal mini-budget high marks.

Cell phones and the BlackBerry appear to be the scourge of the modern workplace. A group of 103 Canadian business leaders were polled by COMPAS Inc. about the greatest challenges in the workplace, and the ability of communications devices to disrupt meetings (and likely annoy those in attendance) came out on top.

Well over half of the CEOs (67%) said the problems caused by such devices require more than an average amount of management attention. The changing attitude toward punctuality and reliability was the only other issue requiring a disproportionate amount of attention, according to the respondents.

Historically, barriers affecting women and minorities in the workplace were considered a serious problem. But those issues ranked at the bottom of the list in the COMPAS survey, perhaps indicating a shift in workplace culture, or that the companies participating in the poll have tools in place to address these problems, according to COMPAS.

The respondents said time-wasting on the Internet, intergenerational differences, integrating immigrants, and employee wardrobe choices are more serious challenges than issues affecting women and minorities.

The CEOs were also asked to provide advice on dealing with workplace conflict. The advice tended to fall into one of four categories: listening effectively, dealing with employees fairly, communicating clearly, and focusing on goals.

“Have clear policies and expectations, and be fair and even-handed in enforcement,” wrote one respondent. “Don’t be judgmental with lifestyle issues that don’t impact the workplace or company image, and be tolerant.”

Another respondent suggested that, “issues almost always are the result of poor communication, or no communication. Resolution is usually obtained through frank but amiable discussion.”

And if all else fails: “Don’t be too afraid to fire people.”