Over the past several weeks we have had dealings with many members in relation to the termination and/or performance management of staff.
Almost universally the common theme amongst the employers and managers we have seen is ‘these days employers have no rights at all’. Whilst this statement has no basis in fact, it does stem from a feeling of frustration and a sense that no matter how poor an employee is in terms of their performance and attitude they always have a means of coming back at you.
From an IR perspective that is certainly true, but this is also tempered by the fact that – most of the time – most of your employees will undertake their work competently for you and work satisfactorily with you. So – unless you have a workplace with a very ‘toxic’ culture that permeates through the whole business, most of your issues will be limited to a very small number of staff. If these issues seem to manifest themselves in your workplace on a regular basis it is time to reflect on your own practices in managing them.
Regrettably many employers have taken an approach to staff management that has not fundamentally changed to practices from 20 to 30 years ago. This is reinforced by the knowledge that ‘other employers’ they know of treat their staff with impunity and seem to get away with it without any comeback. However what you may hear on the gossip grapevine may be far removed from the actuality of what is really happening in their workplaces
The definition of insanity from a workplace perspective is doing things the same way over and over and expecting a different result each time. Such employers invariably ‘shoot themselves in the foot’ by failing to set up a methodical and planned approach to managing employee performance issues and then to clearly document what they have done and what has been discussed with the employee concerned. Many employers have little experience or training in staff management and we often promote quality staff into management positions expecting they will ‘learn as they go’ often with disastrous results.
Many employers still allow their own emotions and temper to get the better of them in managing a problem staff member. In small businesses this is often underpinned by a strong feeling of being ’let down’ by the employee and this is often due to the employer having (at least from their perspective) gone out of their way in supporting the employee from day one. By this they usually mean generous flexibility in working hours, financial support, additional periods of paid leave etc compounded by an expectation that, as a result, an employee will express loyalty and gratitude to them.
Alternatively they have ‘put up’ with (ie ignored) poor workplace behaviour until they final ‘lose the plot’ themselves and explode, the precursor to this scenario is seemingly endless ‘verbal chats’ with the employee to state how ‘dissatisfied’ they are (the employer) without ever clearly and appropriately articulating how this will be managed or what the consequences are to the employee if they don’t improve. Either way they have lost control of effective management of their employee.
Having explained this to many management team members and employers the next assertion for them is usually ‘I don’t have time for all this [expletive] I have a business to run (refer back to my definition of insanity.
From an IR position in 2015 this is indefensible, if you are not prepared to manage staff in a way that reinforces your rights under the Act you shouldn’t have employees in the first place and you are exposing yourself unnecessarily to risk. The reality is that a sound, transparent and documented system of employee management will reinforce and support you and your business when challenged in the Commission or Industrial Magistrates Court. Yes, there is a risk that an employee will pursue some form of claim against your business, that is a reality of the modern workplace, but managing the process of performance management and termination in line with legislative requirements will make your position both strong and defensible.
Workwise regularly undertakes professional development in these areas, if any points in this article are hitting home it may be an appropriate moment to reflect on actually investing some time in working on your business rather than ‘in it’ in 2016.
Call us to see how we can assist you in this key area.