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HR manager told to emulate ‘Pretty Woman’ was fairly dismissed, court rules

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HC Online | 23 Nov 2015, 10:21 AM Agree 0
The dismissal of the HR manager of the Parramatta Catholic Education Office has been upheld by a Judge of the Federal Court.
  • Bernie Althofer | 24 Nov 2015, 12:04 PM Agree 0
    Communication seems to have been at the centre of this case, and no doubt will be raised in other cases.

    Whilst the comments alledged to have been made were supposed to convey a message about a specific approach, it appears that another message was heard.

    All too often it seems that even with the advent of micro aggressions, some discussions or comments made in 'good faith' are not taken that way. It also seems that whilst many workplaces acknowledge the importance of communication, little time is invested in providing managers and workers with an opportunity to practice some key elements e.g. paraphrasing and clarifying. In addition, it seems that few managers and workers have been exposed to the concept of the Ladder of Inference and immediately jump to conclusions when they see or hear something, without establishing a context.

    It also seems that in some workplaces, two workers can say exactly the same thing to other workers, and whilst the comments made by one are seen as 'funny', the same comments made by the other worker are seen as 'creepy' and bordering on offensive.

    It is my observation that whilst organisations do conduct presentations on sexual harassment, unlawful discrimination and workplace bullying to name a few counterproductive workplace behaviours, participants may seldom be given an opportunity to test their knowledge and/or understanding. For example, in a workshop environment if participants were asked to explain their understanding of the "Pretty Woman' comment, I have no doubt there would be a significant variation in the responses. As a way of stimulating learning to create changes in behaviour, case studies or scenarios could be useful as a way of developing a deeper understanding. This in turn might lead managers and workers to understand why some people might find the comments offensive, distasteful, or even humourous. The point is that without an open and transparent discussion, some people might never really understand the significance of their day to day communication, and how what they say, might be interpreted in another way.

    It is increasingly obvious that workplace banter that was 'accepted' even ten years ago, is no longer acceptable. Individuals do struggle because in this day and age, generational differences combined with 'tastes' in music and reading can mean that the constant bombardment of individuals through direct and indirect 'messages' about gender, religious beliefs and even race can mean that people end up not being able to separate those messages from acceptable workplace behaviour.

    Some of the problems in this case may have been reduced or negated if explicit explanations had been provided and making sure that it was the Richard Gere approach and not creating a perception about being more like the Julie Roberts character.
  • | 30 Nov 2015, 04:40 PM Agree 0
    What was at the centre of this case was a dysfunctional organisation. As the layers of dysfunctionality were uncovered and challenged the perpetrators were protected and the whistleblower dismissed.
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