According to a new review by the federal workplace authority, departmental staffers said that their bosses avoided tricky conversations at work, failed to confront underperformers and were “inconsistent” in enforcing performance management rules.
Less than half of the department’s employees felt that the senior leadership is of a high quality, the capability review from the Australian Public Service Commission reportedly
The Canberra Times
reported that the department underwent a 30% staff reduction last year, a process which received positive feedback from the commission; departmental secretary Drew Clarke was acclaimed for his “visibility” and strong leadership.
Despite this, Clarke’s executive leadership team were not rated highly by their employees, with public servants expressing doubt about their effort to minimise poor performance.
“The review team found limited evidence to suggest that staff are any better equipped to have difficult conversations and there is some cynicism among staff that underperformance is adequately addressed,” the report read.
“Views were expressed to the review team that some within the ELT have demonstrated conflict-avoidance behaviours.
“Individuals have at times shied away from difficult discussions, including the inconsistent application of performance ratings and failing to 'call out' behaviours that are inconsistent with departmental direction.”
It was also suggested that there were rifts dividing the executive team, with employees stating that executives were rarely seen around the office.
“Staff reported that the executive leadership team lacked visibility and, with some cynicism, expressed concerns about the effectiveness and unity of this team,” the review team wrote.
“The APS Census results also highlight these staff perceptions, with only 44%, 8% below the APS average, agreeing that ‘the senior leadership is of a high quality’.”
However, the review found that staff members were optimistic that last year’s downsizing would lead to an improvement in this area.
“While staff are optimistic that the reduction in management layers will help increase staff interactions with the ELT, this will require ongoing monitoring to ensure interactions are embedded,” it said.
Departmental bosses have acknowledged that there were issues within the department, but said that they were working to improve the executive team’s performance.
“Further work is required to increase their visibility and alignment of leadership behaviours,” the review said.
“The department had previously acknowledged this issue and taken some action to begin addressing team collaboration, behaviour and performance.
“The department recognises that further action is required.”
It has been alleged that senior executives at the Communications Department are "disappearing" when tough decisions surface.