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Opinion: The blurred line between performance management and bullying

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HC Online | 16 Jun 2015, 04:37 PM Agree 0
The line between performance management and bullying claims remains hazy at best - Walter MacCallum provides some recent case law examples.
  • Bernie Althofer AFAIM | 25 Jun 2015, 01:49 PM Agree 0
    Over the years of providing advice, support and guidance to targets, some alleged bullies, and some managers/supervisors, performance management has consistently been identified as a 'stumbling block' where individuals don't share common understandings about the difference performance management as reasonable management actions and the reasons why performance management is perceived as a form of workplace bullying.

    It does seem that whilst organisations have documented systems and processes in place, the issues that lead to perception of abuse include: the level, currency and type of training provided; individual understanding about what constitutes reasonable management actions; the currency of policies and procedures in relation to performance management, bullying and codes of conduct; the workplace culture and specifically the unwritten ground rules; the lack of accountability and responsibility being seen as a cornerstone for maintaining organisational standards; the degree to which managers and workers believe they are too busy to engage in 'management activities such as communicating on a one to one basis; and the apparent willingness of some managers and supervisors to 'refer' matters such as bullying directly to HR without first attempting to address concerns being raised.

    When individuals perceive or see that they are being subjected to a 'different' performance management and appraisal process to that of a colleague or when they see that the system is being used against them because objectives set in such a way to ensure their failure, or when they are constantly denied learning and development opportunities, opportunities to perform at higher levels or work on different projects or tasks, or when they perceive that others are receiving continued and preferential treatment, or when their expectations about the performance assessment vary significantly to that provided, or when there is no review process that allows them to challenge 'ratings', then the level of risk exposure can increase.

    Given the potential for individuals to be promoted into management positions, and given that new employees come into an organisation from time to time so the manager/supervisor and worker relationship changes, and given the continual changes that occur in some organisations, there needs to be regular training on matters such as performance management and appraisal and workplace bullying. It does seem that in some cases, both matters are presented as individual topics with no connection being made between the two, although performance management might be addressed as a dot point under reasonable management actions.

    There are numerous Court, Commission and Tribunals decisions and findings being released on a regular basis. Organisations need to have systems and processes in place to ensure that all managers and workers at all levels can maintain currency of knowledge regarding changes that might impact on the individual HR or IR decisions being made. Communicating by email regarding changes might not be effective as it has been indicated that in some cases, unless an individual knows the personal implications, then the email is deleted. In addition, given the nature of workplaces, some people may struggle in understanding complex policies and procedures so they need the opportunity to discuss and develop an understanding about the policy implications.

    Periodic audits and assessments are also required to 'test' individual knowledge and application of various policies and procedures in the workplace. If managers and workers have introduced a performance management process that does not align with their current organisational policy; if newly appointed managers or workers (particularly those from another organisation) are not provided with training on performance management etc; or where behaviour and conduct is 'rewarded' through performance management assessments that rate a person higher than they should be, then there is potential for allegations and claims to be made.

    If there is a performance management policy and procedure in place in the organisation and it has been signed off by the executive, managers and workers need to comply with that policy and procedure even if they don't agree with it.
  • KillerPerformance | 28 Oct 2015, 11:09 AM Agree 0
    What is the point of a manager asking how the employee is going when the rating has already been decided? Isn't odd that we're asking people to engage on performance, when the rating is a done deal, sometimes a week or two before? And is it any wonder that most employees find the process completely objectionable at worst, and useless at best. I've written some help for employees who have to cope with the horrible nature of the corporate performance review. Its a relationship killer.
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